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Entries in maraschino (1)

Thursday
Jun302011

Should you Maraschino?

I have vivid childhood memories of going out with my family to our favorite Mexican restaurant in California.  As my parents ordered their favorite, frozen, fruity concoctions….my sister and I would beg and plead for our  favorite sugary treat, the sweet Shirley Temple.  The simple, ruby red, sparkling drink (7up and grenadine syrup)  was delicious, but the crown jewel of the beverage was really the majestic maraschino cherry and I couldn't get enough of them.

In the beginning  the maraschino cherry started it's humble life as a Marasca,  a small, black cherry from Croatia. For years the fruit was brined and then macerated in maraschino liqueur,  although this came to an end when Prohibition made the alcohol-soaked fruit illegal.

In 1925 a nonalcoholic version was introduced.  Today a variety of light cherries are soaked in salt to remove there natural color and flavor, next they are pitted and soaked for 30day in natural sweetener. Finally they are dipped in artificial coloring (here is where that dreaded red dye no. 2 comes in).

Today I still catch myself craving the neon, candy sweet , mystery fruit.  I admit that I occasionally sneak one or two at bars when no one is looking or add it to fancy fizzes and boozy cocktails in the secrecy of my own home.  I ask you, would a Manhattan or whisky sour be as pretty without the ruby jewel at the bottom? Of course not!!!
Luckily I don't have to go without and neither do you, because there are so many options of maraschinos that aren't nearly as bad as the shirley temple days of our youth

All-Natural Maraschino Cherries by Tillen Farms-these were actually the first natural maraschino I ever had.  They are quite tasty and are great in drinks!  These are perfect if you can't give up the syrupy sweet ruby red gems of your childhood

Princess Maraschino Cherries-Have not tried but seem to be a good option

Luxardo Maraska Cherries-
This Italian import is the real deal and everything that a maraschino was intended to be and taste like. Not cheap at 17.00 a jar… but worth it.  Use the syrup in the jar for drinks as well.

Or make your own!  Here is a recipe that will give you amazing results. The process is surprisingly easy. When sour cherries are in season stock up and pack the pitted fruit in a mason jar filled with Luxardo (cherry liqueur). Let sit for 2 weeks.  You will find that the cherries will have a deep brandied flavor and cherry almond aftertaste.  This authentic taste will be a more grown up version of the candied fruit from our youth.

Illustrations by Danielle Malmgren