Sunday, January 6, 2013

Best Ever Whipped Fruit Salad

My great-aunt has been bringing this fruit salad to family gatherings for years and it is a favorite for sure.  This is my variation of the recipe she uses.  It is as much a dessert as anything but its really good for breakfast, lunch and dinner too!  It makes a ton though and doesn't keep well for more than a day or two so only make this when you have a place to share it.

What you'll need:
1 jar maraschino cherries (stemless)
1 can mandarin oranges
1 can pineapple rings or chunks
1 large can pear halves
1 large can peach halves
1-2 pounds of seedless grapes (red, green or mixed)
1 quart of heavy whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar (I start with 1/2 cup and adjust to my preferred taste. My great-aunt says she never uses more than 1/3 cup.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 apples (any combination of gala, fuji, granny smith, or other crunchy apples works)
2 bananas
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (you can use more if you like)
At least one full day before you need to serve this, start by draining all the canned fruit.  I like to save all the canned fruit juices into a large pitcher to make a fruit punch or add a 2 liter of lemon-lime soda pop to make a sparkling fruit punch.   You can also freeze part of it in a mold for an ice ring for your punch.  It just seems like such a shame to pour all those lovely and tasty fruit juices down the drain.
I use a colander to drain my fruit and layer it strategically.  My great-aunt says she keeps the fruit all separate until the day it is served but I never have that kind of room in my fridge to drain them separately and I like my fruit to be cold when I mix the whipped cream in so it stays firm.  Drain your cherries first and put them into the bottom of a large colander sitting inside a large mixing bowl.  There should be a decent amount of space between the bottom of the colander bowl and mixing bowl like this footed colander above - your fruit will drain an amazing amount of extra juice overnight.  Doing the cherries first will keep your cherries from draining onto the other fruits and staining everything pink.
Cut all the cherries in half.  Drain the mandarin oranges next and add them to the colander.  Next drain the pineapple.  If using chunks, cut them in half.  If using rings, cut them into small chunks roughly the size of the cherry halves.  Add to the colander.  Next drain the peaches and pears, cut into chunks the same size as your pineapple chunks, and add to the colander.
Wash your grapes, cut them in half and add to the colander.  Your colander should be very full by the time you are done.  Cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated at least overnight but you can let this drain for 2 days if you like.
The day you will serve this, you will make your whipped cream and finish the rest of your fruit.  The quantities I give above will make way more whipped cream than you need, but since you usually will make this for potlucks or holidays there are always uses for the extra and its awesome with pretty much anything.  For this recipe, you will whip the cream until its almost like butter (in fact, don't use a blender to make this or you actually will end up with sweet butter like my cousin did instead of the whipped cream).  Also, make sure you are not working in a warm environment - the cream will not whip right if you try to make this in a hot kitchen where you have been baking all day.  I usually do this first thing the morning of the party (then I can use some of the extra whipped cream with breakfast too!).  I start by using my electric mixer with the two beaters on high to beat the entire large container of heavy whipping cream.  Once the cream starts to thicken, I add 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar as I beat the cream.  After some of the powdered sugar has been added, I add the vanilla and continue whipping.  It will take a total of about 10-15 minutes to get the consistency you want so don't be discouraged.  If your cream doesn't start to firm up, add a little more powdered sugar at a time.  Stop to taste it until it reaches the level of sweetness you prefer.  When it starts to look like the photo above where it is stiff and almost starting to get chunky then you are done.

Chop your apples into chunks about the same size as the rest of your fruit and slice the bananas and place in a really big mixing bowl with your walnuts.
Take the fruit from your colander and add it to the apples & bananas.  This shows how much extra juice drained overnight - this is a large mixing bowl and its about half full.  Add the juice to your pitcher of fruit punch.
Then carefully fold roughly half of the whipped cream into the fruit salad.  You will want to fold this in and mix as gently and little as possible until everything is well coated to avoid turning the bananas and other soft fruits to mush.  Keep this refrigerated until serving.  This usually only keeps one night before the bananas will start to turn and the cream will start to get watery so eat up!

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