Icy Cold

It seems like winter remembered to arrive just in time for Pesach this year. In spite of the chill in the air, we like making frozen sorbets for dessert after heavy Pesach meals.

The word “sorbet” is derived from the Arab word sharbat, which means “fragrant fruit drink.” Other folklore believes that the Roman Emperor Nero invented sorbet when he had runners pass buckets of snow hand-over-hand from the mountains to his banquet hall, where it was then mixed with honey and wine. Whatever the origin, we think it makes a great dessert and refreshing afternoon snack.

Sorbet is not to be confused with sherbet, as sorbet contains only fruit, water and sugar while the sherbert is a fruity-flavored frozen dairy product containing milk or cream. Although some people may interchange the terms “sorbet” and “sherbet,” manufacturers must designate their products according to industry rules.

Sorbets are a simple combination of fresh fruit or fruit juice with sugar. About two pounds of fruit will be perfect for making a quart of sorbet. A little more or less is fine; this is a basic formula, not an exact science. Purée this fruit and add a little sugar, and that’s your sorbet base.

The easiest way to add sugar is to make simple sugar syrup because we don’t want the graininess of solid sugar. Simmer equal parts sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved and let it cool. Many fruits are sweet enough on their own and require very little added sugar. But keep in mind that freezing dulls flavors, so you want it to taste a little too sweet before freezing.

Sugar is also crucial for the sorbet’s texture. Too little sugar and the sorbet becomes icy; too much and it can be slushy. When the sugar level is just right, the sorbet will taste creamy and melt evenly across your tongue.

This recipe is refreshing any old time, so don’t pack it away with the Pesach dishes!

Mango Sorbet

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

4 ripe mangoes (about 3 1/2 pounds total)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Bring water and sugar to a boil and continue boiling until all the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool. This is your basic simple syrup and can be used to make sorbet from any fruit or as a base for lemonade.

Using a serrated peeler, remove as much skin as possible from each mango. With a knife, cut, remove flesh from pit, and place in a food processor. Add simple syrup and lemon juice to processor and purée until smooth.

Freeze mango purée in an ice-cream maker or any shallow container. If you are not using an ice-cream maker, remove from freezer after 3 hours and beat mixture for 1 minute. Return to freezer for 3 hours. Repeat beating and freezing twice more until sorbet is smooth and light.

Strawberry or Blueberry Sorbet

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

5 cups or 2 pounds frozen unsweetened strawberries

2 tablespoons Pesach liqueur (optional)

1 vanilla

Bring water and sugar to a boil and continue boiling until all the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, thaw the strawberries and then place the thawed strawberries in a food processor and process until puréed. Add the optional liqueur and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled. Once the simple syrup and pureed strawberries are completely chilled, combine the simple syrup with the puréed strawberries. Pour the mixture into a shallow covered container and place in the freezer.

After 3-4 hours, when the sorbet is completely frozen, remove from freezer and let stand at room temperature until partially thawed. Transfer the partially thawed sorbet to the food processor, and process to break up the large ice crystals that have formed on the sorbet.

Repeat freezing and processing for light texture.