Wednesday, July 13, 2011

From Tree to Table: Mulberry Merlot Sorbet

This year, since we've gotten really into gardening, I've become even more aware of where the food I eat comes from.

The idea of foraging food has been on my radar for a while now - last year, I read a book called "The Art of Eating In" by Cathy Erway, which tells the story of how she went two years without eating out while living in New York City. It's a very interesting read, and if you're into cooking, or being self-sustaining, or just trying new things, you'll really like it. Anyway, during those two years, Erway explores every alternative she can to avoid restaurants, corner delis, etc. She delved into supper clubs, cookoffs, and and foraging, among other things (dumpster diving included - definitely not her favorite restaurant alternative). It allowed her to become more connected to the food she eats and become more self-sustaining, all the while discovering new things she had never experienced before, and in a way, it even help her to find herself.

Along these lines, I've become hyper aware of where the food I eat comes from, and have been delighted to be able to eat food I've grown myself - and food I've GATHERED myself, definitely a first for me.

In case you're wondering, foraging is when you find and harvest wild plants to eat. Coincidentally, there were a couple of article's on on the subject recently. Although I wouldn't necessarily call gathering mullberries from within the wall's of our community garden foraging - it just so happens that the berries I gathered to make Mulberry Merlot Sorbet are one of the easiest foods to find for a beginner forager. Neat huh?

After flipping through a magazine that mentioned how easy it was to make sorbet with fresh fruit, the wheels in my head began to turn, and I started thinking of all the little gem-like berries that were ripe for the picking on the mulberry tree in the garden. I wanted to combine interesting flavors for my first attempt at sorbet, and I thought red wine would complement the berries well. I began Googling for recipe ideas and found a whole plethora of berry-merlot sorbet combinations. I settled on a recipe and enlisted my sister and niece to help me gather the mulberries.

We headed down the the garden armed with a black sheet (so that any stains caused by the berries vibrant reddish purple color wouldn't show) and went for it! We spread the sheet out on the ground under the tree, and shook the branches, showering berries down. We did this a couple of times in different spots under the tree until we had enough.

 (Nadya loved the deep violet-black of the berries and insisted that it was turning her tongue purple... Even though it barely did! I humored her and took a picture anyway.)

Then, it was back home to wash and sort through the berries. It was a painstaking task, since we had caught any non-berry debris (including creepy crawlies!) in the sheet along with the fruit. I went through my bowl, handful by handful, to get rid of any under or over ripe berries, twigs, and bugs. It was definitely a labor of love!
Then, it was FINALLY time to start making the sorbet:

  • 4 cups of mulberries (although you could easily swap out for another kind)
  • 1 lemon, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
  • 2 cups Merlot wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons Triple Sec
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 pinch of salt (less than 1/8 tsp.)
-Bring the berries, lemon, sugar, vanilla, Merlot, cinnamon, and water to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer the sauce for 10 minutes.

-Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let it steep for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse.

-Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and press out the juices into a medium-sized bowl. (I only have 1 colander in my house, and it certainly does NOT have a fine mesh-- I improvised and used a coffee filter in it - worked like a charm!)

 -Cover the mixture and refrigerate until chilled, about and hour.

-Stir in the Triple Sec, corn syrup, and the pinch of salt. Mix well, then freeze according to your ice cream makers directions.

-Once it is done, the sorbet will still be pretty soft - pour into a air-tight container and put in the freezer to firm up for at least 4 hours.

-When it is done, it will look like this:

I was surprised at how much you could taste both the berries AND the wine in this sorbet. It is truly refreshing on a hot summer day, and REALLY delicious. I have even decided to hold my mom's ice cream maker, which I borrowed for this recipe, hostage until further notice!

It even inspired to me try other sorbet recipes-  the most recent being coconut lime sorbet (which I made last night and is SOOOO easy: combine 2 cans of coconut milk, the juice and zest of 1 lime, 1/4 to 1/2 cups sugar, and 3 tablespoons Bacardi or other rum. Stir well and chill mixture in the fridge. Prepare according to your ice cream makers directions, then pack into air-tight containers and freeze until firm.)

What flavor combinations should I try next???