These are not the maraschino cherries of red dye and corn syrup, for which I nonetheless retain a sneaking, if mostly imaginary fondness. As I child, with a child's sweet tooth, I thought they were heavenly. Perhaps you did too?
All my childhood friends seemed to love them. If I try one now, say, floating in my drink, the initial bite conjures some of the old pleasure. But then there is an acrid chemical follow-up that spoils the fun. No doubt it was always there, but I certainly never noticed it back in the day.
But then again, back in the day, I was also known to consume cotton candy and blue popsicles, if offered. These things had the lure of the carnival- sleazy, semi-forbidden fun.
Unlike blue popsicles, maraschino cherries were kept in the family fridge, but they were doled out sparingly, garnish only. This was not because they were bad for you, but because my mother, who was a genius at food, knew they would be utterly sickening in any sort of quantity.
There is a way, but today, I'm about some jam. If you'd like a proper, real food maraschino cherry to make a Manhattan, or to top off your sundae, that's another animal. I think I have a good method for that sort of maraschino, which involves dried cherries (mixed sour and sweet), sugar syrup, plenty of maraschino liquor, and a bit of waiting. It is just too bad that dried cherries come stemless, because a stem would add a bit of missing glamour. This jam owes something to that process, but much more to Christine Ferber's recipe for "Black Forest Jam".
So, this is what happened, if you'll forgive the to-and-fro-ing. Walking to my friend's house, I passed a little produce market, a place I don't usually shop. It is very expensive, yet often not terribly exciting, and the woman who owns it has been haughtily dismissive in the past. She is especially not charming when asked, politely, about something she chooses not to carry. (eg., lacinato kale: "Nobody eats that!" Right. I must be the proverbial chopped liver? ) But she had a sign that said "Sour Cherries, While They Last."
They almost didn't last; I got the last pint.* Not enough for jam. But I thought how nice the combo of sweet and sour dried cherries had been for the maraschinos I made, and I had a nice basket of sweet black cherries at home. I checked Mes Confitures for something suitable. Ms. Ferber had a suitable suggestion, but it involved Kirsch. I decided to copy it, but substitute the Maraschino for the Kirsch. Under the circumstances, it no longer seems much to do with Black Forest anything, so here you have some Maraschino Jam:
1 1/4 lbs (net) pitted sour cherries
1 1/4 lbs (net) pitted sweet dark cherries
juice of a small lemon
3 1/2 cups sugar
7 oz. apple jelly, homemade or organic store-bought
1 oz maraschino liquor
Mix the cherries, sugar, and lemon juice in a ceramic or glass bowl. Cover with a dishtowel, and let it sit one hour. Empty contents into a good-sized jam pan, and bring to a boil. Pour back into the bowl, cover with crumpled parchment paper, and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, strain the cherries over the jam pan , and drain all the liquid into the pot. Set the strainer and cherries aside in the bowl, and bring the liquid to a boil. Boil for five minutes, and then add the jelly, stirring until it is dissolved. Skim off any foam. Add the cherries, and bring back to a boil. Boil away until it thickens and jells, testing by your favorite method. (It will be less jelled that it seems, as the cherries continue to exude a bit of moisture as they cool).
Add the Maraschino liquor, and mix it in well. Ladle into sterilized canning jars, top with lids, and flip the jars upside down. Leave them overnight- they should be sealed and cooled in the morning. Check for boingers, and refrigerate any unsealed jars to use first.
This makes about 4 eight oz jars, though 8 four ounce jars are cute, and make nice gifts. Try to wait a week or two to let the flavors develop.
*Probably there are sour cherries to be had at one of the local farmers' markets. However, I am car-less. In any case, gas being what it is, making the rounds of all of them would not be such a bargain.