It’s Christmas morning, 2008. My wife and I are finishing exchanging gifts with one another when she slides a big bag my way. “You didn’t ask for this, but I thought it would be fun.”
Normally the words “You didn’t ask for this” mean certain horror to men before opening any gift. They’re usually reserved for items purchased from the most heinous area of any retail outlet – the clearance shelf of the men’s section in a department store. Money clips, wallets, cuff links, tie racks, shoe shining kits, and the always dreaded three-in-one grooming kit — because nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a nose hair trimmer.
But with Katrina, it’s much different. She knows me better than anyone, and always gets her most creative around the holidays. So, to no surprise, she’d purchased something for me that I undoubtedly would never have purchased for myself – an ice cream attachment for my KitchenAid mixer.
Mind you, it’s December so the idea of making ice cream is quite a few months away, but I’m excited at the possibilities. Enter the unseasonably warm month of May the following year, and I was off to the races. Chocolate Chip, Vanilla, Mint Chocolate Chip, Rocky Road, a special Christmas ice cream with peppermint and chunks of candy cane, and a soon-to-be cult classic: Strawberry Vanilla (featuring fresh chunks of Farmers Market strawberries).
Any chance I was given to use fresh fruit from our Farmers Market, I’d make an ice cream or dessert. So when Katrina recently asked me to try making a sorbet, it was a dessert request made to order. I had not attempted a sorbet yet. Most of what I’d been making required heating milk, cream, and eggs to create the base of the ice cream. Once I read a few of the sorbet recipes, I was shocked how easy it sounded. I’d been running before crawling all this time. It couldn’t get easier.
Sorbet requires nothing more than pure fruit juice, and sometimes (not always) the addition of a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water). The only difficult part about this project was going to be deciding on which fruit to use. That turned out not to be difficult at all. Right now, there are cantaloupes everywhere. And the best part about using melons for sorbet is that almost all of the flavor is in the juice. In fact, around 85% of the actual melon is water.
Two cantaloupes made it home, along with our weekly bounty of other goodies.
Enter my juicer – another gift from Katrina that I’ve owned for over a year and have yet to use, until now. I know I’d need one eventually, and had grandiose plans to make an assortment of fruit “noodles” for a molecular cooking project that hasn’t taken shape yet because of other things on my plate (thank you, Dude Food).
My disdain for juicers goes back to my last year in college. I was living with my brother, and he came home one day out of his mind with hope. “Our lives are about to change!” he said. The ever influential Jack LaLanne came out with his own juicer, accompanying recipe book, and a “Life Plan” that my brother bought hook, line, and sinker.
I swear, I’m convinced old man LaLanne could sell ice cubes to an Eskimo, and throw in a recipe book to sweeten the deal. All he’d have to say is “These aren’t just ice cubes – they’re life cubes!” Then he’d drop and do 120 push ups until you threw up from exhaustion.
I sat in horror as my brother, his girlfriend, and a mutual friend of ours came home with bags of produce, which they proceeded to juice, and juice, and juice. They concocted these mortifying cocktails that looked less like vegetable juice than they did murky river water. And the yield from the vegetables was so low, it made me wonder if they were using the thing properly. It was sad to see so much “pulp” being discarded. There were piles of pulp – the integral fibrous part of the vegetable that we need to make things run smoothly. While they gulped down their “vitamin rich” drinks, I did my best to chew on the remains of the day. But that pulp had no flavor. The life had been squeezed from them. I told my brother that I thought this was unspeakably evil, and that I wouldn’t be joining them. This, I was convinced, was a waste of money – not to mention perfectly good vegetables.
Anyway, back to the sorbet.
I was shocked at how much juice came pouring out of these melons. I only needed 3 1/2 cups of juice, and got that after one and a quarter melons. While I juiced, I made the simple syrup. Once the syrup cooled, I mixed it with the juice and placed the container of juice in the freezer to get it as cold as possible. My KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment had been sitting in the refrigerator for a full 24 hours, so it would be ready to roll the minute the juice was cold enough.
Once the juice cooled, I hooked the attachment up to the mixer, added my cantaloupe soup to the bowl, and turned it on the lowest speed. I let it churn for 20 minutes until the consistency was smooth and slushy. The first taste of this was knee buckling. It was pure melon, nice and sweet, and I knew once it completely froze it was going to be a winner. I packed it into a plastic container, and dropped it off for an overnight slumber party in the freezer with the chickens and pork bellies. I’m sure that was one hell of a party.
It’s delicious, and there’s no question that I’m hooked on this. Strawberries are still in season. They just might be next.
3 1/2 cups of juice from fresh cantaloupe or melon
Simple Syrup (1 cup sugar dissolved in 1 cup of water, brought to a boil, then cooled)
Chill in refrigerator for 8 hours (or freezer for 2 – DO NOT allow this to become frozen)
Place in your ice cream maker and follow the directions from your manufacturer for sorbet