Why It Works
- Sugar is hygroscopic, allowing it to draw moisture and flavor from the fruit left clinging to the cherry pits.
- In time, the residual moisture surrounding the pits will be enough to dissolve the sugar entirely, without the need for any added liquid.
- When used with great moderation, almond extract and rose water can improve the flavor and aroma of cherries without contributing a distinctive flavor of their own.
Here's an easy, no-fuss method for making the most of your summer cherry haul: After making cherry pie, cherry ice cream, or any other cherry treat, toss all those pits with a bit of sugar. This will draw out all the flavor from the wisps of fruit that cling to the pits, producing a vibrant cherry syrup that can be used as a sweetener for cocktails, iced tea, and seltzer, or as a sauce to drizzle over ice cream, French toast, and pancakes.
Please note that this recipe is made from whole cherry pits, not the inner kernels obtained after cracking them open.
- 7 ounces cherry pits (about 1 heaping cup; 200g); see note
- 3 1/2 ounces plain or toasted sugar (about 1/2 cup; 100g)
- Pinch of salt, to taste
- 1 drop rose water, or more to taste (optional)
- 1 drop almond extract, or more to taste (optional)
In a small bowl or pint Mason jar, combine cherry pits and sugar (and the husk of a juiced lime, if using; see note). Toss until well combined, then cover tightly and set aside for 3 hours or up to 24 hours. Shake the bowl or jar occasionally to toss the pits around and help the sugar dissolve.
When sugar has completely dissolved, strain syrup through a fine-mesh sieve. (The pits will still have enough flavor left to make a batch of Cherry Pit Whipped Cream, if you'd like to arm yourself with the perfect set of toppings for a cherry sundae.)
Season syrup with a pinch of salt and a drop or two of rose water and/or almond extract to taste. Please use care in adding these potent ingredients; while a very small amount of each can go a long way toward balancing the flavor of the syrup, the effect can be overwhelming if too much is added.
Transfer syrup to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 month. Use as a dessert sauce or as a replacement for simple syrup in drinks.
If you're using sweet cherries, it may help to include the empty husk of a juiced lime as part of the weight listed for the pits, to furnish the syrup with a bit of acidity to balance the sweetness of the fruit and sugar. Adding juice to taste at the end will only dilute the syrup and shorten its shelf life, while maceration with the rind will draw out both acidity and a pleasant hint of bitterness to balance the syrup.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 month.