gotta cook

I’ve got to do the fruit confit to match the meat I did a bit ago. Now I started to go really, really longwinded but it somehow turned from a meandering trip to a lecture. I lecture a lot, anyway – so say my wife and daughter, and they should know. So let’s just jump into a recipe.

You’re going to need a lot of raspberries (seriously, I get a few quarts and just go, here) and sugar (again). In a perfect world you’re going to have a large enameled pan. Lacking that, you’re going to need a pot (metal is fine) and a glass or ceramic pan that’ll hold all the berries. JUST SO I DON”T LOSE TRACK, I’m going to pretend you’ve got what I’ve got – a large stainless steel (copperclad) pot and two 9×13 glass cake pans.

Clean the berries and remove as much stuff (leaves, dirt, and other material) as you can.

Put a layer of sugar in the bottom of the first 9×13. Put in a layer of berries – sorta pack them in so there’s no space. Add another layer of sugar so you barely but completely cover the berries. Continue till you’re about 2/3 up the wall of the cake pan, making sure you end with sugar. Now press moderately so some of the berries break – if you were really packing them tight you don’t really need to do this, but we want to make sure there’s enough berry juice to somewhat carry the sugar.

Pour the whole thing into your pot, and gradually heat it till it forms a syrup. Do this gently – from here on we’re going to TRY to preserve the berries fairly whole. Once it’s formed syrup, pour it back into the cake pan. Now set the second cake pan on top so the bottom presses the berries into the syrup. DON’T PRESS – just let the weight of the pan do the work.

Now you’re going to let this sit at room temperature for three days. Don’t worry, it won’t go bad. It’s too… imbalanced to support bacteria.

Oh – the inevitable digression. If you think you have or know you have an ant problem, put the pan in a larger pan and fill that with about an inch of water. So long as the walls of the larger pan are at least an inch from the cake pan you’ll be fine. (If you have to use a smaller pan for the berries, so be it.)

It’s three days later. Using a slotted spoon, carefully dish the berries into a container and put the syrup into the pot. Heat it on high for just about a minute – you want it warmed, not boiling this time. Put the berries back in the cake pan, add the syrup, replace the weight.

Three days after that (six days after you started) do it again.

And again nine days after you started.

Day twelve and we get to do something different. Carefully remove the raspberries from the syrup and rinse off the syrup that’s still on them. (Hint – use a large colander. NOT a salad spinner. Trust me on this.) Spread the berries on cookie sheets and place somewhere warm and dry – light is optional. Every couple of days check them by poking. You’re looking for almost dry, just barely tacky to the touch. Don’t worry about perfection here. When you think you’re at the right point, lightly sprinkle all the berries with granulated sugar, rolling them slightly so they’re totally covered. Let them finish drying. Depending on how humid your area is, this can take anywhere from one to five weeks. (Tennessee river valley, here. Hot, and ALWAYS humid.)

Once the berries are finished drying, pack them in airtight containers. Eat whenever you want.

Warning, they’re going to taste like… OK, I know most of you have purchased and eaten those orange candy slices, right? The ones that sort of look like orange slices, are sorta jelly, and more or less orange in taste? Those are pretending to be orange contifs. Your raspberry contifs will have about the same texture. The taste, however, will be raspberry – or what raspberry CAN be when it’s intensified and sweetened. Raspberry squared. Yes, you can do this with other fruit. Hint, what do you think sugarplums (the visions of which dance in some silly poem) are, anyway? Yeah. You’ve tried the raspberry, now try the plum. Or the orange, or the lemon, or the fig or the apple. Ummmmm – neither the fig nor the apple make as much juice so you’re going to have to help them a bit. For the apple, use a bit of apple juice. For figs you’re just going to have to live with a bit of water. You’ll have learned from the raspberries about what your end state should look like when you add supplemental fluids – I really have no better help.

Oh, that syrup, by the way. Please don’t throw it away. You’ve got so many options.

First you can use it as, well, a syrup. Syrup for drinks and ice-cones and slushies, and syrup on pancakes. Syrup in your iced tea.

Or you can boil it for a while, looking for hard-crack stage. Pour onto a greased cookie sheet and make candy shards. Or if you’re daring, pour into ice cube trays and lay toothpicks in the result, then let them set. Raspberry lollipops.

You can also make… Make a chocolate cake in a 9×13 pan. Go nuts with a toothpick punching holes through it from the top. Now heat the syrup, and pour about two cups over the cake. It’ll get absorbed. Raspberry chocolate cake, and you do not want to touch the frosting – trust me on this. Maybe a little whipped cream. Maybe.

But it’s the candies that’ll hold your attention. The fruit confit that will make you look at every raspberry you eat from then on just a wee bit differently, knowing that fresh, while good, just isn’t quite up to the fruit’s potential.

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