I grew up eating this luscious summer dessert and love it to this day. It’s not only delicious, but also super-quick-and-easy to make, beautiful to look at and highly nutritious.
In German — my mother tongue — this dish is called rote Grütze (literally translated as “red grits”) as it was traditionally prepared with grain groats or grit. It’s wildly popular in Germany and the Nordic countries; in eastern Europe, a similar pudding is called kissel and is made with pureed fruit.
These days, people don’t use whole grains to make rote Grütze anymore; most recipes use faster-cooking and creamier thickeners like semolina, sago or potato starch. My mother uses a combination of potato starch and gelatin which results in a creamy jello-like texture that my kids adore; that’s why I use it here. But if you eat a vegetarian diet or eschew pork or beef products for whatever reason, it’s fine to omit gelatin and add a little more starch instead.
The essential ingredient of rote Grütze are tart summer berries like red currants, raspberries, strawberries, black currants, blackberries, bilberries, pitted black cherries, gooseberries and elderberries. The more different types of berries you can lay your hands on, the better, though even frozen mixes of three or four types of berries are great. As berries can be acidic, I add a little sugar (you can also use non-glycemic sweeteners like stevia or erythritol) to take the edge off their tartness and to intensify the flavor. I also add a cinnamon stick and some lemon zest to further round out the aromas of this dish.
Some cancer researchers recommend that we eat berries daily. Several berries – notably black and red raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and elderberries – contain an array of healthy compounds that have been found in laboratory studies to have anti-cancer effects. They are also thought to support cardiovascular and metabolic health by helping lower LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, glucose levels and inflammation markers. And although it’s best to eat fruits and vegetables during their local growing season, I’m happy to make an exception here: the berry season being woefully short and fresh berries expensive (and prone to going moldy in the fridge…), it’s fine to make this with frozen berries and jarred cherries and enjoy it all year round.
Very Berry Summer Pudding (Rote Grütze)
- 1¼ cups tart cherry juice unsweetened
- 1 tbsp powdered gelatin (optional) I use Great Lakes Gelatin’s grass-fed, unflavored beef gelatin; they also sell porcine gelatin
- 2 inch strip lemon peel untreated (organic), removed with a sharp paring knife or potato peeler
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 tbsp Lakanto or maple syrup or brown sugar
- 3 tbsp potato starch or corn starch
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 lb mixed berries such as raspberries, red and black currants, blackberries, gooseberries, strawberries, cranberries, pitted tart cherries
- mint leaves finely chopped, for garnish
- 1 heaping tbsp corn starch
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 4 egg yolks ideally from pastured hens
- 2 cups whole milk or another plant or animal milk of your choice
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- Pour ¼ cup of the tart cherry juice into a small microwave-proof bowl and scatter the powdered gelatin over the juice in an even layer. Let sit for 5 minutes to allow the powder to absorb the juice -- this helps it dissolve when heated. Microwave on HIGH for 20 seconds to dissolve the gelatin. Cover to keep warm.
- Pour the rest of the juice into a medium-sized pot, add lemon peel, cinnamon stick, maple syrup or sugar (whichever using) and potato starch and mix with a balloon whisk. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a gentle boil, stirring continuously with the wire whisk until it thickens (4-5 minutes).
- Pour the warm gelatin-juice mixture into the pot and stir to combine.
- Add berries and vanilla extract to the pot and fold gently into the thick, hot sauce until the berries are evenly coated; don't stir too hard so as not to crush the fragile berries. Remove from heat and discard lemon peel and cinnamon stick. Taste for sweetness; if it's very tart, add a little more pale syrup or sugar.
- Spoon into a glass serving bowl or individual dishes (I love to use empty Bonne Maman jam jars), cover with plastic wrap or lids and refrigerate until set; at least 2 hours, ideally overnight. (When I'm in a hurry, I put them in the freezer and they set within ½ hour!)
- Decorate with mint leaves and serve. This dessert tastes extra-delicious when topped with homemade egg custard (directions below), a blob of Greek yogurt or sour cream, a drizzle of heavy cream (the Danish way) or a small scoop of top-quality vanilla ice cream.
- Fill a large bowl with cold water and add about 1 cup ice cubes.
- Warm milk in a small pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until it is just about to boil, then remove from heat.
- While the milk is heating, whisk corn starch and sugar in a heat-proof bowl and beat in the egg yolks with a wire whisk. Pour the hot milk over the egg yolk mixture, whisking continuously.
- Return the milk-egg mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Do not let the custard boil as this may split the eggs. If you think it might have boiled (even briefly), swiftly remove the pot from the heat and dunk it into the bowl of ice water while whisking it continuously to stop the cooking and salvage the custard. Even if the eggs haven't split, I often dunk the pot in the ice bath after the sauce has thickened to help it cool faster. Serve warm or cold.