Make Your Own: Maraschino Cherries

In the category of “put-up or shut-up” I present to you my current project.

Oregon is really the second best place to do this, (the best being Italy).  The cherry trees are plentiful, there are a number of different varieties to choose from and we have a long happy growing season all summer.

Step one is almost solved for you, find some good cherries.  Much like making a pie sour cherries are nice for this kind of things but Mascara cherries are actually sweet so go wild.  I think next time I do this I’m going to find some nice yellow and red ranier’s to give the whole thing some splash.  Pit your cherries and remove any stems.

General ingredients and equipment:

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1 mason or ball jar with a self sealing lid
enough cherries to fill the jar without having to force them
2 teaspoons of sugar
enough maraschino liqueur to cover the cherries

Step Deux: Fill the jar with enough cherries that it’s not going to be a problem to get the lid on.

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Step the Third: Add a small quantity of sugar (2 tsp).  I recommend bakers sugar if you have it, it’s finer grained and will dissolve much more quickly.

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Step Quatro: Fill the Jar with Maraschino Liqueur.  For this run I’m using Luxardo, If I run out I’m going to see if I can find a different brand.  Nothing bad on Luxardo I just want to shop around.

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Step the Last: Close the Jar, shake until the sugar is fully dissolved, refrigerate.  Shake the jar a couple of times a day to keeps things mixed up, and check the jar in a week or so to see how they’re coming along.

Side note: Like most things you make yourself these do not have anything in them to act as a preservative.  Even if you’re using canning jars the process we use here isn’t sterile and won’t hold up like freezer jam.  Once these start going they won’t stop so plan to use them once they get to the right concentration.  If you need a reason I can comfortably point you to my Hard Cherry Limeade which benefits from a good garnish.

Rant: Maraschino Cherries

I quote to you here from The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks

“American growers favored large sweet cherries (a different species, Prunus avium), and they had developed a brining process that involved bleaching them in sulfur dioxide, which removed all the color but could also turn them to mush.  To solve that problem, they added calcium carbonate (widely available at plaster and paint stores in those days) to harden them.  What was left was described in one American agricultural report as nothing but bleached cellulose “in the shape of a cherry” that was then dyed with coal tar, flavored with a chemical extract of stone fruit called benzaldehyde, and packed in sugar syrup.”

This ladies and gents is why maraschino cherries suck.  The flavor comes not from the fruit but from a windowless building in New Jersey.

Oregon is blessed when it comes to fruit.  There are at least five  farmers markets within a 10 minute drive of my home where I can purchase any of a dozen varieties of cherry fresh off the tree.  An hour behind the wheel and I’m standing in an orchard with a wicker basket ready to pick my fill.  Swing a recently deceased feline and I’m sure I could hit a neighbor with a neglected Bing Tree behind his house.

Other places are not so lucky, but even then, why in the world would you want to eat those little bright red death-balls when you can get the yellow/red perfection of a Rainier.

Solution:
Make your own

Buy a Better Cherry

The difference here is really one of flavor.  Both recipes call for maraschino liqueur but the luxardo actually use Mascara cherries which are a sour cherry as opposed to the sweet dessert cherry you’re likely to find at the supermarket or the farmers market.