As quickly as summer finally appeared in the Northwest, it disappeared just as fast. We’re back to gray skies and cool weather. But a small window of much-anticipated hot, sunny weather was good excuse to whip up some rhubarb strawberry basil sorbet. You can sorbet almost anything. And sorbets are hard to ruin since they are essentially fruit, sugar, water and often lemon. Sometimes even vegetables. They can end a meal along with a cookie, or they can be used as a palette cleanser between courses.
Below is a recipe for the sorbet I made, but there are many recipes out there and they call for wildly different amounts of simple syrup (your sweet base) and even the ratio of sugar to water for the syrup itself. This means there is no right way or recipe. Some recipes called for corn syrup, which I didn’t want to use so I left it out.
Some fruits are more runny than others, like watermelon, so you’ll need less syrup. Others, like figs, are more dense, so you might need more syrup. Some fruits are cooked with the syrup to soften them, like rhubarb or pears. Others, like berries, go right into the blender with the syrup. If you follow these tips below, you can forgo recipes or use recipes as a guide and modify it. You can make kids (and even adults) happy by making popsicles with your fruity mixture instead.
• Make a big batch of simple syrup in advance. Keep in fridge. Some recipes call for a 1-to-1 ratio of water to sugar, but I like to cut my sugar a bit. (For example, 2 cups water to 1 1/2 cups sugar). Heat in pan till sugar dissolves. Cool. Having extra is good in case you want to thin the mixture.
• Cool/chill the fruit mixture first. If you’re making simple syrup at the time of making the sorbet, let the pureed mixture chill before freezing it or putting it in your ice cream machine. Otherwise the freezing process will take a lot longer. Same holds true for fruits that are cooked in the syrup till softened, like rhubarb or pears.
• No ice cream machine needed. Freeze a ceramic dish (preferably oval or round) overnight. Pour your cooled mixture in the dish. Take it out of the freezer every 15 minutes for about an hour and scrape the sides with a fork, incorporating the frozen bits into the mixture. Eventually it will become firm. Alternately, you can pour you mixture into a dish. Let it freeze, and then break it up and puree it in a blender.
• Experiment with flavor combinations. Think about flavors that would go together well. Strawberries or melon and mint. Pinot gris and pears. Pinot noir and marionberries. Cucumber and lime. Lavender and melon (making things up here). Apricot and almond (using almond extract). Figs and balsamic or figs and thyme. Cardamom and blueberries. Blackberries and black pepper.
• Alcohol is good. A splash or three of vodka, limoncello or grappa keeps the sorbet from freezing. Sorbetto and gelato are meant to be served a little soft. You can also let the sorbet sit at room temperature till it softens.
• Add an acid. Just as with a fruit pie, acid brightens the fruit’s natural flavor. This can be lemon, lime, orange or balsamic vinegar.
• Taste and adjust. Your pureed mixture should be sweeter than you really want it. Once frozen, the sorbet won’t taste as sweet. Adjust as necessary.
Rhubarb Strawberry Basil Sorbet Recipe
Depending on which flavor you want to be dominant, use more or all of that fruit. Prepare in advance to allow time for your fruit mixture to chill (a few hours to overnight) for before freezing.
4 to 5 cups fruit (chopped rhubarb and/or strawberries)
1 cup water*
1/2 cup sugar*
1 teaspoon lemon juice (or balsamic vinegar)
Optional: 1 tablespoon vodka, limoncello or grappa
Optional: few leaves of chopped fresh basil
Heat water, sugar and rhubarb in pan and cook 5–10 minutes until rhubarb is soft. Allow to cool. (You won’t be cooking the strawberries in the simple syrup.) Add rhubarb mixture to blender (along with strawberries if using). Puree until very smooth. Add lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and alcohol, if using, and blend a little just till combined.
Roll a few basil leaves together like a cigar and slice very thinly into ribbons. Then chop into smaller bits. Stir this into the fruit mixture. Allow mixture to cool (use an ice bath if necessary). Chill in the fridge thoroughly and then process with an ice cream maker according to directions. Or pour into pre-frozen dish and stir every 15 minutes, incorporating the frozen bits into the center until it has a desired consistency. Allow to soften a bit at room temperature before serving. Garnish with a small basil leaf.
Sorbet becomes icy after a few days. Best to eat right away, which should not be difficult.
If you’ve made sorbet and have a favorite, share it here. Do you have a different syrup-to-fruit ratio than mine?