As mentioned, my fridge is bursting with all manner of berries. And given my recent success with poaching fresh apricots, I thought a similar approach with berries would be in order. As with the apricots, I wanted the result to be flavor-infused (in this case, vanilla), whole berries — not compote. And since these berries are much more fragile than the apricots, I applied super-gentle heat by way of a double boiler. It was easy to mix together the ingredients, and then I just kept checking on them every once in a while. I was completely surprised, some 5 hours later, that the berries were still holding their shapes. And the even better surprise was the luminous, ruby-hued, heavenly juice that the cooking liquid had become.
I used a mix of raspberries, strawberries and blueberries — and I think that combo was key to the resulting juice. Much of the color seemed to come from the strawberries, which were left a bit on the washed-out looking side of things. The raspberries ended up the most photogenic, but the blueberries and strawberries were also quite tasty. I’ve eaten most of these as a somewhat decadent breakfast the last few days, along with very thick Greek yogurt, and I intend to tip the rest into a smoothie tomorrow morning. I can also imagine these berries topping ice cream or sorbet, and paired with something like a Canadian Vidal ice wine.
Pairing: A Shot (or more) of this Gorgeous Juice!
I had no idea that this would turn out to be so much about the juice… But I am so enamored with it! It’s sweet and intensely vanilla-flavored, but with all that berry brightness — what we would call “balanced” in the wine world.
Sometimes I pour the shot over the yogurt and berries, sometimes I just sip it. But I also imagine that a talented mixologist would come up with some killer cocktails with it — “as is” or reduced to a syrup. Something with mint or basil, perhaps… Or maybe that syrup could be drizzled over shortcakes or layered in a trifle… Oh, or on waffles…
Recipe: Vanilla-Poached Berries
1 cup strawberries, hulled
1 cup blueberries
1 cup raspberries
1/2 cup raw cane sugar
1 whole vanilla bean
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Combine the berries, sugar, vanilla bean, and 2 cups water in a metal mixing bowl (or top half of a double boiler). Place the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl is not in contact with the water, and let cook for about 5 hours. Check the berries occasionally to make sure that they are just warming, not actually simmering; and check to make sure there is still enough water in the saucepan below. Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice, and pour the juice through a fine mesh strainer lined with 2 or 3 layers of cheesecloth into a container. Don’t press on the berries, or the juice may get cloudy! Discard the vanilla bean. Let the berries and juice cool separately, then refrigerate until needed. Will keep a few days in the fridge.