Red, White, and Blue

“On a picnic morning, without a warning,” goes the opening song of the 1955 film “Picnic,” which was filmed in the Hutchinson/Halstead area of south central Kansas. When you’re yearning for a little bit of summer or a bit of adventure, make this portable dessert that you can bring along to a potluck, a picnic, or a Fourth of July celebration.
With a nod to fresh cream and berry treats beloved by those of Scandinavian descent, this no-bake dessert features a homemade blackberry syrup flavored with a little lavender (from your garden or favorite herb emporium). Just a little bit of lavender makes the berries taste, well, “berrier.”   The Blackberry Lavender Syrup is also good over shaved ice for a wonderful snow cone, or over pancakes and waffles. The cheesecake-flavored  topping holds up well in the heat.
Canning jars are the new compotes, so buy a dozen in the canning section of the grocery or hardware store and use them over and over again. Use this recipe as a template with other fresh fruits and good quality syrups (fresh peaches with almond syrup, raspberries with raspberry syrup--you get the picture). 
Summer in a Jar

Serves 8 to 12

Blackberry Lavender Syrup
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon dried lavender buds
1 cup blackberry jam
Fresh lemon juice

2 cups cubed, frozen and thawed pound cake
2 cups fresh blueberries, blackberries, sliced strawberries or a mix
1 cup Blackberry Lavender Syrup, plus more for drizzling
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Fresh mint or lemon balm sprigs to garnish

1.  In a large, microwave-safe glass measuring cup, combine the sugar, water, and lavender. Microwave on high until the sugar dissolves, about 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in the blackberry jam. Let the mixture steep for 20 to 30 minutes. Season to taste with lemon juice, strain the mixture into a bowl, and let cool.  Use right away or store in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
2. Divide the cubed cake or cookie crumbs among 8 half-pint canning jars or place in the bottom of a trifle bowl. Arrange the fruit over the cake or cookie crumbs. Drizzle the individual canning jars with 1 tablespoon syrup or use all in the trifle bowl.
3. Combine the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in a food processor and process until smooth. Divide the mixture among the canning jars and spoon over the fruit or spoon all over the fruit in the trifle bowl. (Can be made ahead, covered, and refrigerated up to 24 hours before serving.) Serve chilled or at room temperature drizzled with a little more syrup. Garnish with a sprig of mint of lemon balm, if you like.

Staycation! Tasty tour of the Heartland in just 6 minutes. Listen in.

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