Ever since I first tried Melissa Clark's quick and simple maraschino cherry recipe, I've been hooked. This delicious way of preserving seasonal fruit for year-round cocktails and desserts has become a cherished summer ritual for me. But this year, I thought I'd try something new.
I decided to preserve a different variety of cherries in a different kind of liquor: In addition to macerating sour cherries in maraschino liqueur as I'd done so many times before, I'd try some sweet cherries in bourbon as well.
Feeling inspired by the selection at my local farmer's market, I chose not just one variety of sweet cherries, but two: I picked up a quart of dark, juicy Stellas and a pint of firmer-fleshed Bings. I also snagged some Montmorency sours. The plan? I'd make one big batch of the sours in maraschino, and two different batches of sweets in bourbon: boozy cherries 2½ ways.
- First, I washed and pitted the cherries.
- I heated two pans of bourbon and one pan of maraschino on the stove. The original recipe calls for 1 cup of alcohol per pint of cherries, but in the past I've found I've been able to economize a bit by using less alcohol - 3/4 cup or so per pint.
- When the liquor reached its simmering point, I turned off the heat and added the cherries, giving them a good stir with a wooden spoon.
- After the mixture cooled, I decanted everything into clean, tightly lidded glass jars, which I then placed in the fridge.
- After two days, the cherries would be ready to eat. (Stored in the fridge, they'll keep for many months and their flavors will continue to develop over time.)
So far, at day five, the old tried-and-true sour cherries in maraschino liqueur are still my favorite. But the sweet Stellas in bourbon are a close second. Dark, soft-fleshed, and, as I noticed while pitting them, incredibly juicy, their deep flavors seem to be mixing and mingling with the bourbon without a hitch. But the firmer-fleshed Bings seem to be a little more resistant to maceration. I'll keep you posted, but it may just be that this type of cherry is best enjoyed fresh and raw. (Readers, do you have any experience with this?)
Have you ever preserved cherries in alcohol? Any favorite combination of ingredients?
Nora Maynard is a longtime home mixologist and an occasional instructor at NYC’s Astor Center. She is a contributor to The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries and is the recipient of the American Egg Board Fellowship in culinary writing at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. She previously covered food and drink in film at The Kitchn in her weekly column, The Celluloid Pantry.
(Images: Nora Maynard)