I have an addiction. I can't deny it, hide it or even try get rid of it. Whenever it gets hot outside, I have a strong urge to feed this addiction. That's right. I'm talking about sorbet.
Most people might use the words "sherbet" and "sorbet" interchangeably, but they are different. Sherbet is usually fruit-based, but also has milk or cream, while sorbet only contains fruit. The word "sorbet" is French for the Turkish word "sherbet."
Sorbet has been around much longer than ice cream. Supposedly Nero, that heartless Roman emperor who provided the soundtrack while Rome burned, had runners along the Appian Way pass buckets of snow hand-over-hand from the mountains to his banquet hall. They mixed the ice with honey and wine and served the concoction to dining guests.
Marco Polo returned from Asia in the 13th century with recipes made from snow, juice and fruit pulp. According to legend, Catherine de Medici brought frozen desserts from Italy when she moved to France to marry the Duke of Orleans (who later became Henry the II). Perhaps Catherine became homesick for Italy and craved something familiar. All she had to do was command someone to make sorbet for her.
Sorbet had become widespread in France by the 17th century, and made its way to other European countries. Of course, the French were the first to use sorbet as a palate cleanser between courses. (Is there anything culinary that the French did not invent? Didn't think so). It also makes the perfect dessert: not too sweet, but sweet enough to signal the end of a meal.
Italian immigrant Giovanni Bosio opened the first ice cream shop in the United States in New York City in 1770, and over the next 250 years, ice cream became a culinary staple for many Americans. In fact, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Dolly Madison all enjoyed ice cream and had machines to make it themselves. What's good for the president of the U.S. is good for everyone, right?
When I worked at a coffee shop for a year, one of the required chores was cleaning the granita machine. (Granita is similar to sorbet, but uses a different freezing process. The liquid freezes into large crystals, and is often shredded with a fork to give it an even crunchier texture.) To clean out the machine, we had to remove all of the granita, wash the machine and add fresh ingredients to start a new batch. The only catch was that after we added new ingredients, it took about three to four hours for the granita to be ready.
Without fail, several regular customers would come in and order granita, and we would have to sympathetically tell them that it was not ready for consumption. You would have thought we were telling them that they lost their jobs, had their car stolen or that their house just burned down- total devastation.
I suppose I can't criticize them. Afterall, I am addicted to sorbet.
The cool thing about sorbet is that it is completely fat-free and, when made with fresh fruit, it is healthy. This recipe is a compilation of several that I've come across over the years. I decided on peach sorbet (the peaches looked so tasty at the grocery store), but you can use any sort of soft fruit such as strawberries or mangoes.
4 cups sliced fruit (peaches, strawberries, mangoes, etc.)
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cold water
1 3-ounce package peach-flavored gelatin
Puree fruit in food processor or blender. Place sugar and orange juice in saucepan and heat to boiling. Remove from heat and add gelatin. Stir for 2 minutes. Add cold water; stir. Blend pureed fruit and gelatin mixture. Pour into freezer-safe container. Place in freezer for two to three hours.
Place frozen mixture in food processor. Blend until light and fluffy. Return to freezer until ready to serve.