Have you noticed the mind-blowing gelatos and sorbettos popping up in the freezer section lately? The Strawberry Balsamic by Gelato Fiasco in Maine really is fabulous, and don't even get me started on the Talenti Salted Caramel... I'm a bit of an ice cream snob, and ever since I went on an informal backpacking "gelato tour" of Italy in '99, I literally dream of standing amidst nearly 100 gelato/sorbetto options lined along two or three walls in Rome. The scoops were golfball small, perfect for layering on unique flavors like watermelon with green tea without blowing the calorie bank before dinner. I still rave about cantaloupe gelato from a park stand in Padova that was so authentic, I had to spit out a few seeds. No dyes or fake flavorings there!
Problem is, no place offers the quality and flavor selection I devoured in Italy back then. Even on last year's trip to Italy, I was utterly disappointed: Only the rosemary-berry from the World's Best Gelato Shop in the Medieval town of San Gimignano satisfied. Everything else was laden with flavorings and colors, with a significant lack of unique flavors (chocolate, vanilla, nutella - boooring!). Have even the Italians lost their standards? American shops favor the rich and creamy (which is great, and JP Licks and Toscanini's in Boston are pretty dang amazing from a creamy ice cream point of view). But this summer I've been craving those unique, real fruit flavors. So after a series of ice cream dreams, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. Join me, and discover a flavor explosion of refreshing frozen delight...
Scanning the food blogs, I discovered Italian sorbetto is pretty easy to master and simple in ingredients: just overripe fruit and simple syrup. Maybe a squeeze of fresh lemon juice (to balance sweetness) and a drizzle of liquor (to soften it).
We're in the middle of Fruit Season in NH. Admit it: you already have dangerously mushy peaches, melons, or berries hanging around the kitchen - not quite bad enough to toss but not ideal for eating. Perhaps you also have an ice cream maker languishing in the closet or collecting frost in your chest freezer? This is the perfect time of year to give it a good wash, and get it chilled and ready to go! (And, if you don't own an ice cream maker, there's a way around it. Or you can buy one for the same price as just 4 or 5 pints of good gelato or sorbetto from the store.)
How to Make Fruit Sorbetto
Chop and puree your fruit. For the popping flavor, use fruit that's as ripe as possible without being rotten.
Meanwhile, make simple syrup. I know: sugar is not good for you. But this is the secret to smooth (not ice-chunky) sorbet. Simmer 1 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup water (or equal parts - different people use different recipes). Junky white sugar has a nicer color and flavor, but you can use organic sugar - expect it to come out brown-ish in color and a little more like brown sugar in flavor. You may want to chill the syrup before adding it to fruit, or add it to the fruit and then chill the whole thing (which is what I did).
Add your simple syrup using the egg trick. Clean an egg well, then put it in the fruit mix - it should sink to the bottom. Slowly add in simple syrup until the egg floats so that approximately you can see about a quarter-size spot on the egg.
Adding simple syrup
Whoop, there it is! I was shocked by how much sugar it took. Expect to use approximately one cup of sugar/simple syrup per quart. Of course you can use less sugar, but your consistency might not be as good. Ultimately I ended up with enough mix for two quarts of ice cream.
Chill it for an hour or so til it's cold.
Pour it into your pre-chilled ice cream maker. Don't have one? See directions here.
Basic Sorbetto Recipe
Ready to get started?
Here's a recipe from Kitchn to get you some vague proportions. Makes 1 quart.
- 2 pounds fresh fruit or juice (4-5 cups prepped/sliced)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1-4 tablespoons of lemon juice, optional
Adding Herbs: Want to infuse some lemon verbena into your lemon ice? Maybe some pineapple sage into your peach sorbetto? Maybe some basil in your blackberry?
Try one of these techniques:
- When simmering the simple syrup, add herbs to the pot. Turn off heat. Let steep for 30 minutes, strain, and use the syrup for your recipe.
- Pulverize the herb and toss it in with the fruit.