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. Jacki Carter

    We usually make cherry wine but this year not enough cherries makes superb wine our tree is 47years old so going to make cherry brandy thanks for the ideas people l would like a baby tree if one is spare Thank you Jacki

  2. Charli Cullinan

    I rescued my little morello cherry tree from a garden centre 2 years ago, looking very sorry for itself. Last year we had just over 1lb of cherries and this year we had 3.5lb! We’re using this recipe again this year for both rum and gin and there’s enough left over for a pie. Thanks for the recipe!

  3. carol gurney

    Ha e had morello tree in the garden for about 20 years only had enough fruit for using as picked but last year we hab 20lbs and gave a lot away, froze some, made pies ,ice fream, and brandy.

    This year looks even better, starlings have already had the top ones so must get busy. Always make sloe gin so will give cherry gin a go this year. Thanks for the reminder that gin is good too.

  4. mik roberts

    try using whisky instead of gin.same quantities and method. i used a medium quality whisky.(cant waste the good stuff)result was highly drinkable

  5. john robson

    Hi, I do gardening P/T at a large house with a hugh Morello tree and the cherries get wasted every year,sacralidge, now I’ve found your recipe, Lidl’s next stop for some cheap gin, I was told not to waste good gin! as if I would. I made Damson gin last year, supperb,highly recommended,Cheeeeeers

  6. Val McManus

    So glad I found your page. In our village Morello Cherries grow wild so we have picked some today and I am half way through stoning them to make cherry brandy as I read the flavour is stronger if you stone the cherries. Would love one of your seedlings as in our old house Morello cherries grew in our garden and the sight of the blossom in spring was lovely.

  7. Karin snellock

    Hi. I’m so pleased to find this recipe, as I have a treeful of cherries! I’ve already picked 4 kilos for jam, but the stoning is a nightmare! My birds don’t seem to like them, so over the weekend I will have a go at the cherry gin. Perhaps some cherry brandy too. Cheers!

  8. Tim from Abingdon

    The cherry gin is now in the bottle!

  9. Tim from Abingdon

    We make sloe gin every year, but I got greedy this year and drank all the gin by summer (it was really good though!). So I topped up the sloes with more gin, but the best of the fruit has already gone. Which leaves me with some slightly fruity gin that’s too sweet for G&T but too harsh to drink as a liqueur, so is neither one thing nor the other.

    All around our town are fruit trees – some planted during development, some appear to have been saved from the old orchards that were built upon. There are cherries, apples, damsons, sloes, whitebeams, rowans and of course a ton of brambles. So I was going to wait for the damsons to appear and finish the gin off with them, but this past week, the cherries have reached the peak of ripe and will be gone past if I leave them any longer.

    So, I intend to experiment with turning my current hooch into a sour cherry gin. Thank you for your recipe.

    And if there are any left, I will take one of your self-seeded Morello-alike trees and see what it becomes. That is how new varieties develop in the first place! 🙂

  10. Hi Fiona
    I bought my cherry tree earlier this year, and was surprised how well they did for the first year. Having not grown them before I searched for some advice on what to do with the fruit as they were ripening fast. I read your article during the day and thought great, I love sloe gin and have got to give it a go. I planned to harvest the fruit as soon as I got home that night before the birds got them as you warned……. but I was too late. The whole lot had been ravaged and I had about 5 left!
    I will take the advice about netting the tree onto next year, they will not get them again!!
    Thanks for the inspiration.

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