If you've never heard of them, ground cherries are odd little yellow-orange berries that look like miniature tomatillos. About the size and shape of a cranberry, they are firm and smooth, but like the tomatillo, they have a papery shroud over the fruit. The plant on which they grow apparently looks like a short tomato shrub, but here's the thing: they don't really taste like tomatoes at all. How does strawberry, pineapple, or maybe kiwi sound? We first discovered them three weeks ago at Bar Avignon in SE Portland. The ground cherries were served as part of an appetizer that we ordered and were meant to be paired with the cheese on the plate. Peeling open each light husk revealed the fruit inside, and after just one bite we knew we had to make a drink out of them. Fortunately, we found Naked Acres Farm selling them at a mid-week farmer's market in town.
With so many possibilities available to us we wanted to avoid taking this idea too far into obscurity. Instead of following an unusual fruit with more odd ingredients, we decided to go with the simplest option we could imagine. Since the flavor of the fruit is already a little sweet, and given its subtle similarities to strawberry, we opted to test the ground cherries in a daiquiri.
Ground Cherry Daiquiri
2 oz white rum
1 oz lime juice
.75 oz simple syrup
12 ground cherries
Peel the husks off of the ground cherries and muddle them with the simple syrup. Add the other ingredients and shake with ice. Double strain through fine mesh into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a pair of ground cherries on a pick.
Using only ten or twelve peeled and muddled ground cherries, we were able to impart a good amount of flavor into the cocktail. The lime juice definitely gave them a boost, and a little 1:1 simple syrup kept everything in balance. You really need to double strain this drink through a conical strainer or even cheesecloth to remove the tiny seeds and pulp. It's not something you have to worry about when you are eating them, but the seeds would look unsightly in a cocktail. We chose an inexpensive white rum for the base so as not to overpower the fruit with too much influence from the spirit.
From a flavor perspective, it worked so well that it left us wondering how far we could take the concept using other spirits. Certainly, gin would have brought additional botanicals to the glass that might have done wonders. We will have to do more experiments with darker spirits to see if the flavors clash. Using lemon instead of lime might work nicely with whiskey (or maybe even white whiskey). It might also be interesting to test grapefruit, or even move away from sours and bring in some vermouth or amaro. The possibilities seem pretty endless right now. Fortunately, unpeeled ground cherries have a great shelf life and we have a big bowl of them!