How To Make Kirsch Liqueur

If you asked a bartender in Germany for a glass of Kirschwasser, you would be asking for a glass of cherry liqueur.  Kirsch liqueur, often called Kirsch in America, is a cherry-flavored, colorless brandy created by marinating vodka with fresh cherries, preferably morello variety, with the pits removed.  The uniquely flavored liqueur which results from this process is a favorite for using in many cake and confectionery recipes including the celebrated German dessert Black Forest cake.

Although Kirsch liqueur is commercially prepared and bottled and available for sale at any major liquor store, many home cooks enjoy making kirsch liqueur using fresh ingredients at least once right in their own kitchen. The process can be a bit labor intensive due to the amount of time it takes to pit the cherries. 

Since cherry juice can stain, be sure to wear plastic gloves and work in an area that will not absorb any of the juices.  The whole kirsch liqueur making process takes a year to complete, so if you intend to give the kirsch liqueur as holiday gifts, be sure you start making the kirsch a full 12 months before you plan on giving it to your gift recipient.

Remove the stems from two pounds of fresh cherries, rinse in cool water and remove the pits, either by hand by slicing each cherry in half with a sharp knife, or by using a cherry pitting machine.

Place a layer of the cherries in a wide open mouth glass jar with a lid and cover with a layer of granulated sugar. Continue to layer the pitted cherries, covered by the granulated sugar, until you have used up all two pounds of pitted cherries and about a pound of granulated sugar. Place the lid on the container and put in the refrigerator to allow the cherries and sugar to mellow overnight.

The next day remove the cherry-sugar mixture from the refrigerator and add a bottle of unflavored vodka. Make sure the lid is secured very tightly and place the cherry-sugar-vodka mixture in the back of a kitchen closet which is dark and somewhat cool.  On a daily basis you need to shake this container so that the cherries, sugar and vodka stay mixed together - but never remove the lid.

After 6 months' time, strain the liqueur from the cherry-sugar mixture into a clean glass bottle with a lid that seals airtight.  Now store this bottle of Kirsch liqueur in the refrigerator, allowing it to age for another 6 months. Either toss the remaining cherry-sugar mixture or use it as a dessert topping. 


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