Cherries, of the family Rosaceae, are believed to have originated in the Caspian and Black Sea area, and wild trees inhabit all of Europe (5). They were domesticated in Greece as early as 300 B.C. The colonists brought them to America. Cherries are drupe fruits with a stone center. The two main types of cherries are sweet (P. avium) and pie, tart, or sour (P. cerasus). U.S. production in 1993 was estimated at 170,000 tons for sweet cherries and 160,000 tons for tart cherries. Several preservation methods are available. Traditionally cherries have been canned. Canning involves soaking the cherries in cold water to firm them for the pitting operation. After pitting, the cherries are put into cans or jars, syrup is added, and the containers are thermally processed. Tart cherries are usually pitted, but most sweet cherries are not. Frozen cherries are usually pitted and blanched before filling and freezing. Brining involves soaking the cherries in a 1% solution of sulfur dioxide, or one of its salts, which inhibits microbial growth and enzyme activity. It also bleaches the cherries to a pale yellow color. Brined cherries can be stored for a long time and used for jam and jelly production. The red color returns after removal of the sulfur dioxide. In the past, this was a very popular method of preservation, but it has been replaced by freezing because the frozen product offers a superior flavor in the final product.

Maraschino cherries are produced from brined cherries by soaking the cherries in a 0.5% solution of calcium chloride to firm the fruit, soaking in a sodium sulfite solution for further bleaching, and neutralizing with a sodium bicarbonate solution. After addition of a red colorant, usually erythrosine, the cherries are soaked in a solution of citric acid to fix the color. The cherries are then put into containers, a syrup flavored with benzaldehyde is added, and the containers are thermally processed. Cherries are also pressed to produce single-strength or concentrated juice, which has been well received as a colorful and flavorful food ingredient. Cherries are also dehydrated to make a desirable component of bakery products. Cherries lend themselves to many specialty products such as pie fillings, glazed products, wines, sauces, juice powders, spreads, candies, and flavors (5).

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