Sterilize the mason jars and warm the lids. [I like to keep my sterilized jars in a slightly warm oven so that when they are filled with the hot liquid, they do not suffer shock.]
Clean, stem and pit the cherries.
In a pot over medium heat, combine the sugar, water, lemon juice, and, if using, the maple syrup and/or cinnamon sticks.
Stir this mixture hard until the sugar dissolves and then bring up to a gentle boil.
If using, transfer the cinnamon sticks to the warm jars.
OPTIONAL STEP [COOKED CHERRIES]: If you don't want to risk the cherries shrinking during the canning process, add the cherries to the pot, bring to a simmer and simmer on low for 5-7 minutes before proceeding. THIS IS NOW MY PREFERRED METHOD [AS OF SUMMER 2021].
Pack the cherries into the jars fairly firmly but without crushing, leaving about 3/4 in headspace in the top. [Use a slotted spoon if you've cooked the cherries before canning.]
Add 1/8 to a 1/4 cup spirits to each pint jar, 1/16 to 1/8 cup to each half-pint jar, or 1 tbs to each quarter-pint jar.
Top the jars with your sugar-syrup, leaving about 1/2 inch headspace at the top of each jar. [This is more headspace than when canning jams!]
At this point, if you don't want to properly can your cherries in a boiling water bath, allow them to sit on a counter and cool. Then, refrigerate for two weeks before opening. Consume within 6-8 weeks after opening.
Seal the jars with lids and rims and process in the boiling water bath for 25 minutes.
Take the top off of the canning bath, turn off the heat, and leave the jars to sit in the canner for 5 more minutes.
Remove the jars upright from the canner, place on wire racks or a protected surface, and allow to cool completely. Check for a good seal on the lid. Gently remove screw caps. Wipe and dry the jars and replace the rims [not too tightly.]
Label and store in a cool dark place. Leave the jars for at least 2 weeks before sampling. Properly canned, they will last for 1-2 years on the shelf before opening. Once opened, store in the refrigerator.
TROUBLE SHOOTING:Within 24 hours: Jars which did not seal may topped up with additional cherries and hot syrup to the proper headspace, topped with fresh warm lids, and reprocessed, warm, for 15 minutes plus the additional 5 minute cool.Jars in which cherries have settled too much to be visually appealing or to make a substantial gift [3/4 of the jar for 1/2 pint or 2/3 jar for 1 pint] may be warmed in their syrup, placed in smaller jars, or combined into larger jars, topped with additional fresh hot syrup to reach the required headspace, topped with fresh lids, and reprocessed for 15 minutes plus a 5 minute cool.If you do not wish to reprocess and risk a slightly softer cocktail cherry: place jars in the refrigerator and allow flavours to mingle for approximately 2 weeks. Once open consume within 6-8 weeks.