This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
(And see Fruit).
Our cultivated Cherry (Cerasus) dates from the time of Henry the Eighth. A London street cry in the fifteenth century was "Cherries on the ryse,"(or on twigs), but these were probably the produce of the Wild Cherry. From the fruit of different varieties of the Cherry, several highly-esteemed cordials are prepared: the Maraschino of Italy, the Ratafia of France, the Kirschwasser of Germany, and our Cherry Brandy. "Cherry Bounce," again, called also Cherry Cordial, is a popular liqueur consisting of burnt brandy in which Cherries have been steeped, some sugar being added. "Yea, of Cherry Bounce quantum suff., and old Oporto a couple of magnums, that's my physic; " (Secrets Worth Knowing). The kernels of Cherry stones contain a basis of prussic acid. From the bark of the tree exudes a gum which is equal in value to gum arabic. Cherry-water, as concocted from Cherry-juice fermented, is excellent for dispelling the nausea of a disturbed stomach through tardy digestion, or because of heavy food. Large quantities of this "Kirschwasser " are made in the Black Forest of Germany, and Switzerland, small, black fruit being used, together with the stones, which furnish the said minimum quantity of prussic acid.
Both this cordial, and our Cherry Brandy (when the crushed stones have been included) are very useful against stomach sickness, and flatulent distress.
Among other supposed causes of appendicitis (which is now such a common and serious ailment, requiring surgical aid to remove the obstruction) impacted Cherry-stones have to bear the brunt of much obloquy; but the truth is that in rural districts, where country folk often take no pains to separate the stones when eating Cherries, precisely there (many Cherrystones being swallowed, and occupying the intestines) appendicitis is rare. Most commonly a bacillus (B. coli communis) is encountered within the appendix as giving the obstructive trouble, and causing septic inflammation. The colon must be well washed out, and cold vinegar compresses applied over the whole abdomen, renewing them every half-hour; also soft bland laxatives may be given, such as pulp of stewed prunes, bread made with baking powder, liquorice lozenges, and antiseptic peppermints. Cherries, as well as some other fruits, tend to lessen the formation of uric acid in gouty subjects by the reason of their quinic acid. The French distil from Cherries a liqueur known as "Eau de Cerises"; whilst the Italians prepare from a Cherry called Marasca the liqueur noted as "Marasquin".
In former days, about Kent on Easter Monday "pudding pies and Cherry beer"were much in vogue; travellers by the stage coach down the Canterbury Road were invited at every stopping-place to partake of this fare. "May Duke Cherries " was one of the old London cries; and "Cherry Pie "is a name given to the Garden Heliotrope because of its scent similar to that of the fruit. The late Queen Victoria took care that remarkably fine Cherries should be grown at Frogmore, and ordered that some of these should be served at luncheon as often as possible. Cherry sauce used to be so highly esteemed that for many years it was supplied at every Royal luncheon, and dinner, no matter what the sweets might be. It was made thus: Put three parts of a bottle of Claret in a high copper pan, with some white sugar, and a stick of cinnamon; bring it to the boil, throw in some Cherries not over-ripe, and simmer for ten minutes, removing the scum; then lift out the cinnamon, and thicken the sauce with a little arrowroot mixed with cold water; the sauce should not be too thick, but should freely coat the spoon, and it is then ready for use.
When fresh Cherries are out of season the bottled fruit must be employed, taking some of the juice from the bottle, and mixing it with an equal quantity of Claret. Freshly-gathered Cherries (to be made into ice for dinner) were always approved of at Queen Victoria's table, and many of them were constantly preserved in large jars by the Royal confectioners to come into use at dessert during the winter months. Morellas were chiefly chosen for the purpose, and were likewise much esteemed in brandy.
Cherry Soup (Potage Aux Cerises) is popular in North Germany. It is made there with the acid Cherries, called Vistula, or Weichsel, and known in England as Kentish Pie Cherries. These, when stewed with cinnamon and lemon rind, are divided into three parts: One is reserved to be stoned, and put whole into the soup; the other two parts are first boiled with some water bound with a "roux "of flour, and then passed through the tammy, adding sugar to taste. Pound the Cherry stones, and heat them with two or three glassfuls of red wine just to boiling; strain through a linen cloth, and add the extract to the soup, which may be eaten with sponge cakes.
For making Cherry jam the common Cherries are to be preferred, as they give a much better flavour than the sweet Cherries. "There is an outlandish proverb,"saith old Fuller, "' He that eateth Cherries with noblemen shall have his eyes spurted out with the stones '; but it fixeth no fault in the fruit, the expression being metaphorical."Quoth Dr. Samuel Johnson in his wisdom, "It is the Colossus who, when he tries, can cut the best heads upon Cherry stones as well as hew statues out of the rock."Pepys has told (November 2nd, 1687) that "when at the King's Playhouse it was observable how a gentleman of good habit, sitting just before us, eating some Cherries in the midst of the play, did drop down as dead, being choked; but, with much ado, Orange Moll did thrust her finger down his throat, and brought him to life again".