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Necessity Breeds Invention

Passport & Plate - Grape Popsicles w/ Sugar Cane and Wild Lemon

USA | Friday, 6 March 2015 | 4 photos

3lb grape (any red variety)
5 stalks raw sugar cane, cleaned
zest/grated rind of 2 wild lemons

1 banana
1 mango
variety of berries (wild)


How to prepare this recipe
Puree grapes in blender/food processor
Squeeze/press sugar cane stalks until dry, combine with grape puree
Grate lemons, combine with liquid ingredients

In a large saucepan, bring mixture to boil, reduce heat and simmer until mixture has reduced 50%, stirring occasionally (thick paste should stick to spoon)
Remove to popsicle containers, add straw to each pop, freeze overnight


The story behind this recipe
Necessity truly is the mother of invention. Never has that aphorism rung truer than in the case of "Pureed Grape Popsicles with Wild Lemon and Pressed Sugar Cane."

The year is 2011; the budget is tight. At the edge of the Australia's Daintree Rainforest, a 1986 Toyota camper van sputters to a halt. This van is my bedroom, my kitchen, and my life savings--and it is dead. I will spend the next 4+ months washing dishes under the table and picking up shifts on a construction crew as I scrape together the funds to repair my vehicle and head West across the Outback.

This will be among the most formative periods of my life, and I will learn to make a lot more than lemonade with life's lemons. (And especially with its grapes.)

When alone and destitute in a foreign country, frugality is not a choice. I learn quickly that the local markets function as true markets in the economic sense: governed by supply and demand. Grapes are plentiful, and at closing time they can be had by the pound for a pittance. Many concoctions ensue: Grape pie is reasonable; grape soup is nauseating; grape pancakes just leave me pining for blueberries. It is near-heatstroke and a Newtonian epiphany that eventually beget success.

Tropical Australia is known for oppressive temperatures, and one can eat only so many hot grape experiments. But popsicles in 100 degree heat?--those never get old.

The first few attempts are dull and do not warrant repeating, but my environment offers inspiration: lemons are dropping from the tree above my campsite. There is an abundance of wild produce around me--by the end, sugar cane, banana, mango, and mandarin all find their way into the popsicles--but it is the lemons that bring everything together. Wild lemons are ugly things, but their thick, gnarled rinds offer more flavor and zest than commercially produced counterparts. Combined with fresh pressed cane sugar (picked from the roadside), it is this sweet/sour depth that makes these frozen treats a delicacy.

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