As I was preparing to post Friday’s Chinese New Year recipe for Sweet & Sour Pork, I noticed maraschino cherries were one of the key ingredients.
At first, I had the same reaction you may have had: This won’t work. There’s nothing natural about the maraschino cherries found on mainstream supermarket shelves. They’re a most unnatural shade of crayon red, the result of pickling in a syrup that includes lots of sugar and artificial food coloring. In fact, the FDA refers to them as “cherries which have been dyed red, impregnated with sugar and packed in a sugar syrup flavored with oil of bitter almonds or a similar flavor.” Nix that.
But some quick research revealed you can enjoy a natural version of our featured entrée. Natural maraschino cherries are available at Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s and natural food stores. In lieu of artificial coloring, they’re usually colored with beet concentrate—a fine solution!
If you cannot find natural maraschinos at your local organic food store, the Internet will solve your problem. You can order a 12-oz. jar of Princess Natural Maraschino Cherries for $5. While they’re still made with sugar (corn syrup), natural vegetable and fruit concentrates produce a most appealing color. And if you’d like to incorporate them regularly into mixed drinks, you can order a 12-pack of cherries for $50.
Also check for the Silver Palate brand, which contains no artificial colors, red dye or preservatives. A 14-oz. jar retails for $8.99, and 12-packs sell for $100.68.