A maraschino cherry (pronounced /ˌmærəˈskiːnoʊ/ ma-ra-SKEE-no, as in Italian, or /ˌmærəˈʃiːnoʊ/ marr-ə-SHEE-no) is a preserved, sweetened cherry, typically made from light-colored sweet cherries such as the Royal Ann, Rainier, or Gold varieties. The cherries are first preserved in a brine solution usually containing sulfur dioxide or alcohol, then soaked in a suspension of food coloring (common red food dye, FD&C Red 40), sugar syrup, and other components.
The name maraschino refers to the marasca cherry of Croatian origin and the maraschino liqueur made from it, in which maraschino cherries were originally preserved. They were, at first, produced for and consumed as a delicacy by royalty and the wealthy.
Red Numbers 1, 4, and Yellow Numbers 1,2,3, and 4 were removed from the approved list in 1960. The ban on Red Number 4 was lifted in 1965 to allow the coloring of maraschino cherries, which is considered mainly decorative and not a foodstuff (Pavia, et al., Introduction to Organic Laboratory Techniques).
In the U.S.
The cherries were first introduced in the United States in the late 19th century, where they were served in fine bars and restaurants. By the turn of the century, American producers were experimenting with flavors such as almond extract and substituting Queen Anne cherries for marasca cherries. In 1912, the USDA defined "maraschino cherries" as "marasca cherries preserved in maraschino" under the authority of the Food and Drugs Act of 1906. The artificially-colored and sweetened Royal Anne variety were required to be called "Imitation Maraschino Cherries" instead. Food Inspection Decision 141, defined marasca cherries and maraschino themselves. It was signed on Feb. 17, 1912.
During Prohibition in the United States as of 1920, the decreasingly popular alcoholic variety was illegal as well. Ernest H. Wiegand, a professor of horticulture at Oregon State University, developed the modern method of manufacturing maraschino cherries using a brine solution rather than alcohol. Accordingly, most modern maraschino cherries have only a historical connection with maraschino liqueur.
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