Saturday, April 25, 2009
Search: maraschino cherries
Why: I had one today and also a few last night.
Answer: The name comes from the Marasca cherry that grows wild in Dalmatia on the coast of Croatia. Before there was any real way to preserve fruit, the locals would pickle the cherries in seawater. Then they would marinate them in a liqueur they called maraschino, made from the Marasca's juice, pits, and leaves.
Rich Americans tasted maraschino cherries in Europe and brought them (either physically or theoretically) back in the late 1800s. In the face of the growing temperance movement, American producers began to experiment with so many flavors and other types of cherries that in 1912, the USDA felt the need to decree that only "marasca cherries preserved in maraschino" could be called "maraschino cherries."
The modern method of making them was invented in Oregon, which has the perfect climate and conditions for growing the notoriously finicky cherry. However, Oregon cherries would turn mush before they reached East Coast maraschino manufacturers. OSU professor Ernest Wiegand spent 6 years during (and independent of) Prohibition looking for a solution to the problem of the wasted crops. He then figured out that adding calcium salts to the brine would firm the cherries up.
It wasn't long before a tariff was passed that made those Italian cherries very expensive to import.
The More You Know: After Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the FDA revisited the federal policy towards canned cherries. Since 1940, "maraschino cherries" have been defined as "cherries which have been dyed red, impregnated with sugar and packed in a sugar sirup flavored with oil of bitter almonds or a similar flavor."