A couple of weekends ago, my husband brought home a gigantic watermelon. “They were selling them by the side of the road,” he said. “I tasted it and it was so sweet I had to buy one.”
How were the two of us going to eat a whole watermelon before it went off? I had the answer! I would make watermelon sorbet.
You can freeze pretty much any liquid into sorbet — I’ve seen them do it on Iron Chef, and I’ve even made chocolate sorbet from Ghiradelli hot chocolate mix dissolved in water — but fruit sorbet is the best way to go. Because sorbet has no dairy, it is lower in fat than ice cream, although there are still plenty of calories from the added sugar. But the flavors of sorbet are so pure and intense that it really showcases perfectly ripe summer fruit, and a small serving goes a long way.
There are two “tricks” to making good sorbet. The first is to taste, taste, taste. Depending on how ripe the fruit is, it can vary a lot in sweetness and acidity. So start with the smallest amount of sugar and taste as you go, adding lemon juice if necessary. Remember that the flavors will intensify upon freezing, so a mix that tastes moderately sweet before may be unbearably sweet after. Obviously, it takes a lot of practice, but that just means you get to eat more sorbet.
The second “trick” is to add a small amount of alcohol. The alcohol won’t freeze, so it will give the sorbet a smoother, less grainy texture, and your sorbet won’t turn into a chunk of fruit-flavored ice. If you don’t want any alcohol flavor, use vodka. But it’s fun to choose an alcohol that complements the flavor of the fruit. For instance, I added rum to my watermelon sorbet. You will have to increase the amount you use of lower alcohol drinks, like wine, to get the same effect.
- Puree 2 cups of soft fruit, such as berries, mangoes, melon or peaches, adding up to ½ cup water to thin as needed.
- Taste and add 1 tbsp. vodka or other alcohol (more if needed), plus up to 2 tbsp. lemon juice if needed for acidity.
- Stir in the sugar, starting with ½ cup, tasting frequently, until dissolved; add more sugar as needed, up to 1¼ cup.
- Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the machine’s directions.
- Let firm in the freezer a couple of hours before serving.
Notes: If you would prefer to make a citrus sorbet, use 2 cups freshly squeezed juice plus 1 tbsp. zest. Or substitute 2 cups of any fruit juice for the pureed fruit, if you like.