Infusing fresh cherries with a sweetened lemon and bourbon syrup makes these bourbon cherries pop with flavor. Add these boozy cherries to your favorite cocktails, spoon over ice cream for a decadent treat, or give to friends as gifts.
My longtime readers know that I love cherry season. When I see cherries appear in my local grocery store or farmers’ market, I simply can’t resist picking up yet another bag or carton.
Sweet cherries have found their way into several recipes on this website, including Cherry BBQ Sauce, Asian style Sweet and Sour Sauce, and Cherry Jam. Here, I am sharing how to preserve the cherry goodness into jars of bourbon cherries!
These boozy bourbon cherries are a great substitute for the artificially dyed maraschino cherries. Use the sweet bourbon cherry syrup to flavor drinks and garnish with the cherries. They are delicious in baked goods, and are delicious on top of a hot fudge sundae. A jar of homemade bourbon cherries makes a great hostess gift too!
Tips for Making Bourbon Cherries
Bourbon cherries are made by combining fresh cherries with a sweetened bourbon syrup, packing into canning jars, and processing in a water bath canner. Let the fruit infuse with flavor for at least a month before opening the jar. Here are some tips for making bourbon cherries:
Any cherry variety can be used for this recipe
My favorites are the sweet dark cherries, but tart cherries will also sweeten slightly when infused in the flavored syrup. Select firm and ripe cherries without bruises or blemishes. You will need about 6 pounds of cherries for this recipe.
Preparing the cherries is the most time consuming part of this recipe. Get yourself a cherry pitter to make it easier.
Use inexpensive bourbon
You can use any brand of bourbon for this recipe, but I don’t recommend using an expensive one because it is just a small element of flavor.
Let the flavors infuse
After making, allow at least 4-weeks for the flavor to infuse into the cherries.
How to Make and Can Bourbon Cherries
If you are new to canning or haven’t canned in a while, it may be helpful to review this article on water bath canning at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.
A more detailed and printable recipe can be found at the bottom of this article, but these are the general steps to make and preserve bourbon cherries.
Step 1: Gather your canning gear
- Water bath canner
- 6 pint sized canning jars
- Canning lids and bands
- Canning tools: lid lifter, jar lifter, canning ladle, funnel, and bubble popper
- Plus basic kitchen supplies such as a medium pot, large bowl, small pot, kitchen towels, and cherry pitter.
Step 2: Prepare the canning equipment
Wash the jars, lids, and canning tools in warm, soapy water and rinse well.
Place the jar rack into water bath canner, set the jars in the canner, add water, and boil jars for 10 minutes to sterilize. Warm your lids in a small pot over low heat. Keep jars and lids warm until ready to use.
Step 3: Prepare the cherries
You will need about 6 pounds of cherries to fill 6 half-pint jars. Wash the cherries well under clean running water. Pull out the stems, and pit the cherries with a cherry pitter.
Be careful! Cherry juice stains. Be sure to wear old clothing and wipe up any messes quickly so it doesn’t set.
Step 4: Make the bourbon cherry syrup
Combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Add the cherries, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook about 5 minutes, or until the cherries soften slightly and begin to release liquid.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the bourbon.
Step 5: Fill the jars
Add the cherries and syrup to the warm jars maintaining a 1/2-inch headspace. Don’t squish the cherries, but you can pack them in firmly, and then top off with the syrup. They will soften and shrink slightly as they infuse into the bourbon syrup. Leave a little space to allow your bubble popper to run through the jar to release air bubbles.
Step 6: Process the jars in a water bath canner
Cover, and process the jars in a boiling water bath canner. Remove the hot jars and let them cool for 12 hours. Once the jars are cool, test the seals, label and date the jars, and store in a cool, dark location.
Step 7: Wait 4-weeks
These drunken cherries get better with age. Let the flavor infuse into the cherries for at least 4 weeks before opening a jar, and then store the jar in the refrigerator.
Yields about 6 half-pint jars depending on the size of your cherries.
Bourbon Cherries Canning Recipe
- 6 pounds sweet cherries
- 1 cup cane sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup lemon juice freshly squeezed or bottled juice
- 1 1/4 cups bourbon
Prepare the Canning Equipment
- Wash your jars, lids, and canning tools in warm, soapy water and rinse thoroughly.
- Place the jar rack into the water bath canner, set the jars in the canner, add water to the jars and canner, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil jars for 10 minutes to sterilize.
- Warm your lids in a small pot over low heat. Keep jars and lids warm until ready to use.
Prepare the Cherries
- Rinse, stem, and pit the cherries. Set them aside while you prepare the bourbon syrup.
Make the Syrup
- Add the sugar, water, and lemon juice to a medium pot. Bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Add the cherries, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the cherries are warm, about 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the stove. Add the bourbon, stir to combine, and cover to pot to keep it warm.
Can the Bourbon Cherries
- Spread a kitchen towel on the counter. Use your jar lifter to remove the warm jars from canner, drain the water into the canner, and line up jars on the towel.
- Using the canning ladle and funnel to fill the jars with the cherries and syrup. Maintain a 1/2-inch headspace.
- Run the bubble popper through the jar to release air bubbles, and clean the rims of the jars.
- Lift the canning lids out of the warm water with your magnetic lid lifter, center the lid on the jar, and screw on the band until it is fingertip tight.
- Use the jar lifter to place the filled jars back into canner leaving space in between them.
- Once all the jars are in canner, adjust the water level to at least one inch above the jar tops. If adding water, use the hot water from the small pot your lids were in. Pour the water around the jars and not directly onto them.
- Cover the canner and bring to boil over high heat. Once water boils vigorously, continue boiling for 10 minutes at altitudes of less than 1,000 ft. (adjust processing time for your altitude if necessary).
- When processing time is complete, turn off the heat and let the canner cool for about 10 minutes.
- Spread a kitchen towel on the counter. Remove the canner cover by tilting the lid away from you so that steam does not burn your face.
- Use the jar lifter to remove the jars from canner and place on the towel. You should hear the satisfactory "ping" of the jar lids sealing. Allow the jars to cool for 12 hours.
- After the jars have cooled, check to be sure lids sealed by pushing on the center of the lid. The lid should not pop up. If the lid flexes up and down, it did not seal. Refrigerate the jar and use up within a year.
- Remove the screw on bands and wash the jars. Label, date, and store your jars in a cool, dark place for up to two years.
- Let the flavor infuse into the cherries for at least 4 weeks before opening a jar. Once opened, store the jar in the refrigerator, and use within a year. Yields about 6 pint jars.
You May Also Like:
Good planning is key to a successful vegetable garden
Whether you are new to growing your own food or have been growing a vegetable garden for years, you will benefit from some planning each year. You will find everything you need to organize and plan your vegetable garden in my PDF eBook, Grow a Good Life Guide to Planning Your Vegetable Garden.