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From the Pastry Dungeon: Pickled Blueberry Sorbet

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[Photograph: Anna Markow]

They say everyone is their own worst critic, and I'm certainly no exception to that rule. Between that and my typical pastry chef's eye for detail and impossibly high standards, I can tend to come off snobby and occasionally insulting. I've had people rave about how good they thought an experimental recipe was, and take offense when I unthinkingly blurt out that I think it's garbage. I mean no offense; I just don't want to serve anything that isn't face-meltingly delicious.

In spite of all that, there is one ingredient I am admittedly a total snob about, and that's blueberries. Being from Maine, big, sweet, conventional berries don't impress me. Sorry, New Jersey, I just don't like your berries. They're fine on cereal or maybe in a smoothie, but don't dare try and serve me a pie made from them.

Whenever I am stuck using regular old blueberries, I try to doctor them up to give them a flavor profile closer to wild ones. Balsamic vinegar and maple syrup do a decent job, adding some badly needed complexity and acidity. Lately, though, my favorite treatment for bland blueberries is pickling, using apple cider vinegar and plenty of spices.

I originally adapted this pickle to serve as a garnish for blueberry shrub at work, but upon seeing Max's recipe for blueberry lime ice cream with spices, I decided I had to try turning the spicy, sweet, and sour concoction into sorbet while the oppressive summer heat was still looming over my head.

The natural pectin in blueberries helps keep sorbets smooth, and the vinegar helps balance the sweetness of both the berries and the maple syrup. The combination of spices adds a complex punch to the senses. This sorbet would make a fabulous palate cleansing accompaniment to buttery lobster, fatty duck, or rich venison.

About the Author: Anna Markow is a pastry chef obsessed with doing things that no one else does and giving unusual ingredients their time to shine. You can follow her sometimes-pastry-related thoughts on Twitter @VerySmallAnna.

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