Macerating: The process of soaking fruit in liquid and sugar to soften it and release its juices is called maceration. Macerating is similar to marinating—the fruits (in this case berries) absorb the flavors of the liquid as they soak and soften.

Gin and Maple Macerated BerriesHands-on: 10 min. Total: 30 min.

1 pound mixed berries (such as strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries)2 tablespoons gin2 tablespoons maple syrup2 tablespoons turbinado sugar2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

1. Hull and slice strawberries, if using; place in a medium bowl. Slicing bigger berries speeds up maceration—liquids will release faster.

2. Add remaining ingredients, stirring gently to combine. Let stand for 20 minutes or until mixture is syrupy, gently stirring occasionally. Sugar, lime, and gin soften and preserve the berries while extracting their natural juices to become a syrupy sauce. While this recipe uses gin and lime juice, you can play around: acidity from balsamic vinegar, red or white wine, and lemon are a few ingredients that will lend flavor will softening. Liquors like bourbon, vodka, brandy, and rum will also act as a light preservative while imparting their essence.   Other useful flavorful ingredients include vanilla bean, jalapeño, basil, lemon thyme, fresh ginger, and whole cloves. Play around to find a combination and balance to your own taste.

3. If desired, refrigerate and continue to macerate for up to 4 hours. Delicate raspberries and strawberries can oversoften, so macerate them only a few hours. Thick-skinned berries like blueberries can go overnight.

Serves 4 (serving size: about 1/2 cup)CALORIES 120; FAT 0.5g (sat 0g, mono 0.1g, poly 0.3g); PROTEIN 1g; CARB 26g; FIBER 4g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 1 mg; SODIUM 3mg; CALC 33mg

5 Great Things to Do with Macerated Berries(in addition to serving over ice cream and cake)

  1. Blend with ice for a slushie.
  2. Heat and serve with pork tenderloin.
  3. Cook until jammy; fill cupcakes.
  4. Add to sangria or Champagne.
  5. Top crostini spread with goat cheese.