Thursday, November 11, 2010

Saucy Betty: Fruit For Sauces and Syrups

Tis the season for  not-so-nice produce in the grocery stores and I am missing cheaper fruit prices. Of course, apples and pears are everywhere-which is great for Thing 1's lunch--yes, I'm a packer (ketchup isn't a vegetable).  

Fortunately, IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) fruits and vegetables have come a long way since the early day's of Bird's Eye frozen vegetables. And berries are particularly great to have around in your freezer as we begin the long trudge through winter. You might be thinking for muffins, but today, I'm thinking for sauces.

Perfect for pancakes, waffles, ice cream, sponge cake, trifles, crepes and (for strained syrups) cocktails, sauces and syrups have plenty of applications that makes stocking up in your freezer section well worth your money. 

Of course, if you are willing to shell out the money, many stores are offering fresh berries in the produce section and today's post is applicable for both.

Add your fruit to a saucepan and turn the heat to med high. Add a little water to cover the bottom of the pan, a dash of lemon juice to brighten flavors (lemon juice=salt in flavor enhancement). Now add a bit of sugar--how much? well, how sweet is your fruit? you have to taste foods to know how they need to be handled. The sugar, in the case, has the double-duty of sweetening the fruit and adding bulk to the liquid. 

Cook down the fruit, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat so it doesn't scorch. You may wish to break down the berries more with a potato masher at this point.

Decisions, decisions, decisions....

Cornstarch slurry added
Strawberries, fresh
Do you want a really thick sauce? try adding in a slurry of 1 heaping tablespoon of cornstarch to a tablespoon of cold water and stir into the fruit. When the juices come to a boil, the cloudiness of the cornstarch will become clear and the mixture will thicken. Cut the heat at this point. This version is fast and will give the greatest volume of sauce for what you started with. Cover and chill any leftovers.

Fruit cooked down with just
sugar, lemon juice and
Frozen blueberries

Do you want a slightly less thick sauce that has the purest flavor? Reduce the heat and allow the mixture to thicken naturally. Stir occasionally but allow some of the moisture to evaporate. This will give you the clearest flavor of the fruit, though not the greatest volume. Cover and chill remaining sauce.

Pomegranates, fresh
pomegranates in sieve
Do you want just a syrup, without "chunks?" Once the fruit has cooked down to release it's juice, strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Toss what you catch and return the juice to a sauce pan to reduce over a lowered heat. This will give you the most refined product but the least amount of volume. (I particularly like my fruit this way for adding to cocktails and  saucing dessert plates for formal presentation, as it can be added to a little squirt bottle.) Chill leftovers.

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