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A reconciliation, with sorbet

As a kid, I was no fan of summer. I grew up in Oklahoma, where the season is “hotter than h-e-l-l,” as my grandmother likes to say. For me, summer was a sort of sustained misery. The problem was the temperature, plain and simple, which hovers most days in the upper double digits or even lower triples. It’s a still, airless type of heat, the kind that comes with a loud, unceasing soundtrack of cicadas. I used to feel sorry for even the family car, sitting as it did out in the sun: it shimmered under a haze of heat, and when we tried to start it, the poor thing would sputter and whine in protest. Not even a machine should be made to move in such heat. And if you tried to escape it by, say, going into a store or movie theater or someone’s house, the relief only lasted a minute or two, until your teeth started chattering uncontrollably. In most places, the air conditioning was so cold that it required—quite paradoxically—keeping a sweater on hand at all times, just in case. One word, people: h-e-l-l.

But then along came Seattle, with its (mainly) 70-degree summers and its warm—not scorching!—sun. Here, you can survive without air conditioning, and you can eat dinner outside without dying on the spot. This is a city that knows how it’s done. With each passing year, I find myself settling ever deeper into the happy, trusting, summer stupor familiar to dwellers of such climates, knowing that the season will be kind and gentle and that any errant heat waves will be short and only moderately sweaty. Yesterday, as we puttered around the city with our windows down, I actually heard myself say to Brandon, “I just love summer!” I am a changed woman, Seattle.

And it’s not strictly because of matters thermometric: there’s a whole wealth of side benefits too, mainly gastronomical. There’s something about summer in a clement zone, a city where the outdoors and in share the same, easy climate, that inspires in me a likewise easy sensibility about the stuff on my plate. Summer begs for unfussy food, of course, but it also gives it, hand over fist. No other season makes it so easy to eat so well. In the past week, we’ve spent only an hour or two in the kitchen, because, by god, we can. There’s been cold carrot soup, a few salads, and an entire weekend of corn and tomatoes and fresh cheese, repeating like a chorus. I love summer.

And then there are the blackberries in the backyard, which hang from the branches like a few hundred fat cicadas, only quieter. It’s a regular glut out there, the kind of scene that would make any responsible person feel a little panicked, summery stupor or no. So a few evenings ago, in the spirit of the season, we gave the blackberry bush a good, athletic picking, and then we did something really easy: we made sorbet.

With a dark, velvety hue somewhere between burgundy and purple, this sorbet straddles the fence, flavor-wise, between wine and fruit. In fact, it contains both, but the former is just a hint: a sophisticated, suggestive finish to a mouthful of mostly unmessed-with berries. It’s the way I like my summers. It’s h-e-a-v-e-n.

Blackberry Bonny Doon Sorbet

We used Bonny Doon’s delicious “Framboise” dessert wine for this, but you could certainly play with using other types, or even a good crème de cassis. Framboise is made from raspberries—hence its name, en français—and has wonderfully intense, rich, sweet-tart flavor. It doesn’t come through forcefully in the sorbet, but if you look for it, it’s there. Also, the presence of a bit of alcohol helps to keep the sorbet from getting rock-hard in the freezer, which is always a bonus in my book. You never know when you’ll need a spoonful straight from the container.

2 lbs fresh blackberries, washed but not thoroughly dried
4 Tbs light corn syrup*, plus more to taste
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
¼ cup Bonny Doon Framboise dessert wine

Place half of the berries in the bowl of a food processor, and purée until very smooth. Remove the puréed berries to a bowl, and repeat with the remaining berries. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the corn syrup, sugar, water, and ½ cup of the berry purée. Place the pan over medium heat, and warm the mixture, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Raise the heat to medium high, and boil the mixture for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, and let cool for ten or so minutes.

Add the sugar mixture to the berry purée, and stir until smooth. Add ¼ cup dessert wine, and stir to incorporate. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the mixture to remove any lumps and seeds; you may need to use a rubber spatula or spoon to gently push the purée through the sieve. Rinse the sieve well; then strain the purée again. This helps to ensure a very smooth texture. Taste the finished purée: it should be slightly sweeter than you want it to be. (Once it is frozen, it will taste less sweet.) If needed, add more corn syrup a teaspoon at a time, stirring well with each addition. [We added about a tablespoon, but this will vary according to the sweetness of your berries.]

Place the purée in the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled, and then freeze it in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Yield: 1 generous quart

* There is a lot of controversy these days about corn syrup, but I choose to include it in some ice creams and sorbets because it helps to ensure a smooth, less icy texture.


Anonymous Tanna said...

I love Seattle! No AC, yes.
Dallas feels like jail - 85° at 4am isn't for human beings.

2:04 AM, August 14, 2006  
Anonymous lindy said...

Pittsburgh is less dire, summer-wise than Oklahoma, but Seattle it's not. and we've been having the hottest, most gruesome summer in memory.
Ew. No wonder it is cheaper to live here!
For some reason, a recent respite from the sauna that has been our summer-it's now 75F, sunny, gorgeous- set me to making ice cream, too-with blueberries from my CSA farmbox.
The blackberry sorbet looks and sounds gorgeous; I must try a sorbet next.

2:35 AM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger Zarah Maria said...

Wow. The color of that sorbet is out of this world, Molly. Beautiful!

2:43 AM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger wheresmymind said...

My Seattle raised wife is loving the weather out in Boston right now...70's, no humidity...very Seattle dayz. That said, she is still lobbying for us to move to the Jet citay

5:15 AM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger Tony said...

Ah! Sorbet! The food of angels!

Blackberries are difficult to find here but this sorbet, like others with wine, sounds like it is worth making. I will dig up a recipe for a pomegranate, red wine and orange sorbet but pending that, here is one of my favourites. You will not like this if you dislike almonds and marzipan (strangely common in Australia) but it is a very light summer dessert which is refreshing in the extreme.

Marzipan Sorbet.

Make a syrup by boiling 600ml water with 100g sugar. Melt 30g of marzipan over a low heat in the syrup until smooth. Allow to cool and add a few drops of orange, rose or almond water (or not, to taste). Freeze in an ice cream maker. It will turn our like almond snow.

5:40 AM, August 14, 2006  
Anonymous Ellie said...

Right there. Right in that glass.


5:55 AM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger GoodbyeCityLife said...

Because it IS a little slice of h-e-l-l here in OKC right now, I'm going to try this w/the blackberries I picked earlier in the year. Thanks for sharing!

6:19 AM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger susan said...

I cannot wait to move back to the Pacific Northwest. I desperately miss blackberry season, and you just can't get decent berries in the grocery store. As soon as the husband finishes grad school and we move back northward, you can bet I'll be clicking through the Orangette archives to dig up this recipe.

6:44 AM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger hannah said...

i was just thinking to myself yesterday, when i move away from here i will miss the sound of cicadas. i tried to dry apple slices in the hot car once as a child, needless to say it didnt really work. you are however, making my mouth water for that "heavenly" type of summer and the sorbet is not helping matters at all...

7:15 AM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger Shari said...

hi molly!
i really enjoyed reading this post. being from the south, i can totally sympathize. we had nice weather this weekend and it made me realize what summer could be if we lived elsewhere. sounds like your summer is what i'm longing for. the sorbet looks delicious and that color...wow! xo shari

7:27 AM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger Monisha said...

Hi Molly -

Blackberry Sorbet - Another delicious dessert that makes bearing the heat and humidity in summer, worth it !!

11:34 AM, August 14, 2006  
Anonymous Grant said...

I love blackberries and that is a great tip about the corn syrup preventing the sorbet from being icy. I made plumb sorbet this weekend using a recipe from the Sunday Suppers at Lucques cookbook. I regret that it's already the middle of August and I've used my ice cream maker only once this summer.

12:05 PM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger Natalia said...

Yep, sometimes summer can be hard to enjoy. But even with the heat, it's still my favorite season. The fresh food is just so wonderful!

I looove the color of that sorbet. Beautiful!

1:45 PM, August 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really fantastic writing there, lady. This piece is just about perfect. I'm waiting for you to do something with Rama peaches. Of course, I've just been eating them out of hand, which is just right in itself. Maybe a tart is in order?

LAA, dying to get back to Rebecca's studio

2:26 PM, August 14, 2006  
Anonymous ashb said...

wow! Molly, what great recipes ;) I have found you via the lovely Shari of The Glass doorknob. I'm definitely hooked on your posts & so cool that your a fellow Seattlite!


2:31 PM, August 14, 2006  
Anonymous peabody said...

As some one who came from Phoenix to Seattle I can relate. Though I still am not fulling loving Summer. This Summer was a tad hot for me and I really wouldn't mind an A/C.
But the produce is nice and so is sitting outside. In Phoenix it still is 90 degrees at 10pm. So Seattle was a nice change.

5:12 PM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger Alice Q said...

Hi Molly - that' so funny about h-e-l-l - my grandmother from Oklahoma says the same thing. That and "hotter than hades." The sorbet sounds great and this is a really nice post. I love Framboise!

8:59 AM, August 15, 2006  
Blogger Dianka said...

Yum, loks so refreshing and delicious. Nothing like sorbet from fresh fruit.

1:08 PM, August 15, 2006  
Blogger jenjen said...

Hi Molly,
i know what you mean about the heat. I live in sydney which luckily is coastal, but can still get as hot as an oven.
I love your blueberry sorbet. I love the deep purple colour of it! Just beautiful!

3:45 PM, August 15, 2006  
Anonymous LPC said...

I love that deep purple color of the framboise sorbet. I made my first sorbet three weeks ago: it was white peaches with sugar and lemon juice and zest... and yes, it was a little icy. I'll take your advice and add corn syrup the next time it gets hot enough for a sorbet... unfortunately Paris is now under a cold spell. :-( It dropped to 12degC last Sat and we pulled out our jumpers. But what the heck - there's always space for sorbet. :-)

10:52 AM, August 16, 2006  
Blogger Run Around Paris said...

The color of this sorbet is amazing...I can almost taste it! I can't wait to try out your recipe.

5:18 PM, August 16, 2006  
Blogger Julie said...

I love summer too! I love it so much that I live in Florida so I can swim in the ocean year-round. I do envy the fact that you don't need air-conditioning on most days, though. The sorbet is gorgeous.

1:53 PM, August 17, 2006  
Blogger Tony said...

As promised here is the pomegranate and wine sorbet and also two others with fragrant compbinations.

(1) Pomegranate sorbet

Combine 600ml pomegranate juice, the juice of a sweet orange and 300ml of a full bodied red wine. Add to a sugar syrup made with 180g sugar and 90-120ml water. Freeze. No one will guess the ingredients due to an exotic flavour. Fresh pomegranate juice is easy (if potentially messy!) to make. Slice in half and juice with a citus juicer while wearing red clothes or swimming togs....

(2) Lemon sorbet with saffron.

This is lemon sorbet of an extraordinary colour and a hint of the ocean. Corn syrup also in this recipe to smooth out the crystals.

Combine 1.75 cups of water with 1.5 cups sugar over heat. Add crushed saffron threads (to taste) and allow to infuse fo 5-10 minutes. Add 1.25 cups of lemon jice and 5 tablespoons of corn syrup. Freeze.

and last (3) Green honeydew sorbet with orange blossom water.

I was inspired to make this after having a melon salad in Spain.

Take a very ripe honeydew (green melon) blend with sugar syrup and add orange blossom water (up to half a tsp). Freeze.

The beauty of sorbets is the subtle flavour variation that can be achieved. Can't wait for summer!

6:23 PM, August 18, 2006  
Anonymous maryeats said...

Oh molly, I know your cicada pain! In South Korea they are so loud that it is impossible to sleep. I have ear plugs to get through the month of august. Isn't it amazing that something so small can make that much noise?

6:39 PM, August 18, 2006  
Blogger bcinfrance said...

Just got back from a summer in Olympia and I heartily agree with your post! There's something about summer in the Pacific Northwest..

6:07 AM, August 20, 2006  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Hello, my dear! I probably don't need to tell you how much I agree with your assessment of PNW summers! The more places I live, the more I appreciate how rare that perfect combination of temperature, humidity and great produce actually is. It almost makes up for those eight months of rain, doesn't it? ;)

And that sorbet, gorgeous! My parents have a huge blackberry bush outside the front door, and now I'm kicking myself that I didn't do anything more with them than just pick a few on my way in and out...

5:27 PM, August 20, 2006  
Blogger lobstersquad said...

oklahoma sounds exactly like madrid, down to the annoying ciacadas and the sweater on hand in case of movies or restaurants. You´re so lucky to live in the coast now

11:27 AM, August 22, 2006  
Anonymous keiko said...

Hi Molly - this is such a beautiful sorbet, the colour is just gorgeous! We've got loads of blackberry trees in our allotment and have been enjoying them - I'm going to try this recipe with next harvest :) Oh and happy belated anniversary too!

6:23 AM, August 23, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Oh my. Somehow all these comments slipped away from me without my noticing! Last week must have been even busier than I thought! Sheesh. You know how I like replying to comments, dear readers, so please forgive me for this wee delay.

Tanna, I have only one thing to say: I feel for you. I really do.

Lindy, I hope things are staying in the 75-degree range in Pittsburgh these days - but if not, long live the ice cream maker! Your blueberry version sounds delicious.

Thank you, dear Zarah Maria!

Wheresmymind, I'm sure that I've said it before, but your wife is one smart cookie.

Tony, wow - you and your great recipes! I love marzipan, so the mere thought of "almond snow" has me feeling a little faint. And then you go and tell me about the pomegranate sorbet, and the honeydew one too, the lemon with saffron! Oh MY. Looks like I'll be trying more "Tony recipes," and happily so! Thank you.

Well put, Ellie. Amen to that.

You're most welcome, GoodbyeCityLife! I hope it was a success in your kitchen.

Susan, I hear you - the blackberries are certainly reason enough to get back here as soon as possible. Hurry!

Hannah, you know, listening to your recording of the cicadas in Greenwood - I still can't believe you did that! - actually made me feel nostalgic for them, if only for a second! Thank you for that second.

Shari, if you ever need a dose of Northwest summer, you know who to call...

Monisha, I know what you mean - all these icy cold treats almost make me want a hot and humid summer! Almost.

Thanks so much for reminding me of that cookbook, Grant. I've been meaning to pick it up for a while now, and really, what better time? The market is full of plums just waiting to be made into sorbet...

Thank you, Natalia! Summer is my favorite season too.

LAA, where have you been, young lady? Staying home with the Rama peaches, eh? You'd better get back to the mat, even if you bring along a mouthful of peaches.

Thank you, ashb - and lovely to meet you, my fellow Seattlite! You know, I think I may have seen your wares at Velouria...

Peabody, I can only imagine what a relief Seattle summers must be to you, even if you would still like some AC. Phew!

Too funny, Alice Q! My grandmother says "hotter than hinges" sometimes too - does yours ever use that one? It kills me.

Thank you, Dianka!

Jenjen, I've been wanting to visit Sydney for a while now, and I'll be sure to beware of the heat. For now, though, I hope winter isn't giving you too hard a time...

That's the spirit, LPC! Don't let a little cool spell stop you. Onward with the sorbet, white peach or otherwise! [Yours sounds wonderful, by the way.]

Run Around Paris, I hope you do try it - and if so, please let me know what you think...

Julie, it sounds as though you have it made in the summer department - well, maybe minus that Florida humidity. I wish Seattle had summer year-round!

maryeats, that's amazing - and horrifying! You need ear plugs? Wow. I thought Oklahoma's cicadas were loud, but you win the prize - err, if you can really call it a prize. You know what I mean.

bcinfrance, it sounds like you know exactly what I mean. Hope you had a great trip!

Melissa, I have an idea: how about next summer, when you come to see your parents, Brandon and I take the ferry over and the three of us pick those blackberries and whip up something tasty? What do you say? Pleeeease?

Lobstersquad, oh, I wish Oklahoma were like Madrid - culture-wise, at least! I do love my hometown, but mainly because it's my hometown, and not for much else. Spain sounds much more my speed, although I would sort of miss Oklahoma's cowboys, chicken-fried steaks, and oil wells.

Thank you, Keiko! I hope you like the sorbet...

4:59 PM, August 23, 2006  

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