The Maraschino Cherry
Floating demurely in a cocktail, the maraschino cherry adds a special touch to so many of our favorite drinks. But how is that unnaturally bright color achieved? And where does the overwhelmingly sweet flavor come from?
After months spent visiting maraschino cherry manufacturing plants across the country, we warn you that the answers to these questions are not pleasant. Reading this passage could cause you to stem the flow of cherries into your favorite cocktails. Are you ready to pit yourself against the truth?
Mature sweet cherries are first brined in a solution of one percent sulfur dioxide and one-half percent unslaked lime, which firms and bleaches the fruits to a lovely shade of ivory. Most manufacturers use swimming-pool-size vats in which the cherries are soaked for four to six weeks. The cherries are pitted and bleached again with sodium chlorite. Leaching the cherries in water for 24 to 36 hours removes the bleaching agent. Next, they are stored in sodium bisulfite brine for two weeks to firm them. A sugar solution is added simultaneously with red food coloring and is interchanged five times over seven days until the cherries achieve the necessary sugar content. Finally, almond flavor is added.
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