Saturday, April 11, 2009

Watermelon-Cantaloupe Sorbet

It's that time of year. You run to the grocery store for something, and as you walk in and pass the fruit you see it: the year's first summer melons, already pre-sliced and packaged for your convenience. You know it's way too early for them to be as delicious as they will be a couple months from now, but after all the months of cold nasty weather and darkness the idea of sunny summer is so tantalizing that you drift towards it anyway. And it smells like summer. It hits deep: memories of sitting on a porch spitting out watermelon seeds, juice dripping down your chin and arms. Bike riding, water balloon fights, fourth of July fireworks. And before you know it, you have a giant wedge of watermelon and package of cantaloupe in your basket.

Or at least that's what happened to me. And since I recently watched an episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown made melon sorbet, I decided I should give it a try as well. Sorbet is not sherbet. And sherbet is not sherbert(that word just invented itself). Sherbet contains milk solids. It gets really confusing, as sorbet does not have an FDA classification on its own. Sorbets, ices, and granita are all related. According to On Food and Cooking, the word sorbet came from sorbetto, the Arabic word for syrup.

The trickiest part of making sorbet is to keep the texture smooth, without large ice crystals. This is often done by adding liquor to the recipe, which makes perfect sense. Alcoholic beverages freeze at very cold temperatures that you're not going to reach with sorbet, and so by blending it into the mixture, you make a kind of edible anti-freeze that keeps your sorbet at an ideal texture.

Now on to Alton Brown's melon sorbet recipe, with some of the watermelon replaced by cantaloupe:
  • 16 oz watermelon
  • 5 oz cantaloupe
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons vodka*
  • 9 oz sugar, ~ 1 1/4 cups

*Vodka is used because it won't contribute much flavor to the sorbet, but I actually used black cherry vodka because it's what I had on hand. I don't see any reason not to use flavored vodka if it's fruity and you think it will go with the other flavors, or even midori as it's a melon-based liqueur.

Place melon is the bowl of a food processor and process till smooth. Add lemon juice, vodka, and sugar and process for another 30 seconds. Place mixture in fridge until it reaches 40°F, which will take between 30 minutes to an hour. Pour chilled mixture into bowl of an ice cream maker (already running) and process according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze 3-4 hours before serving.

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