I have a few reviews of Christmas candy that I would still like to publish. I'll probably skip a few (as we still seem to have a lot around) but I cannot skip my chocolate covered cherries review. Growing up, chocolate covered cherries were as important to the holidays as buying a tree to decorate. We've never gone a year without them for as long as I can remember. I decided I'd try to find all three major brands of chocolate covered cherries, which should be available everywhere in the U.S.
You can read about the history of chocolate covered cherries in the Making History Monday: Chocolate Covered Cherries article. As you can see in the photos below and above, each brand is packaged just a little bit differently. In the photo below from left to right, we have Queen Anne, Brach's and Cella's. The Cella's brand is definitely the prettiest with a swirl and very uniform looking chocolate outside. The other 2 designs are more freeform and do not look as nice as the Cella's. The Queen Anne brand was definitely the freshest of the group, with cellophane Fresh Seal packaging on top of every tray of chocolate covered cherries. Every package had the exact same number of cherries inside with either 2 trays of 5 or 1 large tray of 10.
In the photo below you can see the Queen Anne on the left, Brach's in the middle and Cella's on the right. There is a very big difference in filling and taste between each chocolate covered cherry brand. While I always assumed the Queen Anne brand was purchased at our house because it was less expensive, the real reason is that it's the #1 chocolate covered cherry in the U.S. and has the best taste of these three brands.
The Queen Anne brand chocolate covered cherry had a nice crisp milk chocolate outside that melted very well in your mouth. This brand has the best ratio of fondant to liquid of the three brands we tried. Everyone in our taste testing panel (my extended family) thought the Queen Anne had the best ratio inside, best tasting chocolate and best tasting cherries.
The Brach's brand chocolate covered cherries came in 2nd place in our taste test. That is odd because I assumed Brach's were the best tasting (blame it on advertising), but I rated them in 2nd place too. I haven't had a box in a long time because they quit making them for several years. I don't think the Brach's brand cherries had been set aside long enough for the inside to liquify. As you can see in the picture below, the fondant was very very thick and filled the entire chocolate shell. There was little to no liquid inside this chocolate shell. At this point I'm guessing some people are wondering what I mean about "cherries sitting long enough for the inside to liquify", so I'll explain. If you study a chocolate covered cherry you'll note that there isn't a hole or seam on the chocolate where you could shoot the inside into it. To create a chocolate covered cherry you first take a cherry and coat it with an enzyme called invertase. This is usually in the fondant, which when cooled can be molded into any shape. It is this shape that is dipped in chocolate. As the chocolate covered cherries sit for a few weeks the enzyme slowly breaks down the outside of the cherry which creates the liquid inside the chocolate shell. As I don't remember Brach's being this thick and heavy feeling in the past, my only guess is that the enzyme did not have enough time to create a larger amount of liquid inside the chocolate. Everyone also thought the inside of the Brach's brand was very, very sugary sweet. No one hated this brand, but almost everyone thought the Queen Anne's were just better in every aspect.
The 3rd place chocolate covered cherry was one none of us had tried, even though it is the oldest brand in the U.S. As I said before, the Cella's were the prettiest of the group and very uniform in appearance. They had a wonderful crisp chocolate snap that gave way to an entirely liquid inside. No fondant inside at all, this candy is pure liquid. Which also led us all to agree this was the messiest chocolate covered cherry to eat. The cherry and liquid has a very nice flavor but we all missed the fondant.
If there's one thing we all learned in this taste test, it's that trying something new is always good. While I thought we'd bought a holiday favorite because it was cheapest, it turns out it really was the best tasting of the group.
Queen Anne: Taste: 4/5 Really Liked It
Calorie Counter: 2 pieces per serving = 150 calories, 3.5g fat
Price: $1.50 at Walgreens
Brach's: Taste: 3/5 Liked It
Calorie Counter: 2 pieces per serving = 160 calories, 3.5g fat
Price: $2.50 at local grocery store
Cella's: Taste: 2/5 Did Not Like It
Calorie Counter: 2 pieces per serving = 120 calories, 4.5g fat
Price: $2.50 at Walgreens
Update: It's nice to see I'm not alone in my dislike of the Cella's brand of Chocolate Covered Cherries, The Bewildered Brit came to the same conclusion. Great history about Cella's in his article too.