Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Plan For Future Happiness: Tutti-Frutti

I've been gorging myself on berries lately; 'tis the season, after all. Blueberries with breakfast. Blackberries with lunch. And while I'd love to tell you about how you can set up jar after jar of preserved summer splendor, let's face it: I live in a tiny 1937 apartment, I have no storage space for such bounty, and my stove top lacks the oomph needed to efficiently get a big kettle of water boiling sufficiently to make preserving jams and jellies and whatnot a pleasant experience. Also, unless you've gone out and picked your own fruit, odds are you don't naturally have enough fruit on hand at any given point to do a proper day of canning. Favorite Recipes from Matinicus Island Maine has the solution for you: preserve the fruit you get as you get it, in a crock, no fuss, no muss.

Put 1 pint brandy into a stone jar, add various fruits as they come into market. To each quart of fruit add same quantity of sugar, stir mixture each morning until all fruit has been added. Strawberries, raspberries, apricots, peaches, cherries, pineapple are the best to use.

-- Mrs. Day's Mother's
Aaaaah, tutti-frutti. All fruits. Let's get this out of the way: Yes, you can purchase the fruit especially for this.

You can also use this as a way to keep the fruit that you bought too much of at the store that day you swore you were going to drop thirteen pounds before your high school reunion.

Strawberries should be washed and hulled; you needn't slice them up. Raspberries should be washed. Halve your apricots and take the stones out; you don't need to skin them. Peaches, on the other hand, you'll need to peel (it's not as hard as it seems, but it does involve a big pot of boiling water and a big bowl of ice water; ask if you have questions). Cherries should be washed, stemmed, and pitted. Pineapple should be purchased already cored and peeled.

Okay, the last one was a joke. Though I won't mind if you do buy it pre-prepared. But you can honestly do it yourself.

You can use other berries (blue, black), or other stone fruits (plums, plums, plums) (and nectarines). Use the juicy soft fruit that you have on hand.

All that stuff is easy. The stone jar might be a bit more difficult. If you're lucky, you'll have a big 5 gallon pickling crock at hand. I have one, and yes, you may be jealous. My mother-in-law gave it to me. Okay, she might have given it to us, but I've thoroughly claimed it. To do this recipe up right, you're going to need at least a 3 gallon non-reactive container. You also have to be able to disinfect the hell out of that beastie; fermentation is our friend here, but mold is definitely not. You're also going to want to keep this puppy in the dark, and keep it covered; bugs and vermin are also not our friends.

When is it ready? Well, one could argue that it's always pretty much ready. But if you want to make it extra super duper special, keep it fermenting away until Christmas time. Yes. Really. Even if you started it with the very first strawberries of March. December. And wouldn't you appreciate a taste of spring and summer in the bleak mid-winter?

Now, you might be asking yourself how to serve your tutti-frutti. Try it over ice cream. Try it under whipped cream. Try it whooshed up a bit in a blender with some cream cheese and yogurt to make a dip for gingersnaps. Try it on pancakes or pound cake or chocolate cake. Try it in a cake -- perhaps we can scrounge up a good old fashioned tutti frutti cake recipe from someone's grandma in one of these books.

When the fruit's all gone (or even before), use the syrupy liquid as, well, syrup. Your waffles will thank you.

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