Blueberry, Red Wine, and Black Pepper Fruit Pâté
Traditionally, these pastes were made by cooking fruit for hours, along with spices, sweeteners, and water, alcohol, or vinegar, until the mixture reached a point where the natural pectin caused it to set into a dense gelled form. My recipes for pâté de fruit utilize a modern ingredient—liquid pectin—to create old-world-style pastes. Commercial pectin makes easy work of the process—you won’t have to concern yourself with the pectin content of the fruit and you will save time and labor. The steps in creating pâté de fruit are simple: make a fruit puree, add sugar and acid, heat the mixture to the proper temperature, add pectin, and pour into a mold. You can use store-bought frozen fruit or, even better, fruit that you froze during the height of the summer.
This is a good match with the piquancy of an aged Pecorino or Parmesan, or even a slightly aged goat’s milk cheese.
Combine the frozen blueberries, wine, and peppercorns. Cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the blueberries release their juice and look slightly withered. Cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch-square pan with parchment paper; coat lightly with neutral-flavored baking spray or oil. Pour the packet of pectin into a small bowl, and set aside near the stovetop.
In a blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the blueberry mixture. Strain through a medium sieve. Pour it into a heavy 3-quart saucepan and add 1¼ cups sugar, the applesauce, and the citric acid (if using). Taste to see
if you want to add ground black pepper for a stronger bite.
Cook over low heat, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Turn the heat up to medium, and place a candy thermometer on the side of the pan. Stir with a heatproof spatula, occasionally at the beginning, then constantly as the mixture begins to thicken. Bring the mixture up to 230°F. When the mixture reaches 230°F, hold it there for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the pectin at once, bring back to a boil, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture immediately into the prepared pan, and tilt to spread evenly.
Let the jellied fruit rest for 3 hours or up to overnight on a cooling rack. Cut into desired shapes with a knife or cookie cutters. To coat with sugar, toss the candies in the remaining ½ cup sugar. Store in an airtight container at a cool room temperature or in the refrigerator if your house tends to be on the warm side.
TIPS for Successful Fruit Pâtés
Use a heatproof spatula to stir the fruit puree mixtures and prevent them from sticking in the corners of the pan, especially near the thermometer.
The temperature will hover around 210 to 220°F for what seems like a long time. Be patient; the temperature does rise quickly afterward.
The optional citric acid adds a little extra tartness to the fruit. If you don’t mind the flavor of lemon, you can substitute a teaspoon of lemon juice.
Coating the jellies with sugar is optional. But if you are coating them and they seem wet, let them sit overnight on a baking rack in a cool, dry place after tossing them in sugar. In the morning, you can dust them with another light coat of sugar.
Goat’s milk cheeses provided the easiest pairings with all the fruit pâté flavors. Chèvre was especially good, as was a slightly aged goat cheese such as Consider Bardwell’s Manchester.
MAKE A GIFT of homemade fruit pâté:
1. Cut the slab of gelled fruit into any shape with a cookie cutter
2. Add some sparkle by lightly tossing the pieces in sugar
3. Use a small clear cellophane bag, tied off with ribbon, to package your treats.
Written by Emily Gold
Photography by John Marolakos