Invite the British to Thanksgiving with Pumpkin-Ginger Trifle

November 20th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Blame it on a recent trip to England or an insatiable appetite for global cuisines. No matter the reason this holiday season I’m dreaming of an untraditional Thanksgiving offering, the British trifle.

Dating back to medieval times, the trifle consists of layers of liquor-doused sponge cake, fruit, custard and whipped cream. Beautiful and delicious, it is as delightful to look at as it is to eat. In fact, in 18th century England the trifle served as both a dessert and a centerpiece.

As a nod to the season, my Pumpkin-Ginger Trifle’s base consists not of airy sponge cake and wine, sherry or brandy but of earthy gingersnaps sprinkled with spiced rum. Instead of fruit, which I incorporate into the custard, I spread a thin layer of candied pecans over the cookies. The creamy pumpkin custard then covers the two.

As fussy as it may sound, I make the custard and whipped cream from scratch. Neither takes much time to prepare. Yet, both taste far better than what you get from a boxed mix or an aerosol can. However, if you feel too overwhelmed or pressed for time, opt for homemade custard and store-bought whipped cream.

You can make the custard up to two days in advance. Once you’ve assembled the trifle, refrigerate and allow the ginger snaps to soften and the flavors to meld together, anywhere from 1 to 8 hours. Before serving, sprinkle the crystallized ginger over top.
Serves 8 to 10

for custard:
2 1/4 cups unsweetened pure pumpkin
3 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1 cup light whipping cream
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch

for the base:
1/2 cup spiced rum
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup candied pecans, roughly chopped
14 to 18 ginger snaps

for the whipped cream:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons minced crystalized ginger

In a large, nonstick frying pan over medium heat, cook the pumpkin for 5 minutes. You want most of the liquid from the pumpkin to have evaporated. Remove from heat and set aside.

To make the pumpkin custard, place the eggs, egg yolks, cream, milk, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, salt and cornstarch in a saucepan and over medium heat, whisk the ingredients together until combined. Keep cooking over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Whisk in the cooked pumpkin and simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes. When finished, the custard can coat the back of a spoon.

Remove from heat and allow the custard to cool slightly. Once it has cooled, cover the top with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate.

When you’re ready to assemble the trifle, place layer of ginger snaps on the bottom of a large, deep, glass bowl. Whisk together the rum, sugar and vanilla and pour this over the cookies.

At this point make the whipped cream. In a large bowl and using an electric mixer, beat together the cream and vanilla until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sugar and continue beating until firm peaks form. Set aside.

Tumble the candied pecans over the wetted ginger snaps. Spoon the pumpkin custard over the nuts and then dollop the whipped cream over the custard. Sprinkle the crystallized ginger over the top. Serve chilled.

Lovely Littlenecks with Sherry-Shallot Butter Sauce

November 13th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve got a bit of thing for clams, particularly for the smallest of all hard-shell clams, littlenecks. Whether farmed or hand-harvested, these bivalves are one of the eco-friendliest shellfish around. Along with sustainability, they have healthfulness in their favor. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and protein, they’re a heart-healthy seafood.

The joys don’t end here. Quick to cook and easy to pair, clams make wonderful appetizers as well as entrees. What would winter be without a warming bowl of clam chowder or linguine with clam sauce? In my case it would be a cold, dreary winter.

What I adore most, though, about clams is how simple it is to clean them.

Before cleaning, you should sort out the clams with broken shells or shells that don’t close completely after being tapped with a knife or finger. Once you’ve discarded the duds, tumble the remaining bivalves into a large bowl. Cover them with cold water and then add a generous amount of salt. Almost immediately the clams will begin to push the salted water—and bits of sand—out of their shells.

Allow the clams to soak in the briny water for 25 to 30 minutes. By this point a noticeable amount of sand and other debris will have floated to the top of the bowl.After 30 minutes, drain and rinse the clams in cold water. Once the clams are clean, I start cooking. Usually I just lay the clams on a hot grill, cover and allow them to cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until most of the shells have opened. I then top them with lemon juice, Tabasco or a homemade sauce such as the following sherry-shallot butter sauce.

Serves 6

5 dozen littleneck clams, cleaned (See video above for cleaning instructions)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons minced shallot
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Preheat a grill or grill pan on high. Lay the clams on the grill, cover and cook until most, if not all, of the clams have opened, 5 to 8 minutes.

As the clams are cooking, melt half the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and salt. Sauté 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the remaining butter and sherry to the pan and stir to combine. Whisk in the Dijon mustard and pepper and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parsley.

Once the clams have finished cooking, place them on a platter or individual plates. Spoon equal amounts of the shallot-sherry sauce over the clams. Serve immediately.

Sautéed Ginger-Scallion Shrimp at Shockingly Delicious!

November 2nd, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

I’m thrilled to be branching out this week and sharing Sautéed Ginger-Scallion Shrimp with the readers of Shockingly Delicious. If you’ve yet to check out this fabulous food blog, it offers “unbelievably drool-worthy, scrumptious, ‘scary good’ recipes for people who love food!” Such a nice venue for this quick and delicious shrimp recipe!

Please head over to fellow journalist, food blogger and seafood fan Dorothy Reinhold’s site for more about Sautéed Ginger-Scallion Shrimp. You’re sure to get hooked. It’s Shockingly Delicious!

The Persuasive Persimmon Graham Pie

October 26th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Every fall I try to convince my husband that persimmons are one of autumn’s best treats. In turn, he reminds me that the most repugnant fruit that he’s ever eaten remains an unripe persimmon. For years we’ve been stuck at this impasse.

Here’s the deal with persimmons. If you yank a hard, yellowish persimmon from its leafy branch and then immediately take a bite, you’ll experience the bitterest fruit around. Have some patience, wait until the orb has turned reddish-orange in color, has softened and maybe even fallen to the ground and you’ll taste a honeyed fruit like no other.

How do I erase a bad food memory or, at the very least, persuade someone to give this berry another try? Persimmon pudding didn’t do the trick nor did persimmon tarts. No matter how beautiful or aromatic I made the offering, the memory of that acrid flavor lingered on.

This year, though, I hit upon a winning combo, matching pureed persimmons with graham cracker crust. Maybe it’s the mild sweetness of the cookies or the contrast between creamy filling and crumbly crust. In any case, this simple crust tends to elevate pies, making them utterly divine. In my case, it changed the status of persimmons from dreaded to desired ingredient.

Eons ago, when I attempted my first homemade graham cracker crust, I read “12 graham crackers” in the recipe’s ingredient list and dutifully broke off 12 individual, little cookies. This, I quickly realized, was not what the recipe writer had meant. For 1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs, you’ll use 12 sheets of graham crackers. Alternately, you can do what my make-less-work-for-yourself-in-the-kitchen mother used to do and use a store-bought graham cracker crust.
Serves 8

for the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from 12 plain graham crackers, crushed with a rolling pin or ground in a food processor or blender)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Pinch salt

for the filling:
3 large or 4 small ripe persimmons, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch pie pan and set aside.

If making your own graham cracker crust, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, granulated sugar, melted butter and salt. Fill the pie pan with the crumb mixture and, using your fingers, evenly spread it over the bottom and sides of the pan, pressing the crumbs together to form a crust.

Place the pie crust in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

While the crust is baking, put the persimmon chunks into the bowl of a blender and puree until smooth in consistency. Pour the puree into a measuring cup to ensure that you end up with 1 cup puree.

Return the persimmon puree to the blender. Add the brown sugar, eggs, evaporated milk, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon and cloves and pulse the ingredients together.

Remove the pie crust from the oven. Pour the persimmon puree into the crust.

Return the pie to the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, checking after 20 minutes to ensure that the crust isn’t browning too much. If it is, cover the crust with strips of aluminum foil or with pie shields. When finished baking, the filling will have set and puffed up. Remove the pie from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The Always Delightful Dal Tadka

October 7th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Thanks to a Sunday evening spent eating platefuls of homemade Indian curries and watching Ritash Batra’s charming The Lunchbox, I’m shifting gears this week to share one of my favorite meals, dal tadka. In India dal is both an ingredient—legumes such as split peas, beans or lentils—and a savory dish.

Regarding the dish, at least 60 types of dal exist. What differentiates each are the combination of legumes and spices, the cooking times and the final consistency. Some dals are soupy while others are thick and stew-like. In the case of dal tadka I’ve made and eaten both types.

Chana dal (L) and the smaller toor dal (R)

Although turmeric injects its rich color into dal tadka, legumes likewise imbue it with a golden hue. Wondering which legume to use? In northern India I was instructed to buy yellow lentils. However, the staff at New York’s Kalustyan’s swear by chana dal or split black chickpeas. Following their advice, I use chana but, when I don’t have that on hand, I substitute the smaller toor dal or split pigeon pea. With the latter you get a denser, softer dish.

A few years ago, while at the Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra, India, I came across what I dubbed “the ideal dal tadka.” Flavorful and filling, it possessed the perfect blend of aromatic spices and toothsome lentils. Direct-from-the-garden produce, including sweetly sour ginger, spicy green chilies and juicy, red tomatoes, balanced out the delightful dish.

I became so smitten with this dal tadka that the chef there ended up writing down the ingredients and steps and hand-delivering them to me. My version of dal tadka has been adapted from the Oberoi’s delightful recipe.

Although it may require more than a few ingredients, dal tadka is still quite simple to make. Boil the lentils. Saute the onion, tomato, peppers and spices. Stir everything together with fresh lemon juice, chopped cilantro and dried chilies. Easy!

Serves 6 to 8

9 cups water
2 cups split pigeon peas (toor dal), chana dal or yellow lentils
1 1/2 tablespoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped green chili pepper
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons granulated onion
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 to 6 dried red chilies
Generous handful of cilantro, chopped
Basmati rice, for serving

In a large sauce pan bring the lentils, turmeric, salt and water to a boil. Skim the foam off the top, cover the pan with a lid and simmer over medium-low for roughly 1 hour. When finished, the lentils will be soft. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

In a medium sauté pan heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, chopped onion, ginger and green chilies. Saute until the onion browns and then add the tomato, granulated onion and ground cumin and sauté it for 1 minute. Add the lentils, lemon juice and chilies to the cooked onion-tomato (masala) mixture. Check and adjust the seasonings as needed. Finish the dish with chopped coriander. Serve with a side of basmati rice.

Sailing away from Summer in Raspberry Meringue Boats

September 25th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Sometimes my timing is off. During the last days of summer I collected and baked a rare autumn treat, ground cherries. On the first day of fall I took a field trip to a community supported agricultural garden and picked a quart of a beloved summer delicacy, raspberries. That they had not already been scavenged by birds, bees and other berry fiends amazed me. That they retained their brilliant ruby color and sweet, juicy flavor at the end of a long growing season was even more shocking. How lucky could I get?

Although I’d spent much of the summer simmering, pureeing and swirling fruits into desserts, I didn’t want to toss these fresh-from-the-vine beauties into a blender or pot. Such gorgeousness should be showcased and not transformed into a lumpy, red mass. Rather than just serve them whole with a dollop of homemade whipped cream, I turned to an old family favorite, the meringue. A simple sweet, it would be the perfect foundation for these exquisite berries.If your ancestors are French as a smattering of mine are, then you might swear that meringues originated in France. After all, they star in the classic French dessert île flottante. However, if your relatives are Swiss, you may claim these sweetened, whipped and slowly baked egg whites for Switzerland. Historians can’t say with any certainty which country created them. The one thing upon which everyone can agree, though, is that meringues make a lovely vessel for seasonal fruit.

Although tempted to sail my raspberry meringue boats across an ocean of crème anglaise and channel the old île flottante, I left them dry docked on dessert plates. You can eat these with fork or fingers. The choice is yours.

Makes 2 dozen

for the meringues:
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
2-3 cups fresh raspberries

for the almond cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract

To make the raspberry-chocolate meringue boats, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. See the photo directly below for an example of soft peaks.

Add the vanilla extract and balsamic vinegar and beat until incorporate. Adding the sugar a spoonful at a time, continue to beat the egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks form. The photo below depicts egg whites beaten into stiff, glossy peaks.

Sprinkle the ground cocoa and chopped chocolate over the top. Using a spatula, fold the cocoa and chocolate into the egg whites. Once they’ve been incorporated, place 1 to 2 tablespoons of meringue on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Using the back of the spoon, make a shallow indentation in the center of the meringue; this is where the raspberries will “sail.” Repeat until you’ve filled up both cookie sheets.

Place the baking sheets in the oven and lower the temperature to 280 degrees. Bake for 1 1/4 hours and then check for doneness by sampling one of the meringues. If, when you bite into it, the texture is firm and the center seems crisp, the meringue is done. If it’s still moist and sticky, leave the meringues in the oven for another 15 to 30 minutes. When finished, turn off the oven and allow the meringues to cool inside on the parchment. When cool, the meringues should lift easily from the parchment paper. If not, use a thin, flat, metal spatula to remove them.

Before assembling your raspberry boats, you’ll need to make the almond cream. Place the cream, sugar and almond extract in a large bowl and beat until soft peaks form.

To assemble, spread a thin layer of whipped cream over the meringue boat. Place an ample amount of raspberries on top of the cream. Repeat until all the boats are made.

Dishy and Delicious Pistachio Coconut Creams

September 19th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Over the summer I became infatuated with the English syllabub. Velvety and light, this simple dessert consists of only three ingredients—cream, sugar and a smidgen of alcohol. If you’re a traditionalist, you add sweet wine or cider. If you’re more of a rebel, you may include a splash of rum, brandy or any other liqueur or flavoring that strikes your fancy. Whip it all together and you’ve got an ambrosial syllabub.

As winter creeps closer to my doorstep, I start to crave desserts heartier than flavored whipped cream. I still like the idea of a creamy treat that I can spoon into and out of elegant Moroccan tea glasses. However, instead of stuffing these delicate souvenirs with cream, I’m filling them with a far more common and filling Moroccan ingredient, yogurt, and a few other tasty things. The end result? The easy, dishy and delicious Pistachio Coconut Cream.

Reminiscent of the English syllabub, Pistachio Coconut Creams feature yogurt whisked together with confectioner’s sugar, dried coconut and thick and sweetened cream of coconut. Don’t confuse cream of coconut with its thinner, less flavorful relation, coconut milk. You will find both in the international aisle of most grocery stores and in Latin American, Asian and Caribbean markets.

You can also top the coconut creams with chopped toasted almonds, grated chocolate, raspberries or a swirl of chocolate sauce.
Serves 4

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cream of coconut
2 cups low-fat, plain Greek yogurt
6 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons sweetened, dried coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons chopped pistachios

In a large bowl whisk together the cream of coconut, yogurt, sugar, dried coconut and vanilla. Spoon into four small glasses or bowls and refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, sprinkle the tops with chopped pistachios.

Bewitching Black Currant Palmiers

September 4th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

A few Sundays ago I lucked out and found fresh, plump red and black currants at the Rhinebeck Farmers Market. Unlike the red currants, which I’d churned into sherbet, I took a fairly traditional approach with the larger, purplish-black fruit and cooked up a batch of black currant jelly.

Why jelly? Like their red relation, black currants contain a large amount of pectin, the substance that causes foods to thicken and gel. To make black currant jelly, I simmered the fruit with some sugar and lemon juice. Once the berries had softened and the sugar had dissolved, I strained the reddish-violet syrup into a glass bowl. I allowed it to cool and set and — voila! — I had black currant jelly.
Because I’d wanted to do more with currants than just make preserves, I came up with a twist on an old family favorite, palmiers. Made from puff pastry, this simple French cookie gets its name from its palm leaf-like shape. Depending on where you live and how you perceive its appearance, you may know this treat as an elephant ear, angel wing or butterfly. Different names. Same sweet.

When I was growing up, my grandmother would make palmiers from leftover dough and granulated sugar, the same ingredients and technique that French bakers had been employing for a century. As elegant as they may sound, palmiers originated in France as a means of using up scraps of puff pastry.

In spite of the cookie’s humble origins I’m more likely to buy puff pastry specifically to make palmiers. I also like to dress up the cookies with ground cinnamon, ginger or chocolate or almond paste. Spreading a thin layer of homemade black currant jelly over the puff pastry isn’t much of a stretch.

If you’re come across black currants and decide to make your own jelly for these cookies, you’ll need to follow the Easy Black Currant Jelly recipe.

Makes about 1/2 cup

10 ounces black currants
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

Place the currants, sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and bring the ingredients to a boil over medium heat. Cook until the berries have softened, the sugar has dissolved and the released juices have thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly.

Pour the berries and juice into a fine mesh strainer placed over a glass bow. Strain the liquid into the bowl. Using a spoon, press down on the berries to ensure that you squeeze out all of their juices. When finished, discard the spent berries.
Allow the syrup to cool to room temperature. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the jelly has set completely, at least 2 hours.

Makes 2 dozen

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1/4 cup black currant jelly
2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly dust your work surface with flour.

Place the puff pastry on the flour-covered work surface and roll it out to about 1/8-inch thick. Evenly spread a thin layer of jelly over the pastry.

Fold the longer sides of the pastry to the middle of the dough, so that the edges of the two touch. Fold each side to the middle again so that you have the long roll that’s depicted in the photo below. Fold one long side over the other so that you have one long, skinny roll. Cut off the uneven ends and set aside the scraps. You can bake or compost them later. If you find that the puff pastry seems too soft, refrigerate for 5 to 10 minutes or until chilled and firm. Otherwise, using a sharp knife, slice the pastry into 1/4-inch rounds. Place the rounds on the parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about an inch between each. As you’re slicing, be sure to wipe off the knife periodically so that your cookies don’t also become jelly-coated instead of just jelly-filled.

Dust the tops of the cookies with the sugar. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until golden and puffed. Cool completely on wire racks before consuming.

Elderberries and Cream

August 21st, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

A little over a month ago I spent a morning picking elderflowers at my friends’ farm in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Last weekend I returned to find one lone cluster of white flowers and an inordinate number of reddish- to blackish-purple berries drooping from the limbs of their elderberry trees. Since my last visit those pert, little flowers had transformed into August’s big bounty, tart and spicy elderberries.

As with all of this summer’s foraged fruit, elderberry collecting is a new undertaking for me. Sure, I’ve been the beneficiary of others’ wild berry gathering, adding elderberries to mini apple pies and boiling them into violet-colored sauces. However, this would be my first venture into harvesting them.

Thankfully, the task turned out to be quite easy. Just look for the darkest fruit, snap off the sprays of berries and shake them into a big bowl. As I said, easy!

Berries picked and shucked, I took my share home and tried to think of creative ways to use two pounds of this fruit. After washing and removing any remaining stems, leaves, green berries and unlucky insects, I placed half in a large freezer bag and popped them into the freezer. At some point I’d include these in a pie or tart. Along with putting them in baked goods, cooks have long made elderberries into jams, jellies, chutneys, cordials and wine. The fruit’s bold, tangy flavor works particularly well in the latter beverage. Because elderberries do possess this strong, rather earthy taste, I like to temper them with mild and sweet or sweetly tart ingredients such as whipped cream, ice cream, yogurt, apples, pears and oranges.

The following dish may call to mind such earlier summer offerings as Blackberry Fool and Coconut Syllabub. Unlike in fools, the fruit in this recipe is not folded into the cream. If you choose to mix the elderberries into the whipped cream, you will technically have the aforementioned British dessert.

Serves 4 to 6

1 pound elderberries, washed, drained and all debris removed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Place the elderberries, granulated sugar and water in medium saucepan and bring the ingredients to a boil over medium heat. Cook, uncovered, for 8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the burner and add the Grand Marnier. Stir to combine, return the pan to the heat and bring the ingredients to a boil. Cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and allow the ingredients to cool completely.

To make the whipped cream, using an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract and continue beating until stiff peaks take shape.

To assemble the desserts, spoon equal amounts of elderberries and sauce into 4 to 6 small or juice-sized glasses. Cover the berries with a thick layer of whipped cream. Spoon another layer of elderberries over the whipped cream. Top this with a final layer of whipped cream. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Rockin’ Red Currant Sherbet

August 14th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

This week I’ve got a great farmers’ market find—currants. In season from June to August, these petite relatives of the gooseberry come in three colors and two sizes. The smaller red and white berries possess a moderately sweet and tart taste and bright, glossy skin. The larger black currant is milder in flavor and duller in color but still has a visual and gustatory bite. All are high in pectin, making them rich in fiber and quick to gel.

British cooks often turn red currants into jams, jellies and sauces. Pop a handful of these little guys into your mouth and you’ll see why. As small as they are, these berries are chocked full of seeds. Although I have munched on fresh currants, I find them far more enjoyable after they’ve been cooked, pureed and strained as the British do. Freed from the currants’ crunchy seeds, I’m left with a thick, ruby syrup that can be made into the aforementioned specialities or into a cotton candy pink sherbet, sorbet or ice cream.

What’s the difference between ice cream, sherbet and sorbet? Dairy. Ice creams typically contain cream. Sherbets may or may not contain milk. Sorbets are dairy-free. Yet, this wasn’t always the case. Two centuries ago sherbet and sorbet referred to the same dish, a cold, sweet, fruit juice-based drink. By the 20th century this cold drink had transformed into a frozen juice. Sometimes it contained milk, making it a sherbet. Sometimes it did not, which meant that it was a sorbet or, in some regions of the country, still a sherbet. When it comes to sherbet versus sorbet, there is no ironclad rule.

Before I share this week’s recipe, I have to present a little discourse on spelling. In the UK this fruit is spelled as one word, i.e. redcurrant. In the U.S. you often see it spelled as two words. Since both Merriam-Webster and Oxford Dictionaries opt for the latter, that’s what I’ve chosen to do, too.

Makes about 4 cups

2 tablespoons water
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 pound red currants
Juice of 1 lemon
3 cups whole milk
Handful of blackcurrants or blueberries, optional, for serving

Place the water, sugar, currants and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and bring the ingredients to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the currants have softened and released their juices and the resulting liquid has thickened, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the burner and allow the ingredients to cool slightly.

Puree the currant mixture in a blender and then strain the puree through a sieve or fine mesh strainer, reserving the thickened syrup and discarding the pulp and seeds. Whisk together the syrup and milk and refrigerate the combo for 45 minutes or until chilled.

To make the sherbet, pour the mixture into an ice cream maker. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for making ice cream. Freeze until ready to serve.