When I was growing up, I used to suck my thumb.
I didn’t just suck my thumb when I was, say, 3 or 4 though. I sucked my thumb clear until I was 9 years old. Thanks to the wonders of orthodontic technology, you’d never know it to look at me, but it’s true. At the age of 9, I guess I’d had enough teasing from classmates, not to mention nagging from family, and decided it was time to quit. In the same way that some people quit smoking, I quit my thumb-sucking and instantly started eating and developed an obsession with food. I mean, here we are over two decades later, and I’m sharing another recipe for something I can stuff into my face.
A few years before I gave it up, I got pine sap on my thumb. I honestly don’t remember how old I was, or even how it happened, but I think I was probably about 6 or 7 and that I must have picked up a freshly fallen pine cone or something like that.
I remember that at this age I was well aware of the fact that I was too old to still be sucking my thumb, and that I should probably try to quit, but I was a stubborn little bugger and I wasn’t ready to give it up. I guess I should have taken the sap as motivation or a sign, but nope. I liked having my thumb in my mouth and I wanted to keep it there.
The problem with trying to suck your thumb when there’s pine sap on it is that pine sap isn’t all that palatable. It’s pretty terrible in fact. Think turpentine, but sticky and stubborn. It’s acrid, pungent, and intensely bitter with a distinct hint of evil poison from hell.
The first time my thumb went into my mouth, I ran into my grandmother’s house screaming and crying that my beloved thumb was coated in horrible sticky awful. Right away, she reached into the freezer and handed me a fudgesicle to help me get the taste out of my mouth while she tried to get the sap off my skin.
My father and grandfather were in the construction and masonry business and always had a big green bar of intensely gritty heavy duty pumice soap sitting on the sink in the laundry room. We went straight back there for a rigorous scrubbing with the Lava soap, but alas, the sticky stuff had staying power. Even with the visible signs of the sap gone, the taste seemed to be permanently attached to my poor little thumb.
That didn’t seem to keep me from trying to stick my thumb in my mouth though, and it also didn’t stop me from running to Grandma for another fudgesicle. Over and over. Thumb in mouth, awful taste, run to Grandma, fudgesicle. And repeat.
By the end of the day, the sap flavor may or may not have already been thumb-sucked away, but I knew how to make the most of a bad situation. I’m sure my poor grandmother must have gone through a whole box of fudgesicles that day, though my sister probably got a few of them too.
To this day, every single time I have a chocolate ice pop, I think of the sap incident. You’d think that the experience might have ruined chocolate popsicles for me, and that I might associate the flavor of pine sap with them, but lucky for me it didn’t work out that way. I guess my love of chocolate, and my love of stuffing my face, outweighed the sap-induced trauma.
Even now, as a full grown adult human, I can’t resist a good chocolate ice pop. I think the best way to ensure a super chocolatey and creamy pop is to start with a pudding base rather than something like frozen chocolate milk. To turn up the volume, and add something seasonal and healthy-ish, I paired these pops with fresh ripe sweet cherries. Cherry season is fleeting so I want to make sure I get my fill before it’s too late. To be sure they imparted some of their flavor into the pudding, I tossed them, quartered, right into the pudding base as it cooked and thickened on the stove.
The resulting ice pops are deep, dark, & decadently chocolatey. They’re just sweet enough, with a thick, rich, and unbelievably creamy texture. There’s a nice subtle hint of bright red cherry flavor, but the fudgey chocolate takes center stage. Hidden in every few creamy bites, or licks, or slurps, or however you choose to eat these; there are bursting little bites of fresh jammy bing cherries. These are the perfect indulgent treat on a hot day, and while there’s something evocative of childhood about chocolate ice pops, the subdued sweetness and the addition of sweet cherries give them a slightly more mature edge.
Cherry & Chocolate Pudding Ice Pops
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup Dutch Process cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups milk
1/2 lb sweet cherries, pitted and quartered
3 egg yolks, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom, whisk together sugar, salt, cornstarch, & cocoa. Whisk in milk, remove any lumps, and start cooking over medium heat. Add quartered cherries and cook until thickened and bubbly. Continue cooking and stirring regularly for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually stir about 1 cup of milk into the beaten egg yolks. Add yolk mixture to pan, stir, and bring back to a gentile boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook and stir for another 2 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla. Cover and cool for about 20 or 30 minutes. Evenly distribute pudding between 10 3-oz ice pop molds. Add popsicle sticks, cover, and freeze for at least 4 hours or until frozen through. Remove from molds by dipping into warm water or running under a warm tap for 15 to 20 seconds.