Low-bush cranberries and lemon are two flavours that shout out “Spring!” at this time of year. The swans are flying overhead and we have, it is to be hoped, seen the last of the freak snowstorms. The crocuses—if not already pushing through the earth on sunny hillsides, soon will be. The first fireweed shoots are still a couple of weeks away, and the spruce tips probably a couple of weeks after that; so the gatherer, in a celebratory mood, must turn to the freezer and the produce section for a dish to welcome the season.
You’d think that the tartness of low-bush cranberries and the sourness of lemon would be too much together, but the addition of butter, sugar, milk and flour smooths out their differences, and everyone is happy. And who doesn’t love a pudding cake, that enchanting concoction of custard on the bottom and cake on top, with an ever-so-lightly caramelized coating providing the merest crunch between the teeth? The twin glory of these cakes is that they’re so easily produced and satisfy our craving for the light and the bright, long before the buds are out on the trees.
I’ll miss that first delicate blaze of green this year (I’m going overseas for much of May). But I’ll catch wildflower season in Greece and a wedding by the sea in Cornwall, for which I’ve been asked to create a special cocktail.
I found inspiration in some of the ingredients the groom has on hand, including kombucha and in the history of Prussia Cove where the festivities will take place.
Prussia Cove was the home of a notorious smuggling family who dealt in illicit goods, such as brandy, gin and tea, in the late 1700s when excise taxes were so high that ordinary folk couldn’t afford those items. John Carter, one of the family’s better-known members, was nicknamed “King of Prussia,” either because he adopted that name in a childhood game or because he looked like Frederick the Great, the King of Prussia, depending on which source you read. John Carter had the reputation of being an honourable thief, and the family provided not only goods but employment for the local populace. Sort of Robin Hoods of the sea, though the customs people didn’t think so.
Kombucha’s starting point is a fermenting agent (a scoby) and some tea, and flavours are added in the second ferment. A friend of mine makes a beautiful citrusy kombucha. All it needed was the addition of some bracing gin and St.-Germain Elderflower Liqueur, “the bartender’s ketchup,” to bring everything into balance. Et voilà, a lively springtime cocktail, From Prussia With Love.
- Cranberry Lemon Pudding Cake
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 2 Tbsp melted butter
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup milk
- Pinch of cream of tartar
- 1 1/4 cups low-bush cranberries, defrosted if frozen, and divided
- 1/2 cup 35 per cent cream
- From Prussia With Love
- 1 oz St.-Germain Elderberry Liqueur
- 1 1/2 oz gin
- 2 oz citrus kombucha
Cranberry Lemon Pudding Cake
1. Preheat oven to 350℉ (175℃) and place a rack in the center of the oven. Set 8 half-cup ramekins in a 9- by 13-inch baking pan.
2. Whisk egg yolks and granulated sugar until thick and creamy. Whisk in flour, butter, lemon zest, lemon and juice, and milk until blended.
3. In another bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until whites hold stiff and form moist peaks when the beater is lifted. Stir one-quarter of whites into yolk mixture, until blended, then gently fold in remaining whites. Fold in one cup of cranberries.
4. Spoon batter into ramekins. Pour enough boiling water into baking pan to come half-way up sides of ramekins.
5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until cake layers are set and tops are golden.
6. Remove ramekins from water, place on a rack and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.
7. When ready to serve, whip cream and pile each ramekin with a few berries and a dollop of whipped cream.
1. Combine and stir all ingredients with ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a few low-bush cranberries.