Macerate. Sounds macabre, doesn’t it?
That’s what I thought the first time I heard the term macerate in a cooking class some years ago. Dessert was to be macerated strawberries. I couldn’t imagine what we were going to do to those innocent ruby red orbs. Stab them? Smash them? Stomp on them with our feet? As it turns out, we merely soaked them in thick balsamic vinegar and sugar.
The technique of macerating fruit is similar to marinating. The fruit absorbs the soaking liquid, usually a liqueur or sweet vinegar and sugar, as well as softening and releasing the fruit’s juices into the liquid. It’s an osmosis of sorts that enhances both the fruit and the soaking liquid to create a luscious dessert.
Last Sunday as I made my usual rounds at the Larchmont Farmer’s Market, I noticed organic strawberries at Frecker Farms’ table. Bright red to the stem, I knew they would be sweet and bought a 3-pack. Next stop was Nicholas Family Farms. Penny had her usual yummy jams and jellies and a new item: Nocino. Of course, I had to inquire. She shared that she made a batch of this Italian liqueur using the farm’s walnuts and oranges in a vodka base, with added vanilla and spices. Sounded dreamy. Its dark color was reminiscent of balsamic and I knew on the spot that I had to try macerating the berries in this exotic liqueur. I had lots of berries! I also bought oranges and a bag of walnuts, sensing that these items would enhance the dessert.
So that afternoon I got to work cleaning, hulling and slicing the strawberries, and creating a sweet bath for them using the Nocino, sugar and oranges. It was delicious. If you can’t find Nocino, you can use Grand Marnier. The taste will be a bit lighter and more orange forward, but just as tasty.
This would make a lovely dessert for mom on Mother’s Day, served on its own or atop fruit sorbet. It’s a bit tipsy, so just use balsamic vinegar if serving children.
2 pints strawberries, rinsed, dried, hulled and sliced.
3 T sugar
1/4 cup Nocino or Grand Marnier (very good aged Balsamic for alcohol free) 2 T orange zest (zest before juicing the orange)
Juice of one orange
1/4 cup toasted walnut pieces
Put prepared strawberries in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl mix the sugar, Nocino, orange zest and orange juice and then pour over strawberries. Stir carefully. Let sit covered at room temperature at least an hour but no more than 3. When ready to serve, spoon into individual dishes either by themselves or atop sorbet. Sprinkle with the toasted walnuts.
They will keep a day or two but will begin to soften. Any leftover macerating liquid would probably be great in a Cosmo. Next time!
About Deborah Brooks
Deborah is currently a documentary film producer. She is also a former certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition coach. The shutdown of business due to Covid-19 and the implication of an animal wet market connection caused her to rethink her high animal protein food lifestyle. She has spent the last year exploring the world of plant based eating for her own health as well as the health of the planet and all of its sentient beings. Her recipes can be found on Instagram. She would love you to follow along on her journey.
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