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Growing up, I always loved having dessert when my family ate out at a restaurant. Most importantly, I loved the red maraschino cherry on the top of whatever dessert I was having that day.
I never actually wondered how the cherries were made as a kid. But recently, I found out that they are actually a cinch to make at home.
This recipe for homemade maraschino cherries is incredibly simple, and best of all, these cherries actually taste so much better than the store-bought ones.
While they’re not dyed artificially red like those from the store, these are definitely way better. Trust me.
This recipe does not include any alcohol. But if you prefer, you can always make a spiked version by adding a bit of cherry liqueur to yours – or brandy, vodka, bourbon, or rum. These make a wonderful addition to cocktails!
All you need to make your own batch is a little patience to pit the fruits, and a few basic ingredients like sugar, citrus, and warming spices.
Once you’ve tried making your own, you’ll never go back to the commercially available premade ones again!
Turn Maraschinos into Candied Cherries for Baking
These also come in handy for holiday baking, if you take the simple recipe one step further.
To make your homemade maraschinos into candied cherries to top your Christmas cookies, drain the jar and reserve the syrup. Combine about 1/2 cup of the reserved maraschino juice with 1 1/2 cups of sugar in a saucepan, and stir over medium heat until the sugar is almost completely dissolved. Then add the cherries, stir, and bring to a boil.
Cover and reduce the heat, and simmer until the cherries are slightly dehydrated and firm, for about 1 hour. Take the lid off your pot and remove from the heat. Allow to cool completely, then transfer the cherries to a paper towel-lined baking sheet.
Once they’re dry, these can be used in holiday baking, to make a figgy pudding, top sweet desserts, and of course, to decorate buttery cookies like these delicious, tender Snowflakes. Any leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for about six months.
Tip: Frozen cherries can also be used to make this recipe, if the fresh version is unavailable in your area in the wintertime. There’s no need for pitting (which will save you some time!) and you can reserve the liquid from the defrosted fruit to use in place of some of the water.
Ready to make your own maraschino cherries? Let’s head straight to the recipe!
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prepare the Mise en Place
Start pitting the cherries, doing your best to leave them whole.
You can do this using a cherry pitter, by cutting a small incision in the base of the cherry and squeezing or scooping out the pits, or by using this trick:
Place a cherry on the top of a narrow-necked glass bottle, and quickly poke the pit through with a wooden chopstick or skewer. Simple as that! Note that this only works with very ripe cherries, though.
When all of your stone fruit is prepped, carefully remove the peel from an orange, and set it aside. Then juice the citrus – you’ll need about 1/2 cup of each liquid.
Set out the cinnamon stick and star anise. Finally, measure out the water and sugar.
Step 2 – Prepare the Syrup
In a large skillet over high heat, combine the water, sugar, lemon juice, orange juice, salt, cinnamon stick, star anise, and orange peel.
Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has fully dissolved.
Step 3 – Add Fruit and Simmer
Add the fruit and allow it to simmer over low heat for approximately 10 minutes, until the syrup has a faint cherry taste.
Be sure to actually taste the syrup at this point, if you can – this is the best way to know how your recipe is coming along, and it’s part of the fun!
Step 4 – Cool and Store
Once the syrup is ready, transfer the ingredients into a bowl to cool – this will prevent them from cooking further, as you want the fruit to be cooked but not mushy.
Once cooled, remove the spices and citrus peel, transfer the fruit and liquid to a jar, and cover it with a lid. Place the jar in the refrigerator and let the fruit soak in the syrup for at least three days before eating.
These can keep for up to three months in the refrigerator.
While these preserved fruits tend to be used as decorative toppings for desserts or a garnish for drinks, this homemade version tastes so good that you can even eat them on their own.
Serve Dessert with a Cherry on Top!
Now it’s time to impress your guests by serving dessert with a homemade maraschino cherry on top! And this home cooked fruit preserved in syrup will taste so much better than the store-bought ones – even though they won’t look quite so artificially red!
Do you like your maraschino cherries with or without alcohol? Let us know in the comments below!
Photos by Felicia Lim, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Felicia Lim
Felicia Lim is a Singaporean who moved to Argentina for love. Based in Buenos Aires, also known as “the Paris of South America,” she fills her days with freelance writing, recipe development, and food photography – three passions that give her endless joy. When she isn’t typing away at her computer, cooking in the kitchen, or shooting in her balcony-studio, you can probably find her curled up on the couch, lost in the pages of a good book.