When I think of summertime, I think of popsicles, and when I think of popsicles, I think of my childhood neighbor Eric. My family moved in to the house across the street from Eric’s family when I was 5, and he was the same age as me and my twin sister. I remember standing at the end of our driveway with my two sisters the morning after we moved in, shouting to Eric as he sped up and down the street on his bike trying to impress us with his skills. All we wanted to do was introduce ourselves to him, because oh boy, here was a potential new friend! Eventually he stopped his feats of daring on his child’s bicycle, came over and talked to us, and the rest is history.
Most days after morning kindergarten, my twin sis and I could be found hanging out with Eric at his house. In the storage room off of his family’s carport, they had a big deep freezer that, to my kid brain, seemed chock-full of nothing but popsicles (because that’s all I ever saw his mom pull out of it). Among the typical cherry, orange and grape-flavored pops, his favorite always seemed to be the Flintstones sherbet push-up pops. When the weather turned warm, you could rest assured that Eric’s mom would keep him in a never-ending supply of popsicles from the deep freezer.
Popsicles always bring back memories of hanging out with Eric on warm days after school, swimming for hours in the pool in his back yard, then going back home to play Demon Sword on my Nintendo. These strawberry balsamic + black pepper pops are sort of my homage to those carefree kid days, when the only thing I had to worry about was whether or not I wanted my PB&J with grape or strawberry jelly at lunchtime.
These pops are definitely not your run-of-the-mill strawberry popsicles. The balsamic vinegar pumps up the jammy quality of the berries, and provides a bit of interest and tang in the background. The black pepper complements the strawberries perfectly, with a little bit of spicy heat in the finish.
strawberry balsamic + black pepper popsicles
(yields 10 3-oz pops)
16 oz frozen strawberries, thawed
1/2 cup (120 g) water
3/4 cup (175 g) granulated sugar
1 Tbs corn syrup
1 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
4 tsp balsamic vinegar
Begin by making some simple syrup! Combine the water, sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan and cook on medium-low heat until the sugar has dissolved, and the mixture looks clear. This should yield about one cup of syrup.
In the bowl of a food processor (or you can use a regular blender, or an immersion blender in a large bowl), pour the thawed strawberries and the simple syrup, black pepper and balsamic vinegar. Feel free to add only 1 tsp of black pepper if you want the spice toned down a bit. Puree the mixture completely, scraping down any errant pieces of strawberry that don’t want to get blended up.
Grab a popsicle mold and let’s get to filling! I have this particular style mold, and I love it. It has 10 cavities for standard 3 oz popsicles. This popsicle mixture will yield about 3 cups of liquid, so plan accordingly with your popsicle molds.
Pour your popsicle fixins into a large measuring cup and carefully fill your popsicle mold, leaving about a quarter inch of space at the top so the pops don’t expand and freeze to the lid of the mold (if it has one). Place the top on, and insert popsicle sticks. I find that a big bag of these sticks from Michaels works just great, and they’re inexpensive to boot. It says that they’re non-food safe but honestly, I’ve never had a problem with them. You probably wouldn’t want to gnaw on the stick once you’re done with the popsicle though, just to be safe.
Once the popsicle molds are filled, clear a flat space in your freezer and let the pops freeze until they’re solid, about 4 hours or overnight if you wish. When frozen, unmold and serve! Any extras can be frozen in a large Ziploc bag, or bagged individually.
These balsamic and pepper-infused strawberry pops are not your little brother’s popsicles, that’s for sure. They’re perfect if you’re feeling nostalgic for your childhood summer days. Warm afternoon sun, a swimming pool, and one of these pops in my hand will be just the ticket to make me feel like a kid again. Now, if only I still had that Nintendo…
(This summer is sure to be full of popsicle recipes, so check back soon to get the recipe for a tasty, creamy Cherry Vanilla pop!)