The Cottage Smallholder

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Easy Morello Gin recipe. Fruit liqueurs.

Ripening Morello cherries in our garden

Ripening Morello cherries in our garden

Fresh Morello cherries are quite hard to find in the UK unless you grow them yourself. We have two Morello cherry trees that I bought for 99p each from Netto a few years ago. One was supposed to be an ordinary cherry tree but clearly there had been a mix up of labels at the warehouse and we ended up with two Morellos. I was disappointed initially until I twigged that Morello cherries are the stars of cherry society.

Their deep sour flavour is their saving grace – loads of opportunities in a wide range of dishes – from sweet to savoury. Morello cheries make excellent sauces, mixed crumbles, jam, jellies and of course an exceptional liqueur.

Unlike sloe gin, homemade Morello cherry liqueur is a very rare treat as so few people grow the trees. Sometimes you can find frozen Morello Cherries in supermarkets – these will work in this liqueur too. But fresh Morello cherries would be the choice of a connoisseur.

The other bonus of investing in a Morello cherry tree is that it will happily grow on a north wall or shadier spot than the average sun loving fruit tree. Cherry blossom will lift your heart in the spring. The cherry harvest starts around late June in East Anglia – the berries are ripe when they are dark red like the ones in the far right of the photo. If you cannot decide how to use your crop Morello cherries freeze well.

Beware most birds adore Morello cherries too. So you need to keep your tree fairly small – pruning each year and creating a fan or horizontal structure.  Net your tree for at least a month before harvesting. We generally leave the Morello cherry in the front garden for bird banquets as our other tree lives inside a large fruit cage in the Kitchen Garden.

The bird fests and discarded stones have propagated three baby Morello trees. These are just sticks at the moment but within a few years these trees will bear fruit. I’ll happily post a Morello cherry stick to the first three UK people who leave a comment below specifically requesting a baby tree.
Morello Cherry Gin/Liqueur
• 454gm of washed Morello cherries (including stones)
• 100g of white granulated sugar
• 75cl bottle of medium quality gin
• Sterilised 1 litre (at least) Le Parfait jar or wide necked bottle

• Wash Morello cherries well and discard stems and any bruised or rotten fruit. Place cherries in either a large Kilner/Le Parfait jar or a wide necked 1 litre bottle.
• Using a funnel, add the sugar and top up with gin to the rim. Always open sugar bags over the sink as sugar tends to get caught in the folds at the top of the bag.
• Shake every day until the sugar is dissolved and then store in a cool, dark place until you can resist it no longer (leave for at least three months).
• Some people strain the grog (through muslin/jelly bag) after 3 months and bottle it, leaving it mature for six months. We strain and bottle after six months. Don’t leave the straining process any longer than this as old fruit can ruin the flavour. At this stage you can add more sugar if you’d like a sweeter tipple.
• The longer that the cherry liqueur matures the better it will be. Why not make a bit more to lay down for the future? Finally this year we will have enough to do this.


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  1. Jackson

    This sounds like Cherry Bounce, common in the more rural areas of America. In fact, our very own George Washington had his own recipe:

    œExtract the Juice of 20 pounds of well ripend Morrella Cherrys
    Add to this 10 quarts of Old French brandy
    and sweeten it with White Sugar to your taste”
    To 5 Gallons of this mixture add one ounce of Spice Such as Cinnamon, Cloves and Nutmegs of each an Equal quantity
    Slightly bruis™d and a pint and half of Cherry kernels that have been gently broken in a mortar”After the liquor has fermented let it Stand Close-Stoped for a month or Six weeks”then bottle it remembering to put a lump of Loaf Sugar into each bottle.

    The spices really do add a little something to the drink. I prefer a bit of nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice(pimento). Mixing in a cup of bourbon to the brandy, and maybe 1/2 of a vanilla bean, is no bad thing either. 🙂

  2. Lucky you!!! I also love sour cherries. They are better than sweet cherries in everything (apart from eating raw maybe).
    In Switzerland sour cherries are very difficult to get, but there is a shop selling frozen Serbian sour cherries all year round and they are great in desserts as well as in liqueurs!
    In January I made a Sour Cherry Vodka with those ( and it’s so good, I cannot even imagine how it would taste prepared with fresh ones…
    If you are wondering what to do with the cherries from the liqueur, I have made several batches of Tipsy Cherries in Chocolate ( … I have no words to describe the divine taste.
    I must use gin next time instead of vodka/diluted pure alcohol and observe the difference!

  3. Mhairi

    We generally do vodka based liqueurs, been using a lot of your recipes too! Currently have lemon, lime, rasberry, yellow raspberry, blackcurrant, bramble and few others decanted. Did a star anise one, but left it for too long, think it will be good for colds though!
    Mind you have never left them as long as you have said, can’t bear to wait that long but think I will have to try.
    Never done a cherry one so think I’ll add that to the list along with the mint one I want to try:)

  4. 99p! That was a seriously great investment!!

  5. Magic Cochin

    I can recommend making your own cherry brandy (same recipe but swap gin for brandy). Ours was exceptionally good – a great Christmas tipple! And wonderful in trifle 😉


  6. KateUK

    Damn! Too late for a tree!
    The blackbirds in my garden have been raiding the tiny berries on my amelanchior- yes, I know I could make jelly from them- but it is so much more entertaining watching the blackbirds strip the bush.They are down to the last few berries on the very tips of the branches and one of the male birds has developed a technique which we call “drive by”.He flies past the shrub,grabbing a berry in passing, then settles on the garden bench to eat it.Great viewing!

  7. I’d love a little tree please. We already experiment with various fruit liqueurs, including your orange (still waiting for the three years to run!)

  8. martin clowes

    Yes please- I would like a cherry plant


  9. Hi Fiona,

    Yes please! It will grow along side my apple and plum trees. x

  10. Hi there, Your post has inspired me. Please could you send me one so I can grow one of these cherry trees.

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