Recipes

Recipe: Panna cotta w/ ground cherry bourbon sauce (Physalis pruinosa)

Recipe: Panna cotta w/ ground cherry bourbon sauce (Physalis pruinosa) thumbnail
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Panna cotta with ground cherry bourbon sauce (made from heirloom Physalis pruinosa fruit) is one of the best things you’ll ever eat. Best of all: it’s a simple make-ahead dessert that doesn’t take much time to prepare.


A quick note on “ground cherries”

If you’ve never had ground cherries before, you’re missing out. The small husked fruits look like miniature tomatillos but taste like a cross between sweet tomatoes and pineapples.

Ground cherry plants are small 2' tall x 3' wide plants in the nightshade family (closely related to tomatoes and tomatillos). The husks on the fruit turns brown and they fall off the plant when ripe. After harvesting, let the fruit sit indoors with husk on for up to a week for the best flavor. Fruit skin color will turn golden when perfectly ripe. Remove husk before eating.

Ground cherry plants are small 2′ tall x 3′ wide plants in the nightshade family, closely related to tomatoes and tomatillos. The husks on the fruit turn brown and they fall off the plant when ripe. Tip: after harvesting, let the fruit sit indoors with husk on for up to a week for the best flavor. The fruit’s skin color will turn golden when perfectly ripe. Remove husks before eating.

Ground cherries are a unique heirloom fruit native to the Americas, and we’ve been growing them (and singing their praises) for over a decade. If you’re disciplined enough to not immediately eat every single one of them in your garden, ground cherries can also be cooked into amazing, unique dishes like this panna cotta with ground cherry bourbon sauce recipe.

Panna cotta with ground cherry bourbon sauce. Here you can also see two different panna cotta serving styles (round bowl-shaped and flat-top ramekin-shape) which we'll detail below.

Panna cotta with ground cherry bourbon sauce. Here you can also see two different panna cotta serving styles (round bowl-shaped and flat-top ramekin-shaped) which we’ll detail below.

Lastly, since you’re very unlikely to find this rare fruit at a market, we recommend you learn how to grow ground cherries organically in your garden

A quick note on panna cotta

Panna cotta is a simple, chilled Italian dessert made with sweetened cream thickened with gelatin. It’s incredibly simple to make once you get the hang of it — which comes in handy if you want to have a seemingly fancy dessert pre-made before guests come over for dinner. 

Our base panna cotta recipe comes courtesy of my mom, who loves to serve it topped with fresh raspberries and Chambord (a raspberry liqueur). Thanks mom!  

With an abundance of ground cherries from our garden, it was high time to combine them with panna cotta into one delicious recipe.  

Recipe tips and process photos 

Below are recipe tips and process photos to help you get this panna cotta ground cherry dessert recipe just right: 

1. Quantities and number of servings

This recipe makes 8 servings and requires 1 full cup of ground cherries. If you don’t have enough ground cherries or you want to make fewer servings, reduce your ingredient quantities accordingly. 

Also note that there is no hard-and-fast rule on the ratio of heavy cream to half-and-half. Our 1:4 ratio is our personal preference since it makes a lighter summer dessert that also lets the ground cherry flavor really stand out. However, you can use all cream or all half-and-half if you’d prefer. 

2. Getting your gelatin to bloom 

There are all different types (sheet or powder) and grades (bronze, silver, gold, platinum) of gelatin out there. For simplicity’s sake, we used standard powdered gelatin packets that you can find at any grocery store. 

One standard gelatin packet (7 grams or 2.5 teaspoons) is all you need for this recipe.

You’ll start by putting 2 tablespoons of COLD water into a small microwave-safe bowl, then pouring a gelatin packet into the water. Now let it sit and “bloom” for 5 minutes. 

This is what your packet of gelatin will look like after it has bloomed.

This is what your packet of gelatin will look like after it’s bloomed.

Next, you’ll put the bowl of bloomed gelatin in the microwave for 10 seconds, which dissolves it and makes it ready for the next step… 

3. Heating the cream and sugar + adding bloomed gelatin

Next you’re going to heat your cream, half-and-half, and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly. You’re NOT trying to bring the mixture to boil; you’re only heating it to the point that it begins steaming.   

At that point, you’ll remove the pan from the heat, add your vanilla, then slowly pour in your gelatin, slowly whisking as you go (don’t whisk too fast or you’ll make bubbles form on top). 

Slowly pour the gelatin into the hot, sweetened cream while whisking.

Slowly pour the gelatin into the hot, sweetened cream while whisking.

4. Pour hot liquid into serving dishes or molds. 

Next, you’ll pour your hot, liquid panna cotta into either their final serving dishes or into forms/molds. There are infinite options, but here are a couple of recommendations and considerations:

  • If pouring into the final serving dish, use clear glass serving dishes for the best presentation. 
  • If pouring into forms/molds, make sure they’re not more than 1.5″ deep or the panna cotta won’t come out as cleanly or stand up neatly when plated. 

Allow the panna cotta to cool to close to room temperature before putting in the fridge. You’ll want to let it chill for at least 4 hours before serving, but you can let it sit in the fridge for up to a few days.

5. Make your ground cherry bourbon sauce.

As your hot panna cotta is cooling, make your ground cherry bourbon sauce. You’ll want it to be chilled before putting it atop your panna cotta; it will melt your panna cotta if poured on hot. 

De-husked ground cherries ready to be made into sauce.

De-husked ground cherries ready to be made into sauce.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Then add whole ground cherries and water, and let simmer for 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently with a spoon, until ground cherries are soft and starting to pop.

Add sugar and salt, then simmer for another 5 minutes, continuing to stir regularly. Turn heat off, but leave the saucepan on the burner to use residual heat. Add vanilla and bourbon, and stir for another 2-3 minutes.  

This is what your final ground cherry bourbon sauce will look like when it's done cooking.

This is what your final ground cherry bourbon sauce will look like when it’s done cooking.

Remove from heat and allow to cool enough to cover and put in fridge. When you remove the chilled ground cherry sauce from the fridge, some of the butter will be slightly congealed at the top and sides, but easily mixes back in with a spoon. 

The consistency of the finished ground cherry sauce will be like runny preserves. 

6. Remove the chilled panna cotta from molds and spoon on ground cherry sauce.

If you’re not using the dishes you poured your hot panna cotta in as serving dishes… When you’re ready to serve your panna cotta (after at least 4 hours of chill time), prepare a fairly large bowl of hot tap water (not hotter than you can touch). 

Dip each panna cotta mold into the hot water for about 5-10 seconds. Remove and wipe off excess water with a towel. Then use a butter knife or small flexible spatula to scrape around the inside of each dish. 

Turn the panna cotta upside down on the serving dish/plate and give it a light tap with your hand until you hear it release. *Optional: we also chilled our serving plates so the panna cotta didn’t risk melting or sliding. 

Once plated, spoon ground cherry sauce over the top of each panna cotta. Serve immediately! 

Recipe: Panna cotta with ground cherry bourbon sauce

Panna cotta with ground cherry (Physalis pruinosa) bourbon sauce / Ground cherry dessert recipe / ground cherry recipes
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Panna cotta with ground cherry bourbon sauce

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: ground cherry desert, ground cherry recipes, make-ahead dessert, panna cotta, Physalis pruinosa
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8
Author: Aaron von Frank

Featuring the flavor of heirloom Physalis pruinosa fruit combined with an Italian classic, panna cotta with ground cherry bourbon sauce is one of the best and easiest make-ahead desserts you'll ever eat!

Ingredients

For panna cotta

  • 1 cup organic heavy cream
  • 3 cups organic half and half
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1 packet of powdered gelatin (7 grams or 2.5 teaspoons)
  • 2 tbsp cold water, for blooming gelatin
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract 

For ground cherry bourbon sauce

  • 1 cup ground cherries (measured without husks)
  • 1/4 cup organic cane sugar 
  • 2-3 tbsp grass-fed unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp water, to help prevent fruit scald
  • 2 tbsp bourbon (3/4 oz) - we used Bulleit
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (added and stirred in at end) 

Instructions

For panna cotta

  1. Put 2 tablespoons of COLD water into small microwave-safe bowl, then pour one gelatin packet into the water. Let sit and bloom for 5 minutes, then put into microwave for 10 seconds, to dissolve. Set aside.

  2. Put small saucepan over medium heat and add cream, half-and-half, and sugar, whisking constantly. Do NOT bring mixture to boil; only heat it to the point that it begins steaming. Remove pan from heat, add vanilla, then slowly pour in gelatin, slowly whisking as you go (don’t whisk too fast or you’ll make bubbles form on top).  

  3. Pour hot, liquid panna cotta into either final serving dishes or into forms/molds. (See details in article.) Let cool then refrigerate for AT LEAST four hours or up to three days before serving. If not serving same-day, cover each panna cotta with plastic wrap or an equivalent.

    When/if removing panna cotta from molds (assuming you're not serving it in the same dish you poured it into), put hot tap water into large bowl. Dip each panna cotta into the hot water for 5-10 seconds to heat the mold (don't let water flow onto panna cotta). Remove, towel dry dish, then go around the edge of the panna cotta with a butter knife or small flexible spatula. Turn mold upside down on serving plate and pat with hand until you hear the panna cotta release.

For ground cherry sauce

  1. Remove ground cherry husks. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add whole ground cherries and water, and let simmer for 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently with a spoon, until ground cherries are soft and starting to pop.

  2. Add sugar and salt, then simmer for another 5 minutes, continuing to stir regularly. Turn heat off, but leave the saucepan on the burner to use residual heat. Add vanilla and bourbon, and stir for another 2-3 minutes.

  3. Remove from heat and let cool enough to cover and put in fridge. When removing from fridge, stir it with a spoon to reincorporate any bits of congealed butter. You'll want to spoon or pour the ground cherry sauce chilled atop the panna cotta.

If you’ve had enough discipline not to eat all your fresh ground cherries, may this simple and delicious dessert be your reward! 

Other ground cherry articles you’ll want to chew on:

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