Recognized by the National Confectioners Association and celebrated by millions of people across the country, January 3rd is National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day.
Known to many as a mid-winter pick-me-up, chocolate covered cherries, also called chocolate cordials, can be either store-bought or homemade. There are also many recipes that mimic the flavor of the long known and well-loved candy.
- In the 1700s in England, cherries were enclosed in chocolate with a little kirsch (cordial) liqueur. After finding their way to the United States, Americans received them quite well, delighting in the little bit of alcoholic cordial surrounding the fruit dipped in chocolate.
- Although originally made with the liqueur, cordials/chocolate covered cherries are more commonly made with a sugar syrup flavored with cherries. The pitted cherries have been cooked in sugar syrup and jarred.
- Chocolate covered cherries were introduced to the world by Cella’s Confections in New York in 1929 and were an immediate hit, quickly becoming famous the world over.
- Years later, in 1985, Cella’s Confections was bought from the Masarik Family by Tootsie Roll, though the family is still part owners of the product. Today, almost 90 years after they were made for the first time, Cella’s chocolate covered cherries are famous the world over for their liquid center and extra gooey taste.
- Cherries were brought to America by ship with early settlers in the 1600s.
- Cherry pie filling is the number one pie filling sold in the US.
- Darker cherries have higher antioxidant and vitamin levels than lighter ones, but sour cherries, which are generally bright red rather than a darker red-purple in color, have far higher levels than sweet.
- Asian varieties, such as the Japanese Sakura, (known colloquially as the cherry blossom) are well-regarded for their long, weeping branches filled with small pink flowers.
- It is believed that the sweet cherry originated in the area between the Black and Caspian Seas in Asia Minor around 70 B.C. The Romans introduced them to Britain in the first century A.D.
- The word ‘cherry’ comes from the French word ‘cerise,’ which in turn comes from the Latin words cerasum and Cerasus, the classical name of the modern city Giresun in Turkey.
- British Columbia, Canada holds the record for the largest cherry pie at 39,683 lbs. (Adam)
- Records indicate that cherries were a prized food in a region of China dating back to 600 BC – fit for royalty and cherished by locals.
- On average, there are about 44 cherries in one pound.
- In an average crop year, a sweet cherry tree will produce 800 cherries.
- While they have long been a popular dessert fruit, cherries were used for their medicinal purposes in the 15th and 16th centuries.
- Despite the short fruiting season, Americans consume an average of 1.5 pounds of cherries each year.
- The world’s heaviest cherry was grown by Gerardo Maggipinto (Italy) and weighed 0.76 oz on June 21, 2003.
- The word “cordial” derives from the Latin “cor,” heart, and referred to a medicinal tonic, which was believed to stimulate the heart and improve circulation. This medicinal use of the cordial continued through the 1400s, when it arrived in England. There, cordials were taken after a big meal to settle the stomach and aide digestion.
- Door County, Wisconsin, is nicknamed Cherryland USA. Door County was once the No. 1 grower of cherries in the U.S. During the 1950s, it produced 95 percent of the nation’s tart cherries, with more than 1 million cherry trees. Today, there are only 2,500 acres of cherry orchards in the county (that’s still a lot!). Door County residents pride themselves on their cherries. Go to any restaurant and you’ll likely find a cherry special on the menu. (Cinnamon Roll Cherry Cobbler, anyone?)
- Traverse City, Michigan, is known as the Cherry Capital of the World. Today, Michigan is the big producer in the cherry-growing business, with more than 30,000 acres of cherry trees. In the Traverse City region alone, a whopping 4 million trees produce 150 to 200 million pounds of tart cherries annually. Traverse City’s annual National Cherry Festival started in the 1920s as an informal “blessing of the blossoms” ceremony. Now it’s a weeklong festival attended by people from all over the world.
- Michigan hosts official cherry pit-spitting contests-and they’re pretty awesome. Think you’ve got skill in spitting a cherry pit? There’s a place you can prove it. Eau Claire, Michigan-known as the Cherry Pit Spitting Capital of the World-hosts the International Cherry Pit-Spitting Championship every year. The world record for cherry stone spitting is a whopping 93 feet 6.5 inches.