History of Maraschino Cherries

From the files of “ohhhh…yes, that makes sense” comes the story of Maraschino cherries.

Maraschino cherries are not a variety of cherries, but rather a cherry that has to be made. Traditionally, they were Marasca cherries preserved in Maraschino liqueur. Maraschino liqueur is made from the juice and crushed pits of the aforementioned Marasca cherry. Think of it as cherries brined in cherry liqueur.

And then we Americans got our hands on it. At first, we simply replaced the cherry. Instead of using the imported Marasca Cherry from Italy, we instead used various domestic cherries, specifically the Queen Anne variety, as long as it was labeled as Imitation Maraschino Cherries.

However, things changed when Prohibition became the law of the land. Maraschino Cherries fell under the umbrella of items that were banned. Two things happened that saved Maraschino cherries from going to the food graveyard:

  1. Maraschino cherry producers removed the alcohol and used an almond-tasting brine.
  2. They started selling the cherries to soda counters, ensuring a bit of income.

After Prohibition was repealed, they returned to selling the cherries to bars and taverns, but without preserving the cherries in the cherry liqueur. Why? Because it was cheaper to produce. So much so, that they lobbied the government to call cherries which have been dyed red, impregnated with sugar and packed in a sugar syrup flavored with oil of bitter almonds or a similar flavor as ‘Maraschino Cherries’, even though there’s not a drop of Maraschino Liqueur to be found.

tags technorati : Food History, Maraschino Cherries