Homemade Cocktail Cherries
Cherry season is in full swing! I took full advantage of a weekend off to make these cocktail cherries and write down a recipe for you all. Luxardo cherries are those sweet, dark and velvety gems you often find in classic cocktails like the Aviation. (My personal favorite!) They also taste pretty frigging awesome on a scoop of vanilla ice cream.. FYI.. A jar of Luxardo cherries can cost upwards of $18 a jar, but they are sooo worth it. I decided to try replicating the flavor with my own spin and may have even dreamed up some other crazy flavor combinations- but we won't go there. Yet. There are many variations on a cocktail cherry, some people prefer brandied cherries, or canning them in straight alcohol. I prefer the rich syrupy texture of Luxardo.
These cherries are the perfect make-ahead (like, way ahead) holiday gift. Be sure to follow the proper canning steps and prepare your jars beforehand. Otherwise, reduce the recipe and throw them in the fridge to enjoy all summer long.
(Also! If you happen to have a bottle of Luxardo cherries in your home bar, don't let that deliciousness go to waste! There is no shame in semi-homemade here, y'all. When you've enjoyed all the cherries, use the remaining velvety juice from the jar and doctor it up using the recipe below as guidance.)
Homemade Cocktail Cherries
Yields: Approximately (12) 6 Ounce jars
5 Pounds fresh cherries, any variety, washed and pitted*
7 1/2 Cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 Teaspoon almond extract
5 Lemons, juiced
2 1/2 Cups Luxardo
2 1/2 Cups water
3 Whole star anise
3 Cinnamon sticks, approximately 3" long
1/4 Teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tablespoons cardamom pods, lightly crushed, or 1/4 Teaspoon ground cardamom
Generous pinch of salt
1) Combine the sugar, almond extract, lemon juice, Luxardo and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until the sugar has dissolved.
2) Bring mixture to a simmer, then add the star anise, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, crushed cardamom pods and salt. Simmer the mixture for approximately 30 minutes. It will be syrupy, smooth and super fragrant.
3) Strain the syrup into a larger pot, (large enough to accommodate your cherries) and discard the aromatics, making sure no little bits of the cardamom pods are left behind.
4) Add the cherries and simmer for another 20 minutes or until the cherries are soft, but not mushy.
5) Can or jar the cherries as desired and enjoy.
*I used a cherry pitter- You can purchase at any kitchen store, Target, or Amazon. I once read somewhere that you could pit a cherry by placing it on top of a beer bottle then pushing the pit through the bottom of the cherry using a chopstick. This trick didn't go so well for me.. After sacrificing a handful of cherries I caved and went to the store to buy a pitter. $10 well spent. You can use any variety of cherry, but I recommend the deeper colored ones, like bing or lambert.