Strawberry sorbet: from field to freezer to table to tasty in a few easy steps

Did you know that you don’t need an ice cream maker to make sorbet?

’Tis true. Take fruit, sugar, water, and a touch of citrus juice; blend as though you’re making a smoothie; freeze for about 4 hours, stirring two or three times; and there you have it:

Sorbet. Homemade ice cream on a shoestring.

I made sorbet for the first time more than 25 years ago, back when it was still relatively unknown. I’d acquired a White Mountain ice cream maker, the “armstrong” model. You know, the one you needed strong arms for as you turned and turned and turned the handle that churned the ice cream inside the metal bucket that sat in the wooden pail, surrounded by ice and rock salt.

At the end, you’d have soft-serve ice cream (hopefully without a side of rock salt); and a wet, salt-encrusted wooden bucket to hose off outside. It was an adventure. And not one I’d care to repeat, now that electric ice cream makers have appeared on the scene.

At the same time my husband gifted me with the White Mountain, I bought a book of ice cream recipes. Tacked onto the end of the book like an afterthought was a short chapter called “Sorbet.” SOAR-bett? What was that?

I soon learned the proper pronunciation, and discovered three other important facts as well: sorbet is EASY to make; doesn’t require an ice cream maker; and is the absolutely pure, delicious essence of fruit.

I made sorbet regularly, for awhile. Then it just kind of slipped off my radar. But recently, as I was putting a Cuisinart ice cream maker through its paces in our test kitchen, I remembered this simple summer dessert.

I found my old ice cream book, flipped it open to the sorbet section, and did a sorbet test: fresh vs. frozen strawberries. The fresh version definitely won; but even the sorbet made with frozen berries was out of this world.

And easy? Make sugar syrup. Add fruit. Purée. Freeze. Enjoy.

If you’re looking for a dessert that’s the essence of summer—fresh, delicious, and laid-back—you’ve found it.

Strawberry Sorbet, Two Ways.

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Let’s start with fresh strawberries. Yes, you can certainly use frozen berries; this is, after all, a frozen dessert. And I use frozen berries year-round. But the flavor of fresh fruit is amazingly complex and intense. So if you can grab some fresh local berries , as I’m able to do right now here in northern New England, it’s worth springing for them.

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We’ll begin with a Simple Freezer Sorbet. Boil water and sugar for 5 minutes to make a simple syrup. Remove from the heat, and chill in the fridge as you prepare the berries.

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Whirl the berries in a food processor till they’re basically liquefied, but still show quite a few chunks.

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Transfer to a bowl, and add the sugar syrup and lemon juice. Freshly squeezed, please; it makes a major difference. You can also use orange juice or lime juice, but whatever you use, please squeeze it yourself. It’s worth it.

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Transfer the mixture to a shallow pan. No, you don’t need to grease the pan. I’m using an 8” x 8” pan here. A 9” round pan would be fine, too. Put the pan in your freezer, uncovered.

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After a couple of hours, it should look about like this: frozen on top and around the edges, liquid under the crust and in the center. Take a spoon and stir it around.

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Wait another hour, and stir again; it’ll be about the texture of a ”slushy,”one of those frozen drinks the kids like. If it’s not, give it time; your freezer may be a bit warmer than the one we have here in the test kitchen.

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After another hour, it’s really beginning to firm up. At this point, you can purée it in your food processor, or using a hand blender. It’s not strictly necessary, but will make a smoother sorbet.

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Let it freeze for another 2 hours or so, till it’s as thick as you like. Once it’s the desired consistency, transfer it to a covered bowl or storage container, and leave it in the freezer. It’ll continue to “ripen” till it’s basically rock-hard. But about 10 minutes on the counter just prior to serving will make it “scoopable” again.

Serve in chilled bowls.

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Next, our Churned Sorbet, made with the help of an ice cream maker. First step: Make sure the bowl of your ice cream maker is totally frozen. A good 24 hours in the freezer should ensure this.

The following recipe came with the Cuisinart ice cream maker we use here in the King Arthur test kitchen. Start by squeezing 4 tablespoons of citrus juice—I love the strawberry-lime combo, so that’s what I’ve chosen. Lemon or orange are also entirely apropos.

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Purée the strawberries and juice in a food processor.

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Fair warning: the next step, pressing the purée through a fine sieve to remove the seeds, is a pain. Admittedly, it results in a beautifully smooth, creamy sorbet. But it’s something I’d consider bypassing next time.

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Press, press, press…

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Ah, at last: seedless purée. Combine this purée with the sugar syrup and corn syrup, and chill for at least 1 hour.

So you want to know if you can leave out the corn syrup? I don’t know, I didn’t test it. I’d assume so; you’ll want to add maybe an additional 3 tablespoons sugar to the initial boiled syrup. Give it a try; let us know.

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Attach the frozen freezer bowl to your ice cream maker. Add the chilled purée. Put the lid on, and press the button to start.

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About 20 minutes later, the sorbet will look about like this.

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And in 30 minutes, it’ll be nicely thick and smooth. Transfer it to a bowl, cover the bowl, and let it “ripen” in the freezer for a couple of hours, or until it’s as hard as you like.

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Serve in chilled bowls. On the left, the Simple Freezer Sorbet. On the right, the Churned Sorbet. Notice the churned is smoother, and lighter-colored than the freezer sorbet; that’s from having more air worked into it as it churns.

One final note: Can you interchange these recipes, and make the freezer sorbet in the ice cream maker, and the churned sorbet in your freezer? Sure, be my guest.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Strawberry Sorbet Two Ways.

Buy vs. Make

Buy: Häagen-Dazs Raspberry Sorbet, 28¢/ounce

Make at home: Simple Freezer Strawberry Sorbet, 11¢/ounce

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. hddonna

    This looks delicious and refreshing! By the way, I gave my husband a hand-cranked White Mountain freezer for college graduation, just before we got married, in 1975, and we’ve used it ever since. It’s a favorite family activity, and we still think it makes the best ice cream ever. Our just-turned-one grandson loves it, too. We made some today, and he greeted every spoonful with open mouth, followed by “mmmmm!” and a big grin! I recently splurged, though, on the Cuisinart model that has a compressor so you don’t need to crank, and you don’t need to freeze the container, and though it does make a racket, we think it’s totally worth it. I’m very pleased with the results, and now we can have homemade ice cream all the time… but when the whole family comes to visit, we still like to do it the old-fashioned way. I’m going to do your sorbet one day soon—and David Lebovitz’s chocolate sherbet is high on my list of things to try, too. Happy Indepence Day!

    Hi – Same vintage (me, you, and the ice cream makers!) – we got ours in 1976. I admit, they do make good ice cream. AN D the electric makers, do, too (and are a whole lot easier but, as you say, less spectacular in the process). Thanks for sharing – PJH

    Reply
  2. Mags

    I hope you gals/guys are getting weekend and holiday pay.

    What a wonderful post…and delicious sounding sorbet recipe.

    Hi Mags – no rest for the wicked! I enjoy this – I’m actually on a boat right now, with Internet access from shore. We’re an employee-owned company, so we try harder… Thanks for the kind comment. Hope you try the recipe, it’s really easy and DELICIOUS. PJH

    Reply
  3. Gina

    I just picked two quarts of berries myself on Thursday, and I have a Cuisinart ice cream maker, so I definitely need to give this a try! However, lately I’ve been making a strawberry-buttermilk ice cream that is out of this world! The first time I made it, I used two cups of cream and one cup of (real!) buttermilk. For the latest batch, I used half cream and half buttermilk. It made the texture a little more like sherbet (which I rather liked), and it was a little tangier. Either way, GOOD STUFF during the height of strawberry season! Here’s my recipe:

    Strawberry-Buttermilk Ice Cream

    1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled
    1 cup sugar
    juice of half a lemon
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    pinch of salt (for that old-fashioned, hand-churned flavor!)
    2 cups heavy cream
    1 cup buttermilk

    Mash the berries into a pulp or liquefy them in the food processor. Strain to remove the bulk of the seeds. Mix in the sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then gently mix in the cream and buttermilk until uniformly pink. Pour into an ice cream maker, and freeze according to the machine’s instructions. Transfer to another container and freeze until very firm (a few hours).

    Thanks, Gina – I’ll definitely give this a try. Never thought of buttermilk, but I’ll bet it’d be like frozen yogurt… YUM. PJH

    Reply
  4. Sue

    That looks so refreshing!
    We have the ‘armstrong’ White Mountain ice cream maker too, and I must say that it’s lost it’s appeal over the years, despite the outstanding ice cream that comes out of it.
    My husband had a birthday last week and I gave him the ice cream maker attachment for our Kitchen Aid. We look forward to using it!

    Interesting, Sue – let us know how that KitchenAid attachment works. Should work just fine – I always wanted to try it, never got one… Have fun! PJH

    Reply
  5. Jeri Hurd

    Wow! This is incredible! I just took it out of the ice-cream maker and stuck it in the freezer. Of COURSE we had to lick the paddle and “clean” the bucket…what great flavor, and no ice crystals so far, which has always been my problem when making sorbet. I did add more lime juice, as I though it was too sweet. Next time I would just add less sugar.

    grin–and you were right about the sieving! I have sore muscles where I didn’t even realize I had muscles!

    How would you make a lemon sorbet, since there’s no fruit to make up the volume? Just add more water to the juice?

    Exactly, Jeri. Make a strong-flavored lemonade, basically, and freeze it. You could also take out the seeds and purée the pulp to add, as well. And some zest? Sounds like it would be a winner… PJH

    Reply
  6. NeneAdams

    Two years ago, we had a bumper crop of strawberries (I grow them in the backyard), so I cut them up, froze them, then just dumped a good handful into the blender with a spoonful of simple syrup and a splash of lime juice. When processed, it was like a fresh sorbet, and I didn’t have to use the ice cream maker at all. I’ve done the same thing with other frozen fruit like blueberries, peaches, blackberries, and mixed fruits.

    Excellent idea – bet you could freeze seedless orange sections and do the same thing. YUM. Thanks for sharing, Nene – PJH

    Reply
  7. Sharon

    I have the Kitchenaid ice cream attachment and it’s wonderful!! I keep the bowl in my extra freezer so it’s ready to go at any time. The gelato recipe that comes with the attachement is well worth the time but I will definitely be trying this sorbet recipe soon!!! Looks fabulous! Thanks so much for all you do ….

    Reply
  8. Erica

    Use the first method with this stellar recipe from an ancient Grand Marnier pamphlet:

    6 cups hulled, washed fresh strawberries
    2 cups sugar (depending on berry sweetness)
    juice of three lemons and three oranges
    1/2 cup of Grand Marnier

    Dust the berries with the sugar and leave for about 30 minutes. Then, in two batches, puree in blender with juices. Put in large bowl and stir in Grand Marnier. Freeze for a couple of hours in 9×13 baking pan, then blend with mixer until mushy, and refreeze until firm. Can serve as is or with whipped cream. The best ever!

    And maybe the Grand Marnier keeps it from freezing rock-hard, too, due to the alcohol – COOL! Pun intended :) PJH

    Reply
  9. Lesli

    I have the KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker attachment and LOVE IT. I’ve made several flavors of ice cream, gelato, and sorbet. The mango sorbet I make hits it out of the park every time.

    Whenever I make my sorbets, I don’t bother with a simple syrup. Just fruit, sugar, lemon juice. I do let the fruit and sugar macerate, though. I might try simple syrup next time.

    Reply
  10. Tammy

    Just when I came to the website to look for a strawberry recipe, this one was up! Serendipity – I HAD to make it! And it was soooo good. I’m going to resist making it again until I have company, I would eat it up myself too fast!

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    Reply
  11. Marian

    Here in Southern Cal, we have had a lot of little yogurt shops popping up serving frozen tart yogurt in a variety of flavors and then you put your choices of fruit, candy, nuts etc on top. Pay by the ounce. I decided to try my own tart yogurt and because I am watching my sugar intake I used low glycemic palm sugar. 1 qt. whole plain yogurt, 1/2 cup palm sugar and a little vanilla. You can add chopped up strawberries, mango, peach, nectarine or leave it plain and add the chopped fruit on top after it’s frozen. I used our Cuisinart 2 qt ice cream freezer and it was delicious and refreshing.

    Reply
  12. Angela

    I can’t wait to try out this recipe this weekend, however, I was wondering if I could substitute the strawberries with some canned peaches that I have in my cupboard? Would there be any changes to the recipe?

    I don’t think this will work, but if you are up for a little experimentation, go for it, have fun. Frank @ KAF.

    Angela, I disagree with Frank; I think this would work just fine. I’d increase the citrus juice and decrease the sugar just a tad, if you use peaches canned in syrup. If peaches canned in water, I’d still increase the citrus a bit, to highlight their flavor. Go for it! PJH

    Reply
  13. Di

    You’re such an inspiration! We’re fans of Dreyer’s Fruit and Juice bars ($3.39/box of 6), but thanks to this post there will be a taste test after I find the popsicle molds. Your company is certainly a pleasure to do business with!

    Thanks so much for your kind words, Di – much appreciated. PJH

    Reply
  14. Sara

    I have a frost-free freezer as part of my refrigerator, so every once in a while it defrosts. I’ve tried one of the “bowl in the freezer” type ice cream makers but I think the bowl never got as cold as it was supposed to be because of the automatic defrost feature. Do folks who have success with this type of ice cream maker have chest freezers that do not self-defrost?

    Sara, unless your freezer defrosts every couple of hours (does it?), I wouldn’t think that would matter. But it sounds like it might not be cold enough overall. See if you can stick a thermometer in there and take its temperature; it should be down around 0°F, I’d think, to really freeze that bowl solid. See if it has a “colder” dial… PJH

    Reply
  15. mary

    Angela,

    Back in the early ’90s, I was taught how to make coffee granita, and as an experiment decided to try making a peach granita, using a large can of peaches. I essentially pureed them in my food processor (not adding anything as they were the kind packed in syrup, which I discarded), and froze them, stirring every hour until the texture was granita-like. I served it for dessert with a raspberry puree, and it was a hit. I’m sure pureed fresh peaches would be marvelous, but you could probably take a shot at it with canned to see how it turns out.

    Reply
  16. Steve

    That is a great use for the flood of strawberries you end up with during harvest season!

    Wow, wish I had a flood of strawberries right about now, Steve… the Florida berries are late this year, usually we see them in the supermarket up here in New England by now. PJH

    Reply
  17. Candace

    Many years ago, pre-1977 as it was pre-child, we had a gang of friends on our porch making ice cream in our old White Mountain freezer. When we finished, our friend said, “Here, I’ll help clean up” and before we could stop her she picked up the bucket and emptied it on the lawn. All that salt water killed the grass in the throw-pattern, and it was many years before it grew back. To this day you can still see where it was as the grass grows differently there. But, it was a hot day, and the ice cream was great!

    Reply
  18. Dee

    Can this recipe be used to make freezer pops or do you need to stir/churn it while it freezes?

    I certainly do not see why this recipe couldn’t be used for freezer pops. Give it a try and see how you like it!-Jon

    Reply
  19. Debbie

    I am wondering how much you can reduce the sugar and still get the right texture. I have a lot of frozen organic strawberries I picked late last fall in the freezer.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Depends what you mean by the “right” texture, Debbie – I’d suggest you make a small test batch (maybe half the recipe) with the amount of sugar you feel is right for you; that’ll give you a starting point for successfully turning more of those strawberries into yummy sorbet. PJH

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