DIY Maraschino Cherries with Amaretto

Maraschino Cherries 2

Some friends and I tried to go blueberry picking on Friday, just before the heat wave hit.  The farm’s newsletter said that blueberries would be ready last Wednesday, so we figured that there would be plenty of ripe, plump berries for us to brush into our buckets. I should have thought to call ahead, but instead we drove for 35 minutes only to find that….the blueberries weren’t ready yet.  Cue the sad trombones.

But we had driven all that way, with our containers packed into the back seat.  We were slathered in sunscreen and had quickly-melting ice water at the ready to rehydrate. So we asked if they had any fruit that was ready for U-Pick.

“Some sour cherries and red raspberries,” they told us.  Sour cherries it was.

Side note: I don’t know why, but I have it in my head that only black raspberries are June/July fruits, and that the reds and goldens are only in late summer/early fall.  So I almost never pick raspberries this early in the season, other than the black ones in our backyard. I have no idea why.

Because I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do with the cherries, I left two of my three containers behind, bringing only the largest with me to collect the fruit. Still, I ended up with 5.5 pounds of juicy sour cherries, destined to become amaretto cherry preserves and a crumble…or so I thought at the time.

Another note: Oxo sent me a cherry pitter to try, and it is a lifesaver. It is so much quicker and cleaner than my “pit the cherries with a straw” method!

Maraschino Cherries

While I was soaking the cherries in amaretto and sugar for the preserves, I checked my canning inventory and saw that I still had a few jars of the preserves left from last year. And while I love those preserves, I decided to do something a little different, and turn them into cocktail cherries instead.

As it turns out, when you make my amaretto cherry preserves into cocktail cherries, they come out tasting just like maraschino cherries. Except they are a little more tart and a lot more real (no corn syrup or food coloring here!). Win!

Maraschino Cherries 3

DIY Maraschino Cocktail Cherries with Amaretto

Yield: About 6 half-pint jars

DIY Maraschino Cocktail Cherries with Amaretto

Use these cherries in your favorite cocktails or on top of an ice cream sundae. The processed jars would also make a great holiday gift! And if you're anything like me, you'll be tempted to skip the cocktails and be just as happy swiping the cherries out of the jar one-by-one to pop into your mouth.


  • 3 pounds pitted tart or sour cherries
  • 6 tablespoons amaretto
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons lime juice


  1. Gently combine the cherries, amaretto and sugar in a large bowl, mixing well so that all the fruit is covered by the sugar and amaretto. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next day, prepare for canning. Wash the jars and flat lids with hot, soapy water. Put the jars in the canning pot and fill the pot with hot water. Heat over medium-high heat to keep the jars hot.
  3. Pour the cherries into a colander set over a large stockpot. Add the lime juice to the stockpot, and bring the juice to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the cherries to the stockpot. Simmer, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
  5. Line the hot jars up on a folded towel, pouring the water back into the canning pot first.
  6. Fill the jars up to 1/2” below the rim. Use a clean towel to wipe any preserves off the rims, then top each jar with a lid and a tightened ring. Place the jars back in the canning pot and make sure they are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Place the jars on a folded towel and allow to sit, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Check the seals of the lids after 1 hour. If a seal has not formed, refrigerate the jar immediately.

Psst: OXO sent me the cherry pitter and a few other summer fruit-related tools to review, but I was not compensated in any other way.  I just truly love the cherry pitter!


  1. says

    Make my own maraschino cherries, yes please! Thanks for making me realize it is truly easy. Lucky me, I have a box of lovely cherries at home. Off to buy amaretto.

  2. says

    Fresh sour cherries can be hard to come in my neck of the woods – could I substitute Bing, maybe with less sugar? Or *gasp* frozen sour cherries ?

    • Julie says

      You could definitely use sweet cherries, but I would hesitate to reduce the sugar by more than a tablespoon or two. You’ll just have sweeter maraschino cherries, rather than sweet-tart, and that is just fine!

    • Julie says

      Because they are properly canned, they should last in the pantry for about a year or more. No need to keep them in the fridge (three cheers for not taking up refrigerator space)!

  3. Phaedra says

    Good morning…just made a batch of these with our sour cherries hand picked from our two little cherry trees. My question…how long did you let these babies marinade/ferment/pickle. Whatever you would call it? They are so tart…and with the brine (sugar/amaretto) I am worried that they will still be very tart. Did the sugar finally take some of that tartness away?

    • Julie says

      They will totally mellow out over time. I just had some last night, and they were much less tart than when I made them 10 days ago. Since they are canned, most of them will be sitting on the shelf for awhile, and they will be a subtle sweet-tart by the end!

  4. says

    Hello! My name is Jess, and I run a food blog called Floptimism where every week I write a post called “Weekend Wrap Up.” Basically, it’s where I highlight some of my favorite web finds from the past week to share with my readers. I loved your this recipe so much (I get so grossed out by the store-bought cherries so I can’t wait to try these!) that I featured it on this week’s wrap-up, and wanted to let you know. Thank you for such a great idea and blog post! I’ve included the link below in case you’re interested. I hope you had a great weekend!

  5. Amy says

    I have a question. After making a batch of these, my kids complained that the stems had been removed – what fun is that? Would there be an issue regarding shelf stability if I made them with the stems and pit intact? I’ve read that leaving the pits inside, over time, will infuse a subtle almond flavor. The cherries would need to be pricked before processing, correct?

    • Julie says

      You could leave the pits in – and you are right that you would have to prick the ends first. But I’ve never tested leaving the stems on, and I likely wouldn’t recommend it. Sorry!

  6. chacha says

    Can you use Frozen Bing Cherries. I froze 6# of these beauties and want to use your recipe. THANK YOU FOR THE RECIPE.

    • Julie says

      I haven’t tried it, but it might work. You’d want to use the cherries frozen (and not defrost them first). However, I’m not sure how long the canned cherries would last, and the cherries may be a little softer than you’d like.

      • chacha says

        THANK YOU I plan to use the canned ones for BAKING CAKES ETC……… WOULD THAT WORK FOR ME???????????????

        • chacha says

          I did try to macerate 1 c. frzn cherries w/2 T. sugar and Amaretto for 24 hrs and just had one to try and I have to say PRETTY AWESOME and amaretto flavored the cherries with a hint of amaretto only. Would be great on top of cheesecake or mini one. Also would great on top of coffee cakes. I LOVE YOUR WEBSITE OMG ITS SO VERSATILE. THANK YOU AGAIN

          • says

            Just made these cherries but changed it just a bit. I followed the recipe up to the cooking the cherries in the syrup but that’s where I deviated a bit. I poured about 2 T of amaretto in each jar and cooked the syrup about 15 more minutes and then poured that over the cherries and proceeded to finish them off per the recipe. Will let you know in a few weeks how there are.