strawberry, lime and black pepper popsicles

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Strawberry, Lime and Black Pepper Popsicles
Strawberry cooking and freezing technique from Paletas, flavors from the Red and Black cocktail at Back Forty

Prior to falling in love with this cocktail, I’d only paired strawberry with lemon, and I was missing out because lime is the perfect contrast to strawberry’s spun sugar/cotton candy/pink frosting earnestness. It’s second only to the black pepper, which you can add at whatever level you’re comfortable with (1/4 teaspoon was only vaguely noticeable, and did not even go mentioned by the resident spice-sensitive preschooler), needn’t add straightforward spiciness so much as a background pick-me-up. You’ll be amazed by how well strawberries and black pepper go together; they’re totally the yin to each other’s yang, even when you’re not doing The After-Bedtime Dip in white tequila.

Texture-wise, we love that these popsicles, since they’re made from tender fresh strawberries, don’t get rock hard (the way ones made from juice will) but stay tender and totally nibble-able.

4 slightly heaped cups (about 20 ounces) fresh, ripe strawberries, hulled and quartered
2/3 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (we used the latter but use less if you’re sensitive to sugar)
1/2 cup water
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (use less for a barely detectable bite, more if you’d like it more present)
Pinch of sea salt

Combine the strawberries and sugar in a bowl; let them sit for 15 minutes if they’re really fresh, longer if they’re firm or off-season berries. Transfer mixture to a saucepan and add the water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. You can hasten this along by transferring them back to their macerating bowl and setting that in a bowl of ice water.

Once cooled, transfer to a blender or food processor, add the lime juice, pepper and salt and blend until mostly smooth (I find some leftover bits lovely in here). Divide between popsicle molds.

[You’ll have about 3 1/4 cups of the mixture, which divides evenly among 10 1/3-cup molds, with 1/4-inch space on top to make room for expansion in freezing.]

Freeze for about 5 hours, or until completely frozen. Dip in lukewarm water for 10 seconds to unmold each popsicle.

If After-Bedtime Dipping: Put a shot of white tequila in a glass wide enough to dip popsicle. Yes, you can double-dip.

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