Monday, June 14, 2010

Ingredient Spotlight: Luxardo Il Maraschino Originale

I just put a new dessert on the Grange menu:  Fresh Cherry Trifle.  When I first made it for the Follow the Chef market tour, I used vanilla pastry cream layered with lemon poundcake, fresh cherries and hazelnut brittle.  It was delicious, but I wanted to kick up the cherry a bit before I introduced it in the dining room.  So I turned to Luxardo Il Maraschino Originale, a classic Italian liqueur.  I incorporated a small amount into the pastry cream and it imparted a subtle, haunting cherry note that just brought the whole dessert together in a most beautiful way.

Luxardo Maraschino is one of the few distilled liqueurs in the world and is aged for two years in Finnish ash vats.  It's made from the marasca, a sour cherry exclusively cultivated by the Luxardo company.  Girolamo Luxardo's wife, Maria Canevari, originally made the liqueur at home (apparently a popular "hobby" at the time) in Zara, a port city on the Dalmation coast which is now part of the Croatia republic.  The liqueur Maria made was of such fine quality and became so popular that in 1821 Girolamo founded a distillery for commercial production.   He perfected the recipe and received an exclusive "privilege" from the Emperor of Austria attesting to its superior quality.  In 1913 Michelangelo Luxardo built an enormous modern distillery, also in Zara, which unfortunately was almost completely destroyed in World War II, as was the family itself.  Much of the Italian population fled in exile to Italy and elsewhere, and Giorgio Luxardo, the only brother who survived, built a new distillery in Torreglia, Italy in 1947.  The Luxardo family now makes other liqueurs as well, including Sambuca, Amaretto and Limoncello, and has a line of liqueur concentrates, fruit syrups and marasca cherry jam.

Now, 189 years later, it's my "privilege" to use Il Maraschino Originale in one of my desserts.  The clear liqueur is beautifully packaged in green glass with a distinctive hand-fitted straw wrap.  Girolamo's name is proudly displayed on the label, although I think Maria's name should be there as well.  After all, the genesis of this lovely ingredient began with Maria and her homemade liqueur.


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