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Where does a sundae come from?

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With typical ingenuity, American cherry processors figured out a way to make a less expensive version. They used Royal Anne cherries, less liqueur, and almond oil instead of crushed cherry pits. In the 1920s, alcohol was eliminated altogether when horticulturalist Ernest Wiegand found a way to preserve cherries using brine instead of alcohol. The American version of the maraschino became so popular that it completely replaced the foreign import.

Today, cherry "briners" in Oregon use 10 million gallons of brine each year to preserve cherries. Processors have to pay to dispose of the used brine, which consists of water, sodium metabisulfite, citric acid, and calcium chloride. The used brine also contains sugar from the cherries. Just about anything that contains sugar can be fermented to produce ethanol, which can be used as fuel. Why not used brine? Processors now must pay nearly $1 million to dispose of the brine. The potential ethanol "harvest" is 250,000 gallons. But the economics of this don't quite work yet. Distillation plants would have to be built, and waste brine trucked in. It doesn't make sense yet, but in the future, do you suppose your gasoline would have a cherry flavor?

Marsh mallow-less marshmallow sauce

We still call them marshmallows, but there's no marsh mallow in them anymore. Candy made with honey and thickened with sap from the root of the marsh mallow (Athea officinalis) plant was savored in ancient Egypt. Marsh mallow, the plant, grows to be two to four feet tall. It has gray-green leaves and pink flowers. Not surprisingly, it grows in marshes and is related to other "mallow" plants, such as the rose mallow, the apricot mallow, and the common mallow.

Up until the mid-1800s, marshmallow candy made in the United States contained marsh mallow sap as a thickener. Today's recipes use gelatin (made from animal bones and hides) instead of the sap. Mostly, though, marshmallows are made of corn syrup or sugar. Gum arabic (made from acacia trees) serves as a "foam stabilizer." Flavoring is also added.

From the royal courts of Persia to you
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