Every Christmas, I give my dad a box of cordial cherries. They're a favorite in his family, probably because his mother used to make them from scratch when he was a kid. I wasn't old enough to try my grandmother's cherries before she passed away, but I do remember my grandfather and my great-grandmother always keeping the boxes of Queen Anne's cherries around when we would visit them during the holidays; I'm not sure if we always ate the store-bought ones, or if that was a tradition that started after my grandmother died, but they're a tradition in our family nevertheless, a treat that literally drips with nostalgia for those Christmases past.
When I was a kid, taking my time, painstakingly sipping the sugary liquid out of a small bite in my cordial cherry, I would wonder what magical powers my grandmother must have had to be able to make these. How does one go about making something with a liquid center? Made confident by my previous candy-making endeavor, I decided to do some research and attempt making my own chocolate-covered cherries. Without my grandmother's recipe, I went to Allrecipes for instructions, and found they are really not all that difficult to make, though they do take some patience.
Chocolate-Covered Cherries adapted from Allrecipes.com
60 Maraschino cherries
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons corn syrup
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 pound chocolate confectioners' coating (I didn't have this around, so instead I used one 12-oz bag of bittersweet chocolate chips and a handful of miniature Hershey's milk chocolate bars)
1. Drain cherries (I rinsed them in a colander) and set on paper towels to dry.
2. In a medium bowl, combine butter and corn syrup until smooth. Stir in confectioners' sugar and knead to form a dough. Chill to stiffen if necessary. Wrap each cherry in about 1 teaspoon of dough and roll into a ball. Chill until firm.
3. Melt confectioners' coating in a heavy saucepan over low heat (I melted my chocolate in a double-boiler). Drop each fondant-covered cherry in the chocolate, and use a fork to guide the ball through the chocolate until it is completely covered. Using the fork, lift the ball out of the chocolate from underneath, and tap off the excess chocolate. Place each cherry on waxed paper to set.*
*- You will want to be sure that each cherry is completely covered with chocolate, or else place each dipped cherry into a small paper cupcake cup, because if the fondant isn't completely sealed-in you will end up with a sticky mess as it starts to liquefy. I found that after a single dipping, my cherries' fondant was still exposed at the bottom, so I dipped them each a second time, and they turned out great!
Store in an airtight container in a cool place (but not in the refrigerator). You will be tempted to eat these right away (and they will taste great!) but if you want the creamy center you expect from a cordial cherry, you should wait 1 to 2 weeks, when the fondant dough has had time to liquefy.
If you are really interested in making these chocolates, I highly suggest you read over the comments section for this recipe on Allrecipes, too. It's a popular recipe and the other users have contributed some great tips.
I made these chocolates while I was at home in South Carolina and served them up at the New Year's Eve party I went to (alongside my Baked Alaska), where they were a hit!