Maraschino Cherries?


Luxardo Marasche Jar

Do you remember this label on a jar of cherries?  Some of you must.  I remember it very well.  There was a time when I used to tell my students how nice it was that Luxardo didn’t try to sell their lovely marasca cherries with any lie that they were somehow maraschino cherries.  The label simply, and correctly, identified the product as marasche — plural in Italian for marasca.  The label also stated that the product consisted of marasca cherries in a pure, marasca cherry syrup.  I recall how I would praise Luxardo’s integrity versus the shameful lie on the label of any so-called “maraschino cherries” found in an American supermarket.

Then some handful of years ago, Luxardo went and did this:

Luxardo Marasche New Jars

Imagine my disappointment.

They didn’t bother to remake the product’s name on the can — so if you procure that item, you will still get the truth:

Luxardo Marasche Can

So it goes.

There was a time before the prohibition of alcohol in the U.S.A. killed off the huge north American demand for the true, alcoholic, maraschino cherry.  Here is what the U.S. Board of Food and Drug Inspection decided in their decision number 141 of 1912:

BFDI Decision 141

Note the decision by the board that:

BFDI Decision 141 Opinion

That simple, obvious standard would mean that there is no such thing as maraschino cherries in the world today — at least not commercially-available ones.  Dear reader, you have never had a true maraschino cherry.

That is why, in my book, I instruct the reader to garnish those drinks calling for a cherry with a “marasca cherry” instead of a “maraschino cherry.”

Over the years, I have toyed with the idea of taking some of Luxardo’s marasche, rinsing the syrup off of them and placing them in a jar and then covering them with Luxardo’s maraschino liqueur.  But, for the liqueur to really permeate the cherries, I expect they would have to be fresh — not already saturated with heavier-than-liqueur syrup.  I have never been willing to spend so much money to try something that common sense tells me would not yield anything like the correct result.

The good, old standard (and the governmental body that set it) is long gone.  Now we have so-called “maraschino cherries” that are not marasca cherries — nor cherries of any type preserved in maraschino liqueur.  Luxardo’s cherries really are marasca cherries, so it was understandable that they would want to cash in by joining those that had been stretching the ‘maraschino cherry’ truth for so long.  Though I understand the financial motivation behind it, I find Luxardo’s labeling change to be vulgar and distasteful.

I wish, instead, that Luxardo had brought to market some true maraschino cherries.  They would have been expensive — their marasca cherries in syrup already are so without the inclusion of maraschino liqueur.  I imagine that the cherries preserved in Luxardo’s good maraschino liqueur might have cost a lot more money.  But, I would have bought at least a couple of jars.  Plenty of our nation’s more pretentious drinking establishments would’ve have made an ostentatious display of using them.  Luxardo could have sold both marasca cherries (marasche) and true maraschino cherries.

But why bother when a little lie is so much easier?  Luxardo’s marasche are very good — even when called something that they are not.  Who would ever know the difference, anyway?  Well, you do — now.

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