Saturday, July 16, 2011

Porch Swing Sorbet

I come from a long line of tea-drinkers.  Most of the year, we gulp endless cups of hot tea.  And, in the summer, we almost always have a tall glass of iced tea within easy reach.  Nothing fancy, mind you.  Just pedestrian orange pekoe, often brewed by the heat of the sun.

One of my favorite summer treats was a "half and half" (now popularly called an "Arnold Palmer"):  a mixture of ice tea and lemonade.  The tea cuts the sweetness of the lemonade and provides a subtle, almost smoky complexity to the drink.  For me, it's singularly refreshing and conjures up images of lazy afternoons, lounging on my grandma's front porch, playing the occasional hand of euchre and just generally enjoying the company of family.

Recently, a good friend asked for a recipe for a frozen treat using lemons.  I confess, I've never made lemon ice cream.  But I dug up a recipe for lemon sorbet from Cook's Illustrated and passed it along.  The key to creamy sorbet is (a) don't skimp on the sugar and (b) add a tablespoon of liquor -- vodka is a good choice, because it doesn't have any flavor.  Both sugar and alcohol inhibit freezing, so your sorbet won't turn into a chunk of ice.

A Perfect Pairing
Basically, the recipe is 2 cups of fruit or juice + 1 c. sugar (more or less)* + 1 Tbs. vodka.  For most of the recipes, the 2 cups of liquid was fruit juice (or a juice blend); for lemon and lime sorbets, though, you use 1 part citrus juice to 3 parts water (so it's not too strong).  But there's a lot of room to play with that 2 cups of liquid ... any blend of juices would work, I think.  And you could infuse the juice with ginger or herbs.  Personally, I decided to swap out the water in the lemon sorbet with decaf iced tea.

* Cook's Illustrated offered half a dozen sorbet recipes, and they said the key is to use about 1/2 a cup of sugar per cup of fruit/liquid.  More tart fruit needs a little more sugar, sweeter fruit (like watermelon) requires a little less.  Lemon is pretty tart, so this recipe uses 1 1/4 c. sugar instead of just 1 cup.

Anyway, I decided to experiment, and the experiment was a huge success.  Some of the sorbet managed to hide in our freezer for a whole week, but we still scoopable and creamy when I pulled it out.  This sorbet is unusual, but so delicious.  And one spoonful took me back to my grandma's front porch.

Porch Swing Sorbet

1 1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. lemon zest
1 1/2 c. cold brewed tea (decaf is fine, the stronger the better!)
1/2 c. fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
1 Tbs. vodka

Combine sugar and lemon zest in a medium bowl.  Whisk in liquids until sugar dissolves.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, until completely chilled.  Strain to remove any bits of lemon pulp and the pieces of lemon zest.

Freeze liquid in an ice cream maker until the consistency of cake frosting.  Transfer to plastic container.  Cover with plastic wrap pressed against the surface of the sorbet, then seal with an air-tight lid.  Freeze about 3 hours (or more).


Wendy is the author of the Mysteries a la Mode. Visit her on the web or on Facebook.


  1. I'm sure you're able to find plenty of iced tea in Texas! I love tea (and vodka is good, too) and this looks like a great treat to beat the heat with. :)

  2. Looks absolutely refreshing! Must try this!

  3. I'm a big tea drinker, too. The addition of alcohol is fascinating. I knew it inhibited freezing but never thought about using that to our advantage. Great tip!

    ~ Krista

  4. I too am a big tea drinker. This sounds great. I don't have an ice cream maker though...although I've always wanted one. I wonder if you could just freeze it in the freezer?

  5. Katreader, you can make sorbet in the freezer (thought it won't have the same creamy texture. The technique is described here:

    Basically, though, you freeze a flat casserole-type pan (glass or non-reactive metal). Put the sorbet base (cool) in the pan and pop it back in the freezer. Every hour or so, pull out the pan and stir to break up the ice. It takes a while.

    The recipe I linked to includes a little mascarpone cheese in the base to give the finished product a little creaminess ... without the cheese, the result will be more like a granita. Still awesome, though. :)

  6. Ooh, what about green tea. And what about an extra tbsp of vodka? This sounds so scrumptious.

    Hope Clark

  7. I just finished Scoop to Kill, and am planning my post review to appear this week. Going to make your three ice cream treat (can;t remember what it is called, and the book is upstairs, but will write it up correct in the post). Very fun summer read, and always thrilled to see lawyers killed off (in books only).

    Great tips on the sorbet. We just bought a bag of Clementines, so a Clementine sorbet during our 100 degree week coming up sounds perfect!

  8. Oh Dave ... yum. Clementines - brilliant. I would definitely cut the sugar with them (maybe down to a scant 1 c.? Or even a smidge less.

    And I'm so glad you enjoyed Scoop. :)

  9. This is really fun and different! Thanks, Wendy. I am going to cave and get an ice cream maker and it's all your fault. Well, yours and Tally's.


  10. Wendy, I have an odd question for you...

    Have you ever heard of a drink called a "DIRTY ARNIE"?

    It's named for Arnold Palmer the golfer who famously would drink 1/2 lemonade, 1/2 Iced tea while playing golf. Actually, that's the drink named for Arnold.

    But bartenders have started adding 1 1/2 shots of vodka to 6 oz sweet tea and 6 oz lemonade... calling this a dirty Arnie.

    Where did this recipe come from??? Is the name accepted by those ice cream makers in the know?

    What do you think would happen if you used 1 cup lemonade and 1 cup sweet tea ... would you use the same amount of sugar since you were using a southern already sweetened sweet tea???

  11. Dave, I hadn't heard about the Arnie cocktail, though I have heard people refer to half-and-half as an Arnold Palmer. I bet if you mixed that sweet tea vodka (which is apparently *intense*) with lemonade, it would be pretty dang good.

    This recipe is all mine (well, I imagine someone had the idea before I did, but I got it out of my own brain), and the name is mine. :)

    If you used sweet tea and lemonade, you'd want to cut the sugar (both the lemonade and the tea have sugar in them, after all). And you'd probably want to use really strong sweet tea ... using lemonade instead of lemon juice would cut the lemon flavor a bit (that's o.k.). Just don't leave out the vodka. :)

  12. My friend... WE DID IT... An Arnold Palmer made into a Sorbet. Thanks for your advice. Posted today.


  13. Hey Wendy... Just posted my review of the book and my attempt to make an ice cream tarrine...

    Dave Scott (formerly My year on the Grill)