Was it Marco Polo who brought back to Italy a recipe for sorbet from China in the 13th century? Or did the Roman Emperor Nero invent the frozen dessert much earlier, using a mixture of mountain snow, honey and wine? Perhaps it was the royal Catherine de’ Medici who brought the sorbet to Paris where it was quickly adopted as the coolest new street food around.
Although the origin of the sorbet is hotly debated, the popularity of this cool, refreshing dessert is not. Sorbets are ideal on a hot summer afternoon, when you want something sweet, but not heavy. Lacking all the dairy and whipped air of traditional ice cream, sorbets are dense and flavorful, with less fat to boot. Flavored with fresh fruit juices, wine or liquor, these bright, icy desserts blend the separate acts of eating and drinking into one slushy experience.
For a bright summer treat that has been popular for centuries, try the following sorbet recipes and cool down with fun new fruit flavors.
You’ll need an ice cream maker to produce the smoothest results with your sorbet, or just use your freezer for a grainy, crystal-like finish. Always use fresh, organic fruits when possible, and you can always replace the sugar with an alternative sweetener like maple syrup, honey or agave. Each recipe makes about one quart of ice cream.
1. Raspberry-Lime Sorbet: In a food processor, puree 2 pounds of raspberries with 1 cup sugar, 1 ounce fresh lime juice, ½ ounce vodka (such as Grey Goose) and a pinch of salt. Move mixture to freezer and chill for 4-6 hours, until it reaches 40 degrees. Transfer to your ice cream maker and churn until it has the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Freeze for 4 hours or until ready to serve.
2. Margarita Sorbet: In a saucepan over medium heat, bring 3 cups water and ¾ cup agave syrup to a boil; remove and cool for 15 minutes. Add the juice and zest of three medium-sized limes, and then stir in 3 tablespoons of tequila blanco. Refrigerate until cold, and then churn in an ice cream maker to desired consistency.
3. Banana-Coconut Sorbet: Boil 1 ½ cups sugar with 3 cups water and simmer slowly for 5 minutes or until dissolved. In a food processor, blend 3 ripe, peeled bananas and 1 can (15 ounce) coconut cream. Add the banana mixture to the sugar water, mix and chill for 3-4 hours. Add to ice cream maker and churn until desire consistency. Garnish with toasted coconut.
4. Spicy Mango Sorbet: Puree 4 cups fresh mango with two peeled bananas, 1/ 2 cup lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1 cup of maple or agave syrup. Place mixture into ice cream maker and churn until the consistency of soft-serve.
5. Mojito Sorbet: Heat 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and ½ cup of mint leaves (packed) in a saucepan to boiling, and simmer for 5 minutes. Cool, then strain out mint leaves. Now mix the cooled mint syrup with ¼ cup lime zest, 1 cup fresh lime juice, 1 ½ cups citrus-flavored sparkling water and 3 tablespoons of rum. Add to ice cream maker and churn until desired consistency.
6. Peach-Champagne Sorbet: Puree in a food processor 2 pounds of peaches (peels and pits removed), 1 cup sugar, 1 ounce lemon juice, ½ ounce Champagne or sparkling white wine and a pinch of salt. Chill mixture in your freezer until it reaches 40 degrees, usually 4-6 hours. Now churn in your ice cream maker until it has the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Freeze for 4 hours or until ready to serve.
Image: Angela Schmeidel Randall