Summer is the season for simple recipes that celebrate the natural sweetness of ripe berries. Here I’ve taken fresh berries and macerated them in a sweet-tart mixture of balsamic vinegar and honey, topped with lightly sweetened yogurt or crème fraiche.
Vinegar doesn’t typically come to mind when we think about dessert. However, macerating sweet fruit with vinegar is a wonderful way to enhance its flavor. The term “maceration” in cooking refers to breaking down fruits or vegetables using liquid, sugar, or salt. Various liquids can be used for this technique, including alcohol or vinegar. When macerated, fruit softens and releases its natural flavors and aromas. Maceration is a helpful technique when you want to make underripe fruit more palatable. In the case of ripe fruit, like seasonal berries, maceration can make the flavor more complex and aromatic.
When it comes to Mediterranean cooking, we might typically think of olive oil as the “most important” ingredient. However, vinegar is also an important flavor in Mediterranean cuisine, particularly in regional Italian cooking. And it’s not just for salad dressing! Balsamic vinegar is has a unique flavor that can be used in a variety of ways – both savory and sweet. A sweet application of vinegar appears below, in these juicy, irresistible Balsamic Berries.
Throughout history vinegar has been used to preserve food, add flavor, and as medicine. Today it is still considered by many to be the most powerful acid in nature. The balsamic vinegar we are familiar with today originated in the Roman era. It is made from fermented grapes, providing tart sweetness and a powerful burst of flavor. One tablespoon of this deep purple vinegar contains only 14 calories, making it a healthy option for adding lots of flavor to your food.
It’s berry season, and fresh berries abound at the market. Macerating ripe, succulent berries in balsamic vinegar adds a new dimension to them. A small sprinkle of freshly cracked black pepper adds depth. This simple, healthy dessert recipe can be thrown together in just 30 minutes. The colors are also perfect for celebrating the 4th of July, which happens to be right around the corner.
If you’re interested in more healthy Mediterranean recipes, check out my exclusive culinary community, Tori’s Mediterranean Table!
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- 10 ounces strawberries, about 12 medium berries
- 6 ounces raspberries
- 6 ounces blackberries
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lavender honey, divided - or more if needed (depending on tartness of berries - use agave or sugar for vegan)
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 7 ounces creme fraiche or whole milk Greek yogurt (you can alternatively use a dairy-free yogurt or dairy free vanilla ice cream to make this vegan)
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- Wash and gently pat berries dry. Remove stems from strawberries, hull, and quarter. Place all the berries in a medium bowl.
- Drizzle balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of honey, and black pepper over the berries. Add more honey as needed (if your berries are on the tart side). Gently fold to mix, then let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Berries can be covered and refrigerated for up to 60 minutes, but no longer, or the berries will become too soft.
- While berries stand, mix crème fraiche or yogurt with the remaining tablespoon of honey, vanilla bean paste, and cinnamon until well combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- To serve, divide berries into serving dishes and place a dollop of the sweetened crème fraiche or yogurt over the top. Enjoy immediately.