One of my fondest memories from my childhood is a fruit salad my grandma made for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. The salad was a simple combination of canned fruit cocktail and mini-marshmallows. The salad was super sweet and the marshmallows would marinate in the fruit cocktail syrup and become soft and foamy. I particularly loved the combination of maraschino cherries and marshmallows and would pick these out first.
My grandma, sadly, passed away several years ago, and it’s been a long time since I last had fruit cocktail and marshmallows. My diet, habits and tastes have changed fairly radically since I was a child, and though there is a very strong nostalgia factor for this salad, it’s not something I’ve ever made for myself.
As I thought about what kinds of culinary experimentation I wanted to do this holiday break, I thought about my grandma’s salad, and started wondering if there was a way to replicate some of the flavor, but in a way that favored non-processed, less sugary fruit over the fruit cocktail. I won’t lie and say this version is perfectly healthy (the marshmallows have corn syrup in them) but it is a lightened up, less sugared version. Here’s a testament to how lightened up: as I was taking pictures this afternoon, Clayton, who isn’t a big fan of lots of sugar, hovered around the kitchen, waiting to eat what I was photographing. I’d say that’s a win!
A quick note about the marshmallows and the cherries: the marshmallows are made from a recipe that creates a very small batch. I’ve done further research and have encountered many recipes for marshmallows that don’t require corn syrup, so next go around, I’ll likely use one of those and adapt it for a smaller batch. I also used my hand mixer, and discovered why these are easier to make in a stand mixer. The marshmallow cream was incredibly sticky – I highly recommend using a neutral oil and oiling any utensil you might use to maneuver the marshmallow fluff (including your hands – trust me – I had a moment last night where I thought I might be stuck to the counter top for good).
As far as the cherries go, I suggest using some sort of preserved cherry. I happened to have a can of homemade maraschino cherries floating around the pantry from last summer. I absolutely used to love maraschino cherries that come from the grocery store, until I learned how they are produced. If you don’t know and would like to stay in a state of ignorant bliss, I encourage you not to dig too deeply on this topic. I would think that thawed out frozen cherries could work as well.
Winter Fruit Salad
Makes four servings
1 Cara Cara orange (blood oranges, tangerines, or other citrus would work fine)
10 – 15 cherries (I used homemade canned maraschino cherries, but I think fresh would be equally good)
5 – 6 homemade marshmallows (Recipe link here), cut into smaller, mini-marshmallow size pieces
Dice the apple and pear. Peel the Cara Cara orange and segment, cutting segments into smaller pieces. Slice the cherries in half. Combine all the fruit and then add the mini-marshmallows and stir. If not served immediately, the apple and pear will brown a bit, but this doesn’t significantly impact the taste.