When people ask where I’m from, it’s an honest a toss-up between the between North Carolina (by birth) and New Orleans (I earned my stripes among the locals the hard way). Even my accent is a hybrid of the two. But if anything marks my standing as a born Eastern North Carolinian, it’s a genetically-engineered love of vinegar.
Southern cooking, obviously, is not known for its health benefits, yet vinegar is a mainstay ingredient in Eastern NC cooking: smoked pork basted in a spicy-vinegar based mop and a cole slaw untouched by any mayonnaise (not even Duke’s, which any self-respecting Southerner would choose) are two examples. Vinegar makes its presence known..
It’s also one of the few flavors from my heritage that actually plays nicely with weight goals — losing or maintaining — and has become a secrete weapon in my kitchen. My kitchen pantry looks more like a chemists lab than a food stash for that reason. Half of it is differing varieties of vinegars.
This dessert uses two different methods of working with two different vinegar in one fruit-and-nut based dessert. The first is macerating, which is the fruit equivalent to a marinade and itself a fancy term for “poor vinegar over fruit and let it sit.” The second is infusing traditional balsamic vinegar into a thick syrup for a drizzle.
This recipe began from working with one of my favorite students in their kitchen before it became the fully evolved version you see here.
Makes four desserts.
- 1 pint raspberries, gently rinsed and dried
- 1/2 cup-3/4 cup fig balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- Dash cinnamon
- Sliced almonds and blackberries for garnish
- Coarse Salt for flavor balancing (optional and rarely needed)
In a small mixing bowl combine raspberries with fig vinegar and allow to sit while working on the steps below or another part of the meal.
Pour balsamic vinegar and cinnamon into a small saucepan and stir to combine. Heat over medium heat until simmering and reduces half its volume, about 5-10 minutes depending on your cookware. Continue to reduce until the vinegar coats the back of a spoon (similar to making custard, or gelatin) and remove from heat to cool. The syrup will continue to thicken as it cools.
To assemble, gently remove raspberries from the vinegar with a slotted spoon or fork and divide them among four martini glasses or dessert bowls. Top with blackberries and slivered almonds. Dip a fork into the balsamic syrup and check the consistency (if it’s still too warm or too viscous, put the pot back on the heat on high). If sufficiently thick, use the fork’s tines to drizzle over the berries in a circular motion.
Lastly, try tasting some berries and vinegar separately before serving. If the berries or the vinegar reduction are too sweet, or the vinegar still too strong, add coarse sea salt or additional cinnamon as an additional garnish to balance the flavors.