My mom says looking at German makes her want to gargle. But listen: this dish is not at all like mouthwash. It's Berlin in the summertime, it's what's on those seasonal chalkboard menus outside of sidewalk cafés under the boulevard tree canopies. It's cold-smooth-tart-creamy-fruity-sweet. And vanilla-y. Act fast, Seattle, because it depends on red currants, available at the U-District farmer's market, and likely only a couple more weeks. Don't say I didn't warn you.
For the Grütze:
1 pint each strawberries, red cherries, raspberries, red currants (cleaned, hulled, pitted, etc.--cut cherries in half)
1/2-1 cup sugar
1-2 T. cornstarch
Put washed and prepared fruit (drained well) in a large saucepan and mash with a potato masher until much of the juice has been released. You want the fruit to stay relatively chunky, though. Depending on the sweetness of your fruit, add the juice of 1-2 lemons and 1/2-1 cup sugar. I wish I could tell you more specifically--but it just depends on that fruit. The result should be sweet, but not toothache-inducing--remember that the vanilla sauce will be sweet, too. And the lemon should brighten it, but not to the point that it screams CITRUS. Having achieved the perfect balance (for you) of sweet and tart, bring to a boil, stirring regularly, and then lower to a simmer. You are not making jam here. You want the fruit to read fresh, not preserved, so only simmer for a few minutes (skimming and removing foam from the surface). Meanwhile, dissolve 1-2 T. cornstarch* in just enough cold water to make a slurry. Pour in a steady stream into the bubbling fruit, stirring constantly. When it starts to thicken, remove from the heat and let cool (stirring occasionally to keep a skin from forming). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or at least 5-6 hours. It should be absolutely chilled. Serve topped with vanilla sauce.
*Some people add more cornstarch to get a more solid product that you can mold. I don't care for that--I really like the presentation of the thickened compote in a glass dish, with the vanilla sauce filling the irregular peaks and valleys. That is to say, the first Rote Grütze I ever had was unmolded, and that's the standard for me.
1 1/2 c. whole milk
1/2 c. (minus 2 T.) heavy cream
2 egg yolks
2 t. cornstarch
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
scrapings of 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 t. vanilla paste)
Bring milk, cream, vanilla slowly to a boil (stir occasionally so it doesn't scorch). While it's heating, beat egg yolks, sugar, salt, cornstarch, and 2 T. heavy cream (make sure the cream is very cold) with a whisk. Beat a few tablespoons of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk-sugar mixture to temper it; return all the egg mixture into the milk mixture, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, lower temperature (stirring all the while), and cook until thickened. Remove from heat. Pour through a strainer into a bowl. When cooled somewhat, cover and chill thoroughly.
Serve over Rote Grütze.
tip: I've also used the Grütze and the vanilla sauce as two components of a great trifle. Layer it with some Chambord-soaked cake and whipped cream in a trifle dish. Yum.