MN Masala: Nell’s Finnish Fruit Pudding (Velia)

By Jane and Chux: A few years ago, Chux planted black raspberries in our backyard.  These plants have flourished, and last summer we had a bumper crop of berries.  We had so many, we were able to freeze some of them.

Given our cold and snowy “spring” this April, we wanted to make something with these berries.  A reminder of the summer to come.  These black raspberries taste like sunshine.  They are also extremely complex in flavor with sweet and sour notes.  Since these berries taste good on their own, we decided to make my grandmother Nell’s Finnish berry pudding.

As a kid, I would spend time with my grandparents at their cabin in Michigan.  We would go wild blueberry picking at their top secret place with coffee-can pails in hand, handles made with bent coat hangers.

We would make this fruit pudding as well as pie with these fresh blueberries.  This pudding can be made with any fresh or frozen berry including blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries.

Today, I’m copying my grandmother’s recipe as she sent it to me in a letter over 30 years ago. 

For our black raspberry pudding, we used four cups of frozen berries, added ¾ cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of tapioca, and ¼ cup of water.  You can adjust the sugar and thickener in your fruit pudding depending on how many berries you are using and how sweet you like it.  The pudding is delicious on its own, or over pancakes for brunch, or with ice cream for dessert. Continue reading

MN Masala: Karla’s Cheesecake

Jane and Chux

By Jane and Chux: Growing up in Jackson, Michigan, each summer my family would make the long drive to East Palestine, Ohio, for a family reunion.  I loved this annual road trip and the chance to be with loving relatives.

We always stayed with my Aunt Nell and Uncle Ernie in East Palestine.  I have very fond memories of Nell and Ernie.  He was very handsome with his slicked back hair and horn-rimmed glasses.  He always had a cigar in his mouth and loved to joke with everyone.

Nell was a beautiful woman, always stylishly dressed, her hair coiffed in a high bouffant, and in full make-up (she owned and managed a local Merle Norman cosmetics store).  In the mornings, I watched the dew rise into a mist and then dissipate over the rolling hills around their house.  In the evening, my brothers and I would catch fire flies in the back of their house.  We would delight in watching the fire flies light up the room with their blinking lights.

We played games, went swimming, and had long conversations over the kitchen table.  And there was the great home cooked food: my grandmother’s coleslaw and ambrosia salad, Cousin Karla’s hamburger rolls, wild blackberry pies with lard crusts, and potica made with crushed walnuts in between many rolled layers of rich buttery pasty.

Each year, I would cook with my cousin Karla and learn something new.  One year I learned how to make Karla’s famous hamburger rolls.  I used this recipe to make prize winning cloverleaf rolls at the Jackson County fair as a teen.  When I went to college, Karla and I would exchange recipes by mail.

One year, I received a recipe for Karla’s Cheesecake.  This 3×5 inch card is now yellow with age and has stains on it from over 30 years of use!

When I make this cheesecake, I’m always transported back to those wonderful, simple times of our family reunion.  This recipe always pleases.  It’s easy to make because it has no crust.  It’s a wonderful dessert for dinner parties.

It’s also the first thing I baked for Chux when we were dating at Michigan Tech.  It went straight to his heart and never left. Continue reading

MN Masala: Stuffed Apricots Deconstructed

Jane and Chux

By Jane and Chux: While in London, I was reminded of a dessert we had at the restaurant Sofra a few years ago – large dried apricots stuffed with rich whole milk yogurt and topped with toasted pistachios.

We liked the dessert so much, Chux and I recreated it at home.  We originally tried to make this dessert exactly as it was served to us, but we struggled to stuff the apricots nicely. It didn’t look pretty. We didn’t have the pastry bag needed for this delicate task.

We eventually improvised and deconstructed the elements of this dessert with excellent results and a much easier preparation.  It does take some time to make the yogurt cheese.  It’s best to drain the yogurt overnight.

I like to sweeten the yogurt cheese with maple syrup.  We cook the dried apricots in a little water and sugar to plump them up and give them a little glaze.  After assembling the individual servings, you have a simple delicious dessert that your dinner guests will love. Continue reading