Ground Cherry and Basil Cheesecake with Fruit from the St. Lawrence Market

I remember on my first day of school I went to the St. Lawrence Market to get something to eat. I happened upon this small butcher shop which sold the most amazing bacon sandwich in the world. I guess this is a pretty big thing here because literally every single vendor here seems to have some form of a bacon/pea meal bacon sandwich on the menu. After being in the city for around a month and a half now, I can confidently say that the first bacon sandwich I had at Carnicero’s was the best.

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Since then, I’ve been back to this market every single week to get my afternoon croissant or grab an Italian sandwich downstairs (2 hours between classes is whack!). It super convenient being right next my school and it’s nice knowing I can go somewhere other than McDonalds to get some food on my breaks.

The market features over 120 vendors selling different meats, cheeses, fish, and produce. I will personally recommend all of the butcher shops there! They have all types of dry aged beef, and specialty cuts you won’t find in your everyday supermarket. Same goes for the fish, although I would rather buy it at the Kensington Market, Chinatown or an Asian supermarket because they have live fish tanks. As for produce, there is a couple of vendors on the first floor and the second has a few nicer ones, but the time to really go is on Saturday. Every Saturday (weather permitting), they feature a farmer’s market, where tons of vendors gather to sell their local (and not so local) products. If you’re looking to get some seasonal produce, this is the time to go.

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In my most recent visit, I was assigned the task of talking about a fruit for a project at school. Now, I could tell you about strawberries, or apples, but we’ve all heard of those before. I wanted to find a weird fruit to show you guys. Low and behold; the ground cherry!

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What the hell? That sounds awful. Is it like a cherry/potato combo? NO! It neither grows from the ground, or resembles a cherry. How misleading! Ground cherries are actually related to tomatillos and are called “ground” cherries because when they are ripe, they tend to fall on the ground.

So since picking these up, I’ve showed them to a lot of my friends and they ask me to describe them. My best description would be; feels like a tomato, tastes like a pineapple. IT’S WEIRD. I’m usually met with sideways head-turns and head scratches. So for all of you headscratchers out there, I’m going to break down the ground cherry for you.

Ground Cherries

Family: Solanaceae

Appearance: Yellow-Orange with Green or Brown Husk

Texture: Soft, Watery

Flavour: Sweet, similar to mango or pineapple or tropical fruit flavoured chewing gum

Season: Late July – August

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Most people use ground cherries for jams and jellies as they contain a lot of pectin (a chemical that helps the coagulation of fruit preserves). Often times people use them to make pie fillings or garnishes for cakes and salads. The would be a nice addition to a salad or you could probably make some form of sweet salsa or gazpacho with them.

Today will be my first time posting an original recipe on this blog! I’ll be making a ground cherry and basil cheesecake! I thought that basil would be a great addition to this cake because well…ground cherries kind of look like tomatoes…and tomatoes go with basil so why not experiment?

Cheesecake is probably the only dessert I’m capable of making because I am likely the worst baker you’ll ever meet. I’ve managed to make muffins that are as dense as brownies and banana bread as dry as a sandbox. Cheesecake however, is a different story. IT’S NOT ACTUALLY BAKING! It’s not even cooking for that matter, just a calculated mixing of ingredients and there’s NO WAY I CAN SCREW THIS UP!

My first step was to remove all the husks from the ground cherries.

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Next I mixed some melted butter and some graham cracker crumbs to form a crust which I lined in these little jars I found at the store.

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I mixed cream cheese, sour cream, some 35% cream, basil and sugar together (don’t ask me how much of each, I just mixed until the consistency was that of a cheesecake and it tasted good). Shortly after I had thought nothing had gone wrong (thank God) for some stupid reason I thought it would be a good idea to add an egg AND EVERYTHING WENT WRONG. I had some goopy, battery, liquid that was not at all right. I have no idea why I thought adding that egg was a good idea, but now I have to recover.

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*sigh* I guess I’m going to have to…*shudder*…bake this. Now I had no idea if the cream and sour cream would make this too airy, or the glass jars would shatter in the oven, but there was no way I was wasting these ingredients that I barely had enough money to pay for. So I preheated my oven to 350 and said a little prayer to the spirit of Julia Child.

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While anxiously awaiting my cheesecakes, I started on some sort of sauce/compote/jam I really don’t know what it is. I just took my de-husked ground cherries, a little splash of water (enough to fill the bottom of my saucepan), and enough sugar to cover the fruit. Boiled it and hoped that it would make something of a topping.


40 minutes later my cheesecakes had puffed up almost a half an inch and LOOKED AMAZING! I had succeeded! I’VE BAKED SOMETHING! THANK YOU SPIRIT OF JULIA CHILD!

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Top the cakes with the topping and add some garnish and…
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MY BEAUTIFUL BABIES!

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I know this was a long one this week! Thanks for sticking it out till the end! Until next time!

-Matt

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