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Berries, herbs, and gin – a match made in my own voluptuary heaven. A few weeks ago I tried a berry rosemary gelato featured at my favorite neighborhood bar, Dolce Vita, and it was ridiculously divine. The addition of savory herbs to desserts may seem objectionable, but in proper proportion, a hint of rosemary, basil, thyme, or sage brings an unexpected brightness to boozy gelatin. Per Dolce Vita bartender Sam’s suggestion, I paired my berry rosemary gelatin with gin. Made from juniper berries and other natural botanicals, gin is perfect for pairing with savory herbs. The resulting gelatin mold was lovely (thanks to the combination of strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries), fruity, herby, and overall yummy.

Check out my previous experiments with herbs: Basil Blueberry Lemonade with Vodka, Rosemary Limeade with Blueberries and Gin, Lemonade with Thyme and Vodka.

Recipe for 5.25 cups

  • 3 packets Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup water (for blooming gelatin)
  • ¾ cup water (for syrup)
  • Juice of one small lemon, zest reserved
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 ½ cups berries, pureed and strained (I used a combination of strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
  • 1 cup gin

Put ½ cup of cold water in a medium bowl and sprinkle 3 packets of gelatin on top of the water.  Set bowl aside.

Put water and sugar over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lemon zest and rosemary. Let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the syrup, reheat, and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in pureed berries (remember to strain!), lemon juice, and gin. Spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

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Of all the berries I know, blackberries are my favorite. I adore their dark, rich, and sweet taste. This mold was inspired by the yummy blackberry and orange gelato made at my favorite hang out, Dolce Vita.

The merger of blackberries and oranges creates a clean and crisp flavor, while the addition of sweetened condensed milk and rum completes the citrus, berry, creamy, boozy experience.

To create this mold, I dissolved bloomed gelatin into heated water and freshly squeezed orange juice, then stirred in fresh puréed  blackberries (seeds strained), rum, sweetened condensed milk, and a touch of vanilla.

Flavored simple syrups offer endless possibilities for drinks and gelatin molds. After enjoying the unique gelatinous merging of basil with blueberry lemonade and vodka and fig and cardamom cream with rum, I have continued to create various syrups with fresh herbs, spices, and dried fruits. To experiment with flavor combinations, I paired the syrups with juices, fruits, teas, club soda, tonic water, and occasionally booze (see the lemonade with thyme and strawberries pictured below).

In the midst of this enjoyable summer experimentation, a few combinations stood out as potential gelatin molds. (Yes, there are more herb-infused gelatins to come!) This gelatin mold consists of lemons, thyme, sugar, club soda, and vodka. A few of my friends winced at the mention of thyme in a gelatin mold, but after tasting they understood. The thyme compliments the lemons and vodka, while the sugar and club soda provide a sparkly sweetness.

 

 

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See my recipe featured in Readers’ Recipes: The New York Times Magazine.

I’ll never forget the first bing cherry I ate. In 1992, after moving from Oklahoma to California, I attended a cookout with friends from my new high school. Along with the garden burgers and hot dogs was a bag of fresh cherries. I found it odd to see cherries eaten out of a produce bag, not immersed in syrup. Always the adventurous eater, I tried a fresh cherry and immediately fell in love with the intricate flavors that barely resembled the sticky sweet  cherries of my youth. Every summer since I’ve anticipated their seasonal purchase and consumption.

This gelatin consists of cherry juice, cherries, and rum on top; sweetened condensed milk, almond extract, and cherry juice on bottom. The cherry/almond/rum combination is sweet and lovely.

Recipe

Top layer

  • 2 cups 100% black cherry juice (I always prefer 100% juices to blends, but if using a blend, you may want to adjust the sugar)
  • ½ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 2 packets gelatin
  • ¾ cup cold water
  • ¾ cup cold rum
  • 1 cup pitted and halved cherries (thoroughly washed and dried)

Bottom layer

  • One 14oz can sweetened condensed milk (cold)
  • 1 ¾ cup water
  • ¼ cup cherry juice (optional – gives the bottom a pink color. Use 2-cups water for a white bottom layer)
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
  • 2 packets gelatin

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This mold may not be the prettiest I’ve made, but it was definitely the tastiest. Inspired by this mold, my ingredients included 100% pomegranate juice, vodka, sugar, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. I worried the combination would demonstrate too tart, but the sugar and berries nicely balanced the pomegranate and vodka.

Recipe for 3.5-cup mold

  • 2 cups 100% pomegranate juice (If using a juice blend or one with added sugar, you may want to reduce sugar in the recipe)
  • 1-cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 2 packets gelatin
  • ¾ cup cold water
  • ¾ cup cold vodka
  • 1 1/2-cup berries of choice (thoroughly washed and dried)

Put pomegranate juice and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil. Once sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and add gelatin. Stir until gelatin is fully dissolved (approx. 2 minutes). Transfer liquid to a bowl and stir in the cold water and vodka.

Put mixture in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency. It should be easy to stir but thick enough to suspend the berries. Stir in berries, and spoon mixture into mold. Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

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The Cooking Channel blog, Devour, featured this mold. So exciting!

Inspired by my love of blueberries, this creamy gelatin consists of 100% blueberry juice, vodka, sugar, and blueberries on top; sweetened condensed milk and blueberry juice on bottom. The intense dark blue of the top layer is naturally lovely – and delicious. I used a set of small vintage molds found at an Austin antique mall.  Finding vintage molds is just as fun as making the gelatin itself!

Recipe for 6-cups

Top layer

  • 2 cups 100% blueberry juice (100% blueberry juice is expensive but worth it – blueberry blends don’t result in the same flavor or intense dark blue color)
  • ½ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 2 packets gelatin
  • ¾ cup cold water
  • ¾ cup cold vodka
  • 1 cup blueberries (thoroughly washed and dried)

Bottom layer

  • One 14oz can sweetened condensed milk (cold)
  • 1 ¾ cup water
  • ¼ cup blueberry juice (optional – gives the bottom a light blue/purple color. Use 2-cups water for a white bottom layer)
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • 2 packets gelatin

Top layer: Put blueberry juice and sugar in saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil. Once sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and add gelatin. Stir until gelatin is fully dissolved (approx. 2 minutes). Transfer liquid to a bowl and stir in cold water and vodka. Put bowl in refrigerator.

Bottom layer: Bring water and blueberry juice to a boil and remove from heat. Add vanilla (if using) and gelatin, stir until fully dissolved. Transfer liquid to a bowl and stir in sweetened condensed milk. Put bowl in refrigerator.

Once the blueberry gelatin has thickened to a soft gel consistency (it should be easy to stir but thick enough to suspend the berries), stir in berries, and spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until almost set – some gelatin should stick to your fingers when lightly touched. When the blueberry layer is almost set, spoon the creamy layer into the mold(s).

Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

My initial gelatinous experiment, the prosecco dreamsicle, is like a creamy mimosa. The top layer is made of orange juice, prosecco (an Italian sparking wine), and mandarin oranges. The bottom layer is sweetened condensed milk. Mandarin oranges are sweet, juicy, and textural – an excellent addition to gelatin molds.

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