Summertime is the prime season for fresh berries. Our local season begins with beautiful “red to the core” strawberries in early to mid June. When our raspberry bushes were thriving, I would see the first luscious berries on the thorny bushes around the fourth of July. I could always count on a call from my mother about mid July, letting me know the blueberries were ready to pick on the bush on what once was my grandfather’s property.
This year the call letting me know it was time to pick blueberries was from my brother. He is maintaining the grounds as we get ready to sell my parents house and adjoining property. This would be my last opportunity to pick from this healthy and prolific bush. I was rewarded with almost a gallon of berries after an hour’s picking. Along with the usual fare like muffins and bar cookies, I was anxious to try my hand at a recipe for sorbet.
The article in the June/July issue of Fine Cooking was contributed by Zoe Francois. Probably best known for her Five Minutes a Day bread books and her blog, Zoe Bakes, she offers a basic formula for sorbet that allows you to choose from endless combinations of fruits, spirits and add ins. She also tackles the common problem that you might encounter making this frozen treat, ending up with a sorbet that is too icy or too slushy.
In a professional kitchen you would use equipment like refractometers and saccharometers to achieve the correct balance. Ms. Francois shares a simple trick for the home cook to see if you have the correct ratio of sugar syrup to fruit puree. Gently place a clean fresh raw egg in a tall container filled with the sorbet base. If the egg sinks, add more of the sugar syrup, if it floats with only a quarter size piece of eggshell in view, your ratio is correct. I must emphasize fresh when it comes to the egg you are using. As eggs get older they contain more air, and might float regardless of the sugar content of your mixture.
Borrowing from the typical combination of blueberries and cinnamon that you would find in a muffin recipe, I added some spicy cinnamon basil and a pinch of ground cinnamon to infuse some extra flavor into the blueberry base. Be sure the flavors in your base are assertive, freezing the mixture will make it less intense. A little citrus juice, lemon or lime, and a pinch of salt will help intensify your flavors.
The hardest part of the recipe for me was finding that tall narrow container. Putting a raw egg into a clean blender jar, filled with the sorbet base seemed too risky because of the metal blade. A vase? Maybe, but the ones I had were too big. I finally found a clean tall take-out container that didn’t have any residual odors. I only needed an extra tablespoon of simple syrup to make the egg float properly. Another trick for getting a creamy sorbet is to blend the smallest amount, only one-eighth of a teaspoon full of guar gum into the strained fruit base. Guar gum is a natural emulsifier from the seed of the guar plant. Use it sparingly, too much and it will turn your frozen treat stringy or gummy.
Another great find came from this article for me. After many years of looking for container that I had visualized in my mind but could never find in stores, there it was, an insulated long narrow container with a non slip base that would make scooping ice cream easier. I purchased mine from Williams-Sonoma but Sur La Table is carrying them as well. On line reviews are mixed at this point, hopefully they will improve.
The berries made a delcious sorbet, my next assignment is to get my hubby to make cuttings from this bush before the house is sold so that we can continue the tradition and one day have a blueberry bush of our own.
Beautiful ripe berries.
Blueberry Cinnamon Basil Sorbet
From Fine Cooking Magazine
Makes 1 quart
- 1c. granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 c. light corn syrup
- 1 c. water
- 1 lb. fresh blueberries
- 1-2T fresh lemon or lime juice
- Pinch of salt (or more)
- 2T finely chopped cinnamon basil
- 1/8t ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. guar gum (optional, but makes for a creamier texture)
- 1 fresh raw egg, in its shell, washed and dried
- To make the sugar syrup, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a small pot over medium heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until all ingredients are combined and sugar granules are thoroughly dissolved. Set aside to cool to room temperature, then place in the refrigerator until cold, about 30 minutes.
- In a blender, puree the blueberries, lemon or lime juice and a pinch of salt. Taste mixture to correct flavors. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds. Place in a covered container and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.
- Put the blueberry puree, 1 c. sugar syrup, 2 tablespoons packed basil leaves, ground cinnamon and guar gum, if using, in a blender. Strain mixture, once again, to remove any remaining seeds.
- Check the density of the sorbet base by gently lowering the egg into the container with a slotted spoon. If it sinks, remove it and stir in and additional 2 T of the sugar syrup, repeating as necessary until the egg floats just below the surface with a quarter-sized exposed area of shell. When density is right, pour sorbet base into a covered container and refrigerate until very cold, at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
- To freeze, pour base into an ice cream maker and run according to manufacturer’s directions. Sorbet too hard to scoop? Let it sit 20 minutes in the refrigerator before serving. Sorbet will keep up to two weeks.
The blueberry puree.
It floats! Only a quarter sized piece of egg should be showing.
My new favorite container and Cutco ice cream scoop.