The only thing better than a refreshing treat is knowing that the “treat” is healthy! These lemon ices are refreshing on a hot summer day and add elegance to any party.
I love summer treats, namely ice cream. Once I studied nutrition, to cut down on my fat intake, I switched from creamy ice cream to tasty ices. Eventually, I learned that the sugar in commercial ice was just as unhealthy than the fat in ice cream. Which was a real bummer because I thought ices from the pizzeria were just fantastic (well, I still do) and I could eat them after every meal. But there’s just too much sugar in those ices! So, any chance I get, I make frozen treats at home so my kids can enjoy a healthy snack. This has been great lately as they don’t seem to be eating much in this summer heat.
Snacks are key, here, to incorporate healthy foods throughout the day to fill in gaps in their diet. I do this through homemade ice pops, smoothies, energy balls, and, of course, fruits and veggies.
I’m also a summer baby, so my mom planned my birthday parties to compliment the season. Pool parties, iced tea and ice cream cakes were the norm. For the bigger summer parties, my mom would make these homemade lemon ices. (Let me rephrase that to say, For the ADULT summer parties.) I remember that she would semi-freeze some lemony stuff in a shallow container, then take it out and scrape it with a fork. Then she’d repeat that process a few times. I’ve since realized that this process is what makes the fruit slush almost creamy in consistency.
Every time you semi-freeze, whip, and freeze again, air is being incorporated into the mixture and it creates that lick-able icy texture. Lemons lack fiber and pectin so the resulting low viscosity makes it hard to get rid of those ice crystals. The sugar you need to add to cut down on the tartness of the lemons helps produce a creamier consistency.
Let’s talk about sherbet vs. sorbet for a minute. The difference lies in the incorporation of dairy. Sherbet’s base is fruit and includes dairy to make it a bit creamier (milk or cream). Remember rainbow sherbet in those plastic tubs? That was definitely was a part of my childhood summers. Sorbet, on the other hand, is lighter and made of fruit, ice and sugar. It’s meant to be a palate cleanser. Making sorbets at home is a great way to use up fruit (in my house, any fruit that’s too ripen and won’t get eaten, gets chopped up and put in the freezer) and I do not normally add any sugar.
So, how do you make lemon ice?
A few quick tips:
If you’d like to present your ice in the shell, pick nice looking lemons. I served 8 lemon shells, but you’ll need to purchase ~3 extra for zest. Try to choose larger sized and heavy lemons with thick skin and without any blemishes.
For the simple syrup – you could infuse mint or basil in it which would really put this lemon ice on the next level. I’m definitely going to do that next time.
I would suggest preparing the sorbet at least a day in advance as it can take hours for the freezing and re-freezing process, which makes this perfect for party prepping. I made these for my daughter’s Communion and left a little too much of this process for the last minute, which was not a good idea.
Lemon Ice in Lemon Shells
11 lemons (8 for the shells; 3 for the zest) 1/3 cup lemon zest (from the extra 3 lemons) 1 cup strained fresh-squeezed lemons Juice (from lemons used for cups) 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 1 1/2 cups water
For the Shells
I first washed my lemons and then cut off ~1/2 inch of one end of the lemon. I suggest cutting the end that’s more knobby, as this will be its top. Then cut just a scant ¼ inch off the bottom, so the lemon will stand on it’s own. It’s better to be conservative here, as you just want to cut through the skin, not into the flesh.
Freeze the shells at least one hour or overnight. The frozen shell will prevent the sorbet from melting too quickly when you serve it.
Then, scoop out the juice and flesh. Use a grapefruit knife or small serrated knife to cut out the flesh, leaving the shell intact. You can then use a melon baller (or small spoon) to scoop out anything else. Reserve the juice and flesh; you can put this in a juicer, or blender, and then strain the mixture.
For the Lemon Sorbet
Make simple syrup: boil 1 ½ cups water with 1 ½ cups sugar.
To infuse herbs in your syrup, add ¼ - 1 cup herbs to the mixture. (I think mint or basil would be perfect here.)
Over medium heat, stir until sugar is combined. Add zest of 3 lemons and allow to boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add reserved lemon juice (about 1 cup). Cool and strain. Pour into a shallow container and freeze until semi-frozen. Then, remove from freezer and mash it up with a fork and freeze again (or throw it in a food processor). Do this a few more times as the more you do it, the smoother your sorbet will be.
If you have an ice cream maker: Freeze mixture, then transfer to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Fill your shells, place the top back on and enjoy your refreshing, tasty treat!
Did you try them? Let me know what you think!