Ha ha I’m going to gross you out! Do you know how maraschino cherries are actually made? Take a light-colored sweet cherry, like the Rainier cherry, and soak them in a sulfur dioxide and calcium chloride mixture to bleach the fruit. Sulfur dioxide if inhaled or ingested will cause breathing difficulty and eventually with enough exposure, DEATH. Calcium chloride is slightly less toxic, but can cause problems if ingested in concentrated amounts. I’m more concerned about the sulfur dioxide. Once the cherry has been bleached of all it’s color, it is then left to soak in common red food dye and high-fructose corn syrup. This common red food dye along with several other artificial food colors and sodium benzoate preservative, has been associated with a significant increase in hyperactive behavior in children. Most research I tend not to believe when they say things like red wine reduces heart disease, but in this case artificial food dye and sodium benzoate preservative really does increase hyperactive behaviors in children. There’s no arguing this research finding. High-fructose corn syrup has its own processes involving toxic and deadly chemicals. At this point, maraschino cherries aren’t so much food anymore, but a chemistry project gone horribly wrong.
My solution, homemade maraschino cherries, without all the bleaching and artificial food colors. It’s amazingly simple and completely worth the effort. First, you need to find Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur. Don’t even think about using cheap cherry liqueur as a substitute. You’ll just be adding back all those chemicals you’re trying to avoid. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur cannot be too difficult to find, since it’s available in the Utah State liquor stores. Now all you need are sweet cherries and granulated sugar. Couldn’t be easier. There are non-alcohol ways to do this as well and maybe in the future I’ll explore these options.
Homemade Maraschino Cherries
- 8 ounces sweet cherries
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
- Prepare water bath canner, jars, and lids. Don’t forgot to add 1/2 cup vinegar to canner water to keep your bottles looking nice.
- Wash the cherries and remove the pits.
- In a saucepan, bring the liqueur up to just below a boil over medium-high heat. Add the sugar and whisk vigourously until the sugar is completely dissolved in the liqueur. You don’t want to boil the liqueur as it’ll start to reduce in volume.
- Once your jars are hot, add about an inch of hot liquid to the jar, then add your cherries.
- Gently shake jar to pack cherries closely without crushing.
- Add hot syrup to cover cherries, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace as needed.
- Wipe rim and place hot lid on jar, screwing band down until fingertip-tight.
- Place jars in canner and return to a boil. Process for 25 minutes (add 1 minute more for every 1,000 feet above sea level).
- Turn off heat, remove canner lid and let jars sit in the hot water for another 5 minutes.
- Transfer jars to a towel-lined surface and let stand until completely cool, about 24 hours.
- Check lids and refrigerate any jars that are not sealed.