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.
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.
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.
Whirl the berries in a food processor till they're basically liquefied, but still show quite a few chunks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Purée the strawberries and juice in a food processor.
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.
Press, press, press...
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.
Attach the frozen freezer bowl to your ice cream maker. Add the chilled purée. Put the lid on, and press the button to start.
About 20 minutes later, the sorbet will look about like this.
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.
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