From Imitation to Authentic and Back Again: The Maraschino Cherry

Marasca Cherries (Image from wikipedia)

We came into possession of a few pounds of fresh sour cherries (Hey, so, we went a bit overboard at the U-pick, OK? Audrey's currently canning 16 pounds of strawberry jam).

I've been googling about for ideas, and came across the concept (which I've latched on to) of creating homemade, HFC and Red-5 -free maraschino cherries. Authentic ones, as sour cherries and marasca (get it? marasca => maraschino?) cherries are not too disilimar. No, not the "authentic" ones like from the stores, or as described in ye olde southern housewife's bible of preserving, the Ball Blue Book.

What we currently think of as authentic Maraschino cherries is defined by a post-prohibition editing of history as "cherries which have been dyed red, impregnated with sugar and packed in a sugar sirup [sic] flavored with oil of bitter almonds or a similar flavor" (-- FDA.gov).

Compare that to the description of the 1912 USDA guidelines for the same: "Food Inspection Decision 141, issued in 1912 under the Food and Drugs Act of 1906, stated that "maraschino cherries" should be applied only to marasca cherries preserved in maraschino. This decision further described maraschino as a liqueur or cordial prepared by process of fermentation and distillation from the marasca cherry, a small variety of the European wild cherry indigenous to the Dalmatian Mountains."

That's downright D.O.C. And further; "Products prepared from cherries of the Royal Anne type, artificially colored and flavored and put up in flavored sugar sirup might be labeled "Imitation Maraschino Cherries" or, if there was no reference to "Maraschino," might be labeled to show that they are preserved cherries, artificially colored and flavored.""

The lowly imitation maraschino cherry is now the real deal, and we somehow lost the liqueur qualities at the same time.

If I can source some Maraschino liqueur or part with some brandy, I'm going to investigate homemade marsachino cherries -- here are a few recipes I've found to guide me so far:

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2008/05/lus-brandied-cherries...

http://www.cupcakeproject.com/2009/06/homemade-maraschino-cherri...

http://www.blogher.com/canning-across-america-join-canvolution-c...

Combining the learnings from those, here's my take:

1 pound tart cherries, washed, but not pitted (to add the nutty almond flavor)
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C water
2 t lemon juice
1 t vanilla extract

1 C of maraschino liquor (most recipes recommend Luxardo brand. I've yet to find anything, so I use mid-range brandy and add a dash of Fee Brother's Cherry bitters and some amaretto) (3 parts brandy, 1 pt amaretto, plus 1 tsp of cherry bitters per cup of liquor)

Sterilize your jars

In a saucepan, combine water, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla, bring to a rolling boil.
When the liquid begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium.
Add the cherries and simmer for 5–7 minutes.
Remove from heat, add the liqueur.

Transfer the cherries and liquid into clean jars. If there is room left, fill it with the simple syrup until 1/4 inch from the top.

Process jars for 10 minutes at high boil.

Comments

Jam

Don't forget me when you're gifting the jam...when I hear strawberries on the radio, I says to my friends, I says, 'that's my JAM!'

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