When you’re young and innocent, there are a lot of things you take for granted. Like what exactly those red things are in Shirley Temples. Okay, they’re maraschino cherries—so do they grow on trees? Can we go maraschino cherry picking this summer? They don’t grow on trees? Oh, whatever, I guess.
|Nope, they grow in STEEL MACHINES! source|
It was only a few years ago when I learned the reality of these sweet, bright red mocktail garnishes. I was taking an online environmental science class when the teacher told us we were required to watch a 90-minute documentary on Vimeo. Meaning I would be spending the next three hours skipping around the film in hopes of finally getting it to, you know, load.
The documentary detailed the many manufacturing processes behind ordinary items, from plastic to commercial chicken meat to Oreos—one of which was the maraschino cherry. It showed how cherries grown in India were shipped to Europe to be processed and then shipped to America for bottling, while being transformed to be nearly unrecognizable along the way. Being rather dim, I wasn’t at all grossed out by this revelation but instead became more in awe of the worldliness contained within my Shirley Temple.
According to About.com, the cherries used to be made from marasca cherries (a type of sour cherry) preserved in maraschino liqueurs (which was derived from the cherry itself). Sort of like preserving grapes in wine—a bit redundant, is it not? But nevermind; the popularity of these cherries spread until they arrived at the U.S., just in time for Prohibition. Because all alcohol was banned, these alcohol-preserved cherries were banned too. Naturally, some slick scientist (namely Ernest H. Wiegand) decided to create a process that would preserve cherries in a similar way without using alcohol but with the use of as much artificial coloring and flavoring as possible.
I wouldn’t say it’s a horrifying process, unlike ever-so-melodramatic Buzzfeed, but it’s sort of…weird. Basically, a bunch of ordinary cherries are soaked in a brine to remove their natural color—
—then pitted and soaked in a sweetener / flavoring agent for approximately a month—
|Sorta like this, except on an industrial scale. source|
—then dipped in a dye of whatever color the manufacturer wants. Like red. Or green.
|Well shit! source|
And of course it all finishes out with bottling, shipping, and stuff like that. Nothing different from a regular old can of beans. But I do have qualms with how resource-intensive the whole process is, which was actually the focus of that documentary I watched a couple years ago; like, do we really need to ship a bunch of cherries across multiple continents and put them through multiple factories before they even think about touching your cocktail? No. Not really. Especially when there are homemade alternatives, like this recipe from the fabulous Cupcake Project—or, even better, Cherry Coke-flavored maraschino cherries, which you can make into HOLY SHIT CHERRY COKE PIE!
I have a thing for Cherry Coke.
Making maraschino cherries doesn’t sound very difficult at all. So why did I use the store-bought kind? Well, my family doesn’t happen to have any maraschino liqueur on hand (although we do have Grand Marnier, among other things), so I would have to ask my mother to go buy some. And I imagine that conversation would go something like this:
“Mom, can you buy some maraschino liqueur for me?”
“Because I want to make homemade maraschino cherries.”
“Because homemade things are better!”
“But why can’t you just use the store-bought ones?”
And so on and so on.
But I’m lazy, so it was okay in the end. One less step before I could have delicious bread.
Apparently, this maraschino cherry-studded quick bread is a tradition that goes back many years, quite like banana bread. Many of the recipes I found during my research made mention of “being handed down” by grandmothers and how the elder ladies in their families made the best bread that one could imagine, better than even a tried-and-true recipe could produce. Although I had never heard of it until recently. My grandmother is more inclined to make lasagna or iceberg salad than a bright pink quick bread like this.
And holy shit, have I been missing out.
|Love your blurry photos June.|
It’s like a Shirley Temple, but in quick bread form. Meaning it is buttery and carby and moist and sweet and incredibly addictive. A half cup of oil may seem like a lot, but every drop is necessary. I like my low-fat breads every now and then too, but there really is nothing like a fatty, delicious bread such as this.
I just might have stumbled upon a new tradition.
Maraschino cherry bread
Makes one loaf
Adapted from Taste of Home
283 grams • maraschino cherries • one 10 ounce jar
113 grams • coconut oil, softened • ½ cup
150 grams • granulated sugar • ¾ cup
124 grams • silken tofu, blended until smooth • ½ cup
4 grams • vanilla extract • 1 teaspoon
1 gram • almond extract • 1/8 teaspoon
125 grams • all-purpose flour • 1 cup
120 grams • white whole wheat flour • 1 cup
4 grams • baking powder • 1 teaspoon
3 grams • salt • ½ teaspoon
54 grams • slivered almonds (optional) • ½ cup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and set aside.
Drain cherries, being sure to reserve juice. Add enough water to juice to measure ½ cup. Cut cherries into quarters, blot dry, and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, cream softened coconut oil and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add tofu, vanilla, and almond extract and beat well.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl and gradually add to creamed mixture, alternating with cherry juice. Fold in chopped cherries and slivered almonds (if using).
Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan. Let cool for at least half an hour before slicing. Or as long as you can manage.
|Those hearts represent the clogging of your arteries that will take place after eating those slices.|
You could certainly make this with homemade maraschino cherries, but I’m not sure if it would be worth it. Frankly, I would save those scratch-made goodies for sundaes and cocktails and get the cheap stuff for baked goods like this. Comes out just fine.
Better than fine, actually.
Next time, I’ll try this with green cherries. Who’s with me?