No ice cream sundae is complete without a classic cherry on top. If you've ever had one, you may be familiar with Maraschino cherries or candied cherries. And while they may look similar, there's a difference between candied cherries and Maraschino cherries, which you may also find in the baking aisle of your grocery store.
Maraschino cherries are sweet cherries that have been cured and preserved in brine (or traditionally, liqueur), sweetened and dyed with red food coloring.
Candied cherries are cherries that have been simmered, usually in sugar water or syrup, until the moisture in the cherries thickens and becomes a very sweet syrup. They also typically contain red food dye.
What Are Maraschino Cherries?
Traditionally, Maraschino cherries come from the Adriatic region where sour marasca cherries were preserved with liqueur and served as a treat.
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The delicacy eventually made its way to upscale American establishments in the 1800s until prohibition put a squeeze on the liqueur used in Maraschino cherry production. After, people started using brine to cure and preserve Maraschino cherries.
Maraschino cherries today are made with different varieties of sweet cherries such as Royal Ann and Rainier. After soaking the cherries in brine to preserve and crisp the cherries, they are pitted and rinsed, then sweetened with corn syrup. The bright red comes from food coloring.
The classic flavor of a red Maraschino cherry comes from almond extract, while green Maraschinos are flavored with peppermint. Maraschino cherries appear in recipes as a garnish for ice cream and cocktails, or baked into pastries and fruitcakes.
Candied Glacé Cherries vs. Maraschino Cherries
Candied cherries, also called glacé Cherries, are different from Maraschino cherries because they are actually cooked (rather than cured) in syrup. This gives them a texture and intense sweetness similar to other candied fruit, like orange peel and pineapple.
Although candied cherries are available all year, they make a special appearance in recipes at Christmas on trays of sweets and in fruitcakes.
Similarities of Candied and Maraschino Cherries
While the way they're made sets them apart, candied and Maraschino cherries have one thing in common: sugar.
These two varieties of cherries are both high in added sugar. Maraschinos are cured in sugar, while candied cherries are cooked in sugar water or sugary syrup
In fact, Maraschino cherries have more than three times the amount of sugar than fresh cherries, according to the USDA. For that reason, they're probably best eaten in moderation. That goes double for candied cherries, as some brands have almost twice the sugar in Maraschinos.
For a more nutritious alternative, make your own candied cherries at home by soaking fresh cherries for several weeks in either Maraschino liqueur or a flavored syrup without dye and less sugar.
- National Cherry Growers & Industries Foundation; White Paper -- Cherries: A Sweet Message for Health; Roberta L. Duyff, MS, RD, FADA, CFCS
- Food & Wine; Homemade Maraschino Cherries; Nick Mautone
- USDA MyFoodData: Maraschino Cherries vs. Sweet Cherries
- The LPI; The Possible Health Benefits of Anthocyanin...; Ronald E. Wrolstad, Ph.D.
- Flavor Alchemy: The Brix of Sweet Fruit