The maraschino cherry is the fiery red, extra sweet cherry you find on top on your banana splits and sundaes. It is also used in cakes, sweet bread and put in cocktails. When you buy them at the super market they are usually in jars preserved in a sweet juice.
No, the maraschino cherry doesn't grow on trees like that. It starts out as one of the light colored sweet tasting cherries like the Royal Ann or Rainer. Right after picking they are put in a brine solution with a little sulfur dioxide to firm them up After that they are placed in as solution of sugar syrup with some common Red 40 food dye for their bright red coloring.
The maraschino cherry started out being made with the marasca cherry, which is a small black cherry that originally came from Croatia. They are no longer made from this cherry but since it was used for so many years the name stuck.
Maraschino cherries were originally soaked in alcohol and used in cocktails. They were very popular and you could actually get intoxicated just by eating enough of the cherries. The Federal government decided to put a stop to it when Prohibition days came around and producers could no longer use the alcohol soaked version. A non alcoholic version was then created around 1925 by a professor at Oregon State University. Now, due to its huge popularity there are at least a million pounds of the maraschino cherry produced every year.
Maraschino cherries are actually made from cherries that weren't graded large enough to sale to the super markets. Most are produced by two major companies. Here is the way one of the companies, Gray & Company produces thier maraschinos.
First they are put in a salt solution that actually removes their original coloring and flavor. After this step they are soaked for around a month in huge wooden containers filled with sweetener. Once removed from the containers they are dipped in artificial coloring to give them their bright red color. Sometimes for decorative purposed in things like fruit cakes, they may be dyed different colors. Green and orange are popular colors.
More than likely the maraschino cherry is here to stay. They are a standard ingredient in so many things that they are almost a part of our culture. For instance, can you imagine a banana split without its cherry topping. That is always the first thing I eat.
You can actually find quiet a number of recipes to make your own Maraschino cherries, and they are not that hard to do. However, they are available at all the super markets and you can even buy them over the internet without the additives and food coloring if that is your problem.
So, there is a short version of the story of the Maraschino Cherry. I hope you found it interesting.