Rote Grutze, with its rather unglamorous translation of Red Grits, 'Red' for the summer fruits and 'Grits' for the thickening ingredients 'grits/groats' which were used instead of today's cornstarch, began as "Hausmannskost", simple home cooking. A summer berry 'fruit salad' with a difference it has long been a summer favorite in Germany, and now is also to be found at the most chic of restaurants and cafes.
With the berries available during summer, from red currants, raspberries, and cherries to blackberries or black currants for contrast, Rote Grutze is one of those easy recipes that is light, delicious and just that little bit different. Often made as a seasonal dessert it can just as easily be a light summer supper, a snack, even breakfast. Although for breakfast it will definitely be one without the optional alcohol.
The original classic version used only red currants and raspberries, but now virtually any soft fruit is added, although while strawberries can be used as a decoration too many, or even any, in the mix can be a disappointment, as the preparation with its use of heat makes them mushy, and they lose not only their looks but also their taste.
There must be as many German recipes as there are families who make Rote Grutze, and this traditional recipe was given me by my late mother-in-law, and was based on one used by her family in what used to be East Prussia, where there was an abundance of berry bushes during the height of summer.
ROTE GRUETZE - A Fruit Pudding Recipe ( 4 � 6 portions)
2 lbs mixed �red� fruit - red and black currants, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, red plums which must be quartered. At least two different fruits, a variety tastes and looks better, and traditionally the proportions should be two parts of 'sour' fruit to one of sweet
2 Cups Water
1 Cup Grape Juice or Cranberry Juice
1/4 cup Cornstarch
Sugar to taste
Optional lemon juice or finely grated zest
Optional red wine and/or Kirschwasser (Cherry Water - a colorless fruit brandy)
Wash and prepare fruit, remove pits from cherries
Cook fruit over a low heat in 2 cups/1 pint water until tender
Strain over a large bowl through sieve lined with cheesecloth, being careful not to crush fruit
Place fruit in large serving dish
Make up to three cups of liquid with red grape juice, or you can also substitute some of the quantity with red wine and/or Kirschwasser
Bring to the boil over medium heat
Dissolve cornstarch in cold water and add to hot liquid in pan, stir constantly until it thickens
Sweeten sauce to taste and continue to stir until any sugar added has dissolved
Add lemon juice or zest if used
Pour the thickened juice over the fruit in the bowl
Sprinkling with a little sugar prevents a skin forming on the top
Refrigerate for at least five hours, overnight if possible, and until about half an hour before it is needed
Pour into individual bowls or glasses before serving, or prepare sometime beforehand, return them to the refrigerator and bring out shortly before they are to be served
In Germany the traditional topping is a thin vanilla sauce, but heavy or thin cream or ice cream are also popular, and a sprig of a green herb such as lemon balm is often added as a decorative contrast
Rote Grutze can be used as a topping for pancakes, waffles, cheesecakes, yoghurt, quark and ice cream, even cottage cheese, combined together with heavy cream as a filling and 'frosting' for a richly decadent cake, poured over a cream filled meringue or simply enjoyed just as it is.
And there are alternatives in the 'Grutze' family:
Green Grutze made from gooseberries in combination with greengages, seeded green grapes, kiwi, apple or pineapple, and as a liquid green grape juice, white or rose wine and/or Kirschwasser or some other fruit brandy.
Yellow Grutze from peaches, yellow gooseberries, pineapple, bananas, yellow plums or any other yellow fruits, and white/green grape juice or apple juice, and for that extra 'kick' white or rose wine and/or Kirschwasser or another flavor of fruit brandy.
Although it began as a seasonal recipe with summer berry bushes providing all the raw ingredients, you can easily use frozen fruits when fresh are not available, just thaw them thoroughly first and use any resulting liquid in the preparation.
This will be a little different in taste and texture but still good to eat, not only making a refreshing end to heavy winter meals but bringing back the color and memories of summer.
Guten Appetit!.....And enjoy your Rote Grutze!
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