Well, friends, there’s no denying it – summer is here. And though that means great things for my garden, I find it less friendly to me personally. I hate to be hot, I hate to sweat… so, let’s face it, I’m not a huge fan of summer.
But the season has its upsides, and one of them is ice cream. The insert for my Cuisinart ice-cream maker, which has just been taking up space in the freezer since September, will get a workout for the next few months.
Whenever we shop at the Co-op we check the fruit aisle to see if there’s anything that catches our eye. Last week, Arne was checking out a pile of plums, and I remembered a plum sorbet I made years ago. It was the most gorgeous magenta color and tasted amazing, so, even though plums are not among my favorite fruits, I asked Arne to pick out a dozen.
I thought the recipe was from Cooking Light or Eating Well, but couldn’t find it after leafing through half a dozen compilation cookbooks. So I decided to wing it, using a technique I love for strawberry frozen yogurt: Rather than being cooked, the fruit is macerated in sugar for an hour or so. The sugar breaks down the cell walls much like cooking does, and seems to enhance the flavor and color of the fruit in the process. All with the added bonus of not heating up the kitchen!
The most difficult step of this recipe is chopping the plums. Plums are most emphatically not a freestone fruit. They hold onto their pits almost as tenaciously as mangoes. The good news for us is that we’ll be blending this mixture anyway, so neatness is not a consideration. Just hack away until the grisly job is done.
Once that’s out of the way, stir the sugar into your hacked-up plums and watch the magic happen! What starts out as an unpromising, grainy mixture slowly turns into lovely soft fruit in syrup. No matter how many times I do this, I always find it cool.
The liqueur in this recipe has two functions: As well as enriching the flavor, it acts as an antifreeze to prevent excess hardening or crystallization in the freezer. With the liqueur and the natural pectin in the plums, this dessert stays beautifully soft and crystal-free in the freezer for days. Many homemade frozen desserts get crystals in just a few hours, so I really appreciate that. I think Cointreau is terrific with plums, but the Flavor Bible also suggests almond, so you could certainly try amaretto.
I use whole-milk yogurt and call for it here. Low-fat yogurts seem chalky to me, but if you like them and are worried about fat, by all means use what you like.
I’ve seen recipes for plum sorbet that start by peeling the plums, which mystifies me. That’s where the beauty is! When finished, there’s no trace of the yellow inside flesh of the plums; the yogurt is a really lovely shade of pink. And did I mention its refreshing tartness and rich plum flavor? Ah… maybe summer isn’t so bad after all.
Sweet and Tangy Plum Frozen Yogurt with Lemon
Serves: 6 to 8 Time: 2 hours Hands-on: 25 minutes
8 red plums, washed
1 cup sugar
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon (or of 1 very small lemon)
1 tablespoon Cointreau or other orange liqueur (optional)
3/4 cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt (Greek Gods and Strauss are my favorites)
Pit the unpeeled plums and roughly chop them. Place in a bowl and stir in the sugar. Let sit for an hour, stirring every once in a while, until the sugar has turned into syrup and the fruit has softened.
Stir in the cinnamon, lemon juice and zest, and liqueur. Pour into a blender container and blend until smooth. (You will probably have some tiny pieces of peel in the mixture. Some, such as Arne, like the bit of texture. Others, such as me, are too lazy to strain the bits out and think they’re kind of pretty. If you are a third type, feel free to strain the mixture before continuing.) Blend in the yogurt.
Pour into the canister of an ice-cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.