Thursday, July 14, 2016

Perfectly Pretty Summer Plum Sorbet

The Vivid Pink of a Fresh Plum Sorbet
Sometimes plums are sweet and sometimes they can be tart, but most of the plums I get tend to be a little of both. Occasionally they can even be bitter. Like that time I had to dump an entire pan of plum cobbler because some of the plums were so bitter that, even after mixing with sugar and baking with a nice sweet biscuit-y topping... the whole thing was inedible.

Faced with less than perfectly sweet fruits, sorbets are an easy way to control the sweet/tart balance and come out with something delicious in spite of their random ripeness. And I can think of no better way to celebrate the essential flavor of a lovely seasonal fruit than to feature it in a clean, direct, super-intense sorbet. Fresh and refreshing, it's nothing short of cool perfection on a warm summer evening.

Of course, I don't think making a sorbet from those horrid plums I had four years ago could have tamed their bitterness, but I would've realized the fact sooner (and saved a whole lot of effort, ingredients, and disappointment). And of course, tasting it as I went along would have also saved me from all that, but some lessons (cough) are best learned the hard way.

Pretty Plum (Sorta) Sorbet 
Start this a day or even two before you "need" it... and make sure your ice cream maker insert is pre-frozen. Though not traditional in a sorbet, adding milk will give it a creamier texture and increase the yield... which incidentally, is about 2 pints.


1 cup water
1 cup cane sugar
1 pound ripe plums (9-10), pitted and roughly chopped.
1 pinch of sea salt
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp liqueur or spirit of choice (see Notes)
1 cup cold whole milk

  1. Put sugar, water, plums, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. All the sugar should be dissolved and the fruit should be soft. Carefully pour into a wide-mouth quart mason jar. Let cool, then cap it and put it in the fridge overnight.
  2. Next day, blend the cold plum mixture thoroughly with a stick blender, right in the jar. 
  3. Add the lemon juice and liqueur and blend well. Then add the milk and give it another good blending.
  4. Turn on your machine and add the plum mixture according to your machine directions. Churn until the texture is where you want it (mine took about 30 minutes, yours may take more or less time).
  5. Transfer finished sorbet into freezer containers and store in freezer. Some say it's best to serve sorbets immediately, but I like the texture better the following day, especially if the weather is warm.
Notes: Depending on the intensity of your fruit, you may, or may not, taste the tiny bit of booze in the finished sorbet. Use something like vodka or white rum for less intrusion, or try one that has a flavor which is complementary to the fruit(s) you're using. I used Cointreau (orange liqueur) as I thought it would go well with plums (and I was right!). Whether you taste it in the end product or not, don't leave it out! It's there for a reason: it prevents the sorbet from freezing rock hard. And that really is what it looks like when it's finished! Leaving the skins on the plums gives it that amazing color.

My recipe is adapted from the following delicious sources...
  • Sweet Plum Sorbet from Joy The Baker 
  • Here's a twist on the JTB recipe above: Muscavado Blueberry Plum Sorbet from Simple Bites
  • There's a lovely recipe in the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook for Plum Sorbet (page 425). Don't have that book? Here's a similar recipe รก la Martha that's online: Plum Sorbet
  • Mark Bittman's original big yellow book, "How To Cook Everything" has a bunch of great tips for making sorbets (pages 669-670).
Bonus Link! ('cuz summer ain't over yet, and neither is plum season!)...