For several years now, I’ve made these bourbon cherries for my now 97-year-old sweet Dad, who was raised on a fruit farm in Coloma, Michigan. His family grew sweet and sour cherries, peaches, apples, and grapes to sell at the Benton Harbor Fruit Market. Whatever fruit Grandma didn’t use right away was usually canned, but she always saved cherries to make my Grandpa’s favorite bourbon cherries. She’d open a jar during the holidays so everyone could have a taste, and I’ll never forget the first time I was allowed to try one of these boozy delights! At 16, it nearly blew my socks off and gave everyone a good laugh.
Grandma sweetened these cherries with brown sugar, but in our case, brown sugar replacements like Swerve, Truvia, Sukrin Gold, etc. keep these little nuggets low in carbs. We enjoy them right out of the jar (you’ll only be able to eat a couple) and they make a delicious garnish for a variety of cocktails.
With only 4 ingredients: cherries, bourbon, brown sugar replacement, and a little xanthan gum (and no canning involved), you can make a batch in 25 minutes. The first step in making bourbon cherries is the most labor-intensive: pitting the cherries. I’ve been using my 45-year-old cherry pitter that fell apart this year. I was sad to see it bite the dust until I ordered a newer model – I’ve grown accustomed to cherry juice squirting everywhere during the pitting process, but the newer models are equipped with splash guards – a huge improvement!
After a quick rinse, pit the cherries and set aside. This recipe calls for 3 cups of cherries, which is enough to fill a quart mason jar, or two pint-sized jars. We always triple or quadruple the ingredient amounts to make sure we have plenty to share as hostess or holiday gifts.
Start with clean quart or pint mason jars, or any other jars with tight-fitting lids. Pack the cherries tightly by gently pressing them into the jars. On the stovetop, pour in the bourbon and brown sugar replacement into a medium-size saucepan. Any bourbon will do the trick, so unless you have a particular brand you love, save your money and buy a less expensive brand. Stir over medium heat until the sugar replacement has completely dissolved. This takes about 5 minutes. Bring the bourbon syrup to a slight simmer, never a boil.
In order to prevent the granulated brown sugar replacement (erythritol) from crystallizing when the syrup is refrigerated, we add xanthan gum to the hot mixture with the same method used to temper an egg. Scoop out a small amount of the hot syrup (about 1/2 to 1 cup) into a mixing bow. Sprinkle the xanthan gum into the bowl a little at a time, whisking constantly. Continue to add additional hot syrup to the bowl and whisk until smooth. Return the mixture into the saucepan and continue whisking until ingredients are well-blended and syrup is thickened. After removing from the heat, we like to throw in an orange peel and let it steep for about 10 minutes. A cinnamon stick also adds an additional kick, both optional.
Pour the hot bourbon syrup over the cherries, seal the jars tights, and turn them over once or twice, making sure all cherries are submerged. If you have any leftover bourbon syrup, save it to make delicious cocktails!
Store the jars in the fridge, and in just a few weeks, the flavors intensify and the cherries will be infused with notes of vanilla and carmel from the bourbon. We pulled out a jar made last year and WOW – the cherries are nice and firm, with the smooth taste of aged bourbon.
Keto Bourbon Cherries
- Quart or pint mason jars
- 3 cups sweet cherries pitted
- 2 cups bourbon
- 1 cup brown sugar replacement Swerve, Truvia, Sukrin Gold
- ⅛ tsp xanthan gum
- Wash and pit cherries. Gently press cherries into one quart, or two pint mason jars.
- In a medium saucepan, add bourbon and brown sugar replacement. Stir over medium heat until sugar has completely dissolved and syrup starts to simmer, about 5 minutes. Pour a small amount of the syrup into a bowl (about ½ to 1 cup) and sprinkle in the xanthan gum a little at a time, whisking constantly. Continue to add additional hot syrup to the bowl and whisk until smooth. Return the mixture to the saucepan and whisk until ingredients are well-blended and syrup starts to thicken.
- Add optional orange peel and allow to steep for 5-10 minutes.
- Pour the hot bourbon syrup over the cherries to cover the fruit. .
- Tightly screw on caps and turn over jars, making sure all cherries are submerged. Store in refrigerator.