I wrote this back in early 2016 as a guest blog post on Lemon Thistle and then also posted it on my own blog back in its previous incarnation. So, here it is again, because it’s a classic. This recipe also includes an important blueberry cooking tip I picked up from one of my favourite cookbooks: Saving the Season by Kevin West. In it, he says, “Blueberries get their distinctive spicy flavor from a class of molecules called terpenes, which McGee says ‘provide pine-like, citrusy, floral, leaflike and “fresh” notes to the overall flavor of many herbs and spices.’ Terpenes are highly volatile and boil away with cooking. Gin also has terpenes — the sources of its juniper flavor — so a shot added to blueberry jam at the end of cooking will restore a fresh blueberry taste.” He goes on to note that limes and coriander also contain terpenes. I now add a splash of gin when I make blueberry sauce or blueberry tarts.
Panna cotta. It is at once luxurious and low-effort. This Italian dessert is more of a technique than a specific recipe. Once you’ve got the basic idea down, you can customize it to your taste and needs! I love that it works all year long, because you can pair it with whatever is in season, use fruit you’ve put aside in your freezer, be lazy and top it with jam or marmalade, or make a chocolate panna cotta. Also, the bonus for hot weather is that you do not have to turn on your oven. It makes for a great party dessert (with great little individual servings in whatever containers you have handy) and can be fully prepped days in advance.
Notes: The ratio of gelatin to liquid that I use is 1 teaspoon of gelatin powder to each cup of liquid. I want to play around with agar agar to create a vegan version of this, too, and if I do, I will update it or maybe post a whole new recipe (or both, I’ll surprise you). You can play with flavours by swapping some of the dairy with fruit puree or juice, make it dairy-free by using coconut milk or other substitute, lower the sugar content, or use an alternative sweetener (add/subtract to taste). Keep in mind while experimenting that different fat contents may change the firmness of the final set.
2 cups milk
1 cup whipping cream (or keep it simple and use 3 cups of 10% cream instead of milk + whip)
3 tsp plain gelatin powder (such as Knox)
1.3 cup sugar
For the blueberries:
1.5 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp gin (or fresh squeezed lime juice)
Pour milk and cream into a saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface of the milk. Let sit for a few minutes to bloom (the surface will become noticeably wrinkled). Turn the heat on low and whisk in the gelatin. Add sugar and whisk it in. Heat gently — do not overheat as this will cause problems with your gelatin setting properly. You only need to heat it enough to dissolve the gelatin and sugar, and it should stay cool enough that you can stick your fingers in without discomfort. Once dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool a bit while you make the blueberries.
To make a blueberry sauce, put the blueberries into a small saucepan and add the sugar and a splash of water. Bring up to a boil and then turn off the heat. Add the gin or lime juice and stir in. Put away to cool in the fridge.
Give your cream mixture another whisk and then pour into dishes of your choice. Cover and place in the fridge. Allow time to set (1-4 hours). I’ve used half pint mason jars in this example, but you can use ramekins, tea cups, wine glasses, or whatever! Smaller, shallower dishes will yield you more (smaller) servings and will set much faster. This recipe with the whipping cream is rich enough that you only need a small serving. I probably filled these mason jars too full, tbh.
Once the panna cotta is set (it will be firm enough to hold together when the container is tipped to the side, but wobbly and soft like a jelly), you can spoon the topping over it and it is ready to go. The handy thing about using a mason jar is you can just put the topping on, add a lid, and it’s ready to pack for a picnic or work lunch.