January 3: National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day

Think today is an ordinary day? Think again: it's National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day today.

Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member  Shannon O'Saurus

Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member Shannon O'Saurus

Today is a great day to enjoy a chocolate covered cherry--the most popular variety of which, in the United States, are cherry cordials. Cherry cordials are an interesting treat: a cherry sealed in a sort of sugary-boozy syrup and sealed into a chocolate shell. 

I don't know about you, but my relationship with cherry cordials has always been...complex. As a child, I coveted the shiny red box of cherry cordials that my mom said "weren't for kids" and hid from us. Well, mom wasn't just being mean: the first time I tried one, I was so disappointed by the taste. I associated cherries as a cupcake topping, so in my mind I thought the cherries might have the the taste of a rich pink buttercream-topped cake served with a maraschino cherry on top, and all covered in chocolate. The Queen Anne Cordials my mom had? Definitely not that. 

From childhood into adulthood, I mainly regarded chocolate covered cherries with a sort of detachment. 

While I wouldn't say it was a huge moment of epiphany, I do remember at some point in adulthood trying a chocolate covered cherry (not a cordial, just the fruit) from Chukar Cherries in the Pike Place Market in Seattle. It was a pleasant surprise; "this is nice," I thought to myself, enjoying the contrast of tart cherry, and sweet, dark chocolate. 

While I would not consider myself a great follower of the chocolate covered cherry even today, I want to make it clear to you that I appreciate them. I appreciate their visual appeal, I appreciate their elegance, I appreciate their contrasting textures and flavors. 

And since I've been looking them up a bit for this post, I can say that I find them very interesting. 

Turns out, chocolate covered cherries are no new phenomenon. As this article on Candy Favorites reports, the road to the cherry cordial was largely a matter of timing.

In the 1700s in Europe, cordials were gaining popularity as a kind of cure-all, used to settle stomachs, improve health, and even act as aphrodisiacs. Concurrently, a candied cherry-and-chocolate confection known as griottes was gaining popularity. Somewhere along the way, some brilliant mind decided to make a delicious mash-up of these culinary trends, and cherry cordial chocolates took off. 

By the 1800s, they were officially in production in the United States; one major brand, Cella's, has been cordially offering up the classic treats since 1864 (it is now part of the Tootsie Roll Family); Queen Anne Cordials have been in production since 1948 (the company has been around since 1921).

January 3 has been designated (and is recognized by the National Confectioners' Association) as National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day.

Photo licensed via Creative Commons by  Wikipedia

Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Wikipedia

Want to know more? Here's some interesting info. 

As I learned on Candy Favorites, the cherries are made one one of three ways:

1. Shell molding: chocolate is poured into a mold but left hollow on the sides and without a seal of chocolate. It is then filled with liquid and the cherry, and more chocolate is melted and used to create a seal; that last bit will become the bottom of the candy when unmolded. 

2. Enrobing: The cherries are placed in trays with the sugar syrup, which after a time will set, not totally firm, but firm enough to be covered with chocolate, which will seal it into place. 

3. The crazy science method which incorporates enrobing and liquid, both: according to the site, "an enzyme called invertase is added which acts on solid sugar centers and reverts them to liquid. Adding invertase can be done after the center has been covered in chocolate, simplifying the whole process." Weird, right?!?



Five ways to celebrate chocolate covered cherries today:

Chocolate covered cherry stuffed cupcakes recipe. Pictured above. (CakeSpy)

Learn more about how the Brock Candy Company of Tennessee got into the chocolate covered cherry game. (Appalachian History)

Simple chocolate covered cherries recipe (non-alcoholic). (Taste of Home)

Cherry cordials with booze. (Saveur)

Read a taste-test review of the primary purveyors of chocolate covered cherries. (Sugar Pressure)

Do you like cherry cordials?