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Ice Pop Recipe: Create Your Own

One simple method for ice pops, endless flavor variations

by Fany Gerson

from Fine Cooking
Issue 112

Every town in Mexico has at least one paleteria—ice pop store—and as a kid, I’d indulge in their fruity, refreshing paletas practically every week. These were definitely not your average ice pops; the flavors were incredible, combining a wide array of fruits, herbs, and spices. Once I grew up, I discovered that these delicious treats are easy to make at home; all it takes is a few fresh ingredients, some inexpensive molds, and some time to kill while the pops freeze.

The method is straightforward. First, boil some sugar and water to make a simple syrup. If you like, spice it up with your choice of flavoring, from familiar cinnamon or vanilla to unexpected chile or lemongrass. Combine the syrup with your favorite puréed fruit, yogurt (if you want your ice pops creamy), and your choice of fruit stir-ins. Then pour the mixture into molds, add sticks, and freeze. The toughest part is sitting tight while the freezer works its magic—but trust me, these pops are worth the wait.

Ice Pops

Yields about ten 1/3 cup pops

Make the syrup

A simple syrup is easy to make: Just combine sugar and water and boil. If you like, add a flavoring to the syrup to infuse it with another layer of flavor. A pinch of salt helps bring out the flavor of the fruit purée you’ll add later.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, a pinch of kosher salt, and 1/2 cup water in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and make sure the sugar has dissolved; add your choice of flavoring, if using (see options below). Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 2  minutes. Remove from the heat and let the syrup cool completely. Strain through a fine strainer into a 1-quart liquid measuring cup.

Choose a flavoring (optional)

  • cardamom
    Crushed cardamom pods (green or white): 1 Tbs.
  • dried red chiles
    Crumbled Dried chiles (chile de árbol or pequin): 2 chiles
  • vanilla bean
    Vanilla bean, split lengthwise: 1/2 bean, about 3 inches
  • cinnamon
    Cinnamon stick: 4-inch piece
  • lemon thyme
    Fresh lemon thyme: 2 to 3 sprigs
  • coriander seeds
    Crushed coriander seed: 1 tsp.
  • pink peppercorns
    Crushed pink peppercorns: 1 Tbs.
  • lemon zest
    Lemon zest: four 3-inch strips (remove any white pith)
  • lime zest
    Lime zest: four 3-inch strips (remove any white pith)
  • orange zest
    Orange zest: four 3-inch strips (remove any white pith)
  • lemongrass
    Chopped lemongrass: 1/4 cup
  • tea leaves
    Black or jasmine tea: 1 Tbs.
  • juniper berries
    Crushed juniper berries: 1 Tbs.
Make a fruit purée or juice

Purée the fruit (see options below) in batches in a blender, or for tangerines or oranges, squeeze the juice; you should have about 2 cups. If you like, you can replace half of the puree or juice with 1 cup Greek yogurt to make creamy yogurt pops.

Choose one fruit

  • peaches
    Peaches: 2 lb. (8 to 12), peeled and pitted
  • papaya
    Papaya: 1 small, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks (about 4 cups)
  • mango
    Mango: 3 medium, peeled, pitted, and cut into chunks (about 4-1/2 cups)
  • grapes
    Grapes (red or green seedless): 2 cups
  • blackberries
    Blackberries: 2 pints (strain the purée if you like)
  • oranges
    Oranges: 6
  • tangerines
    Tangerines: 10
  • cantaloupe
    Cantaloupe: 1 medium to large, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks (about 3 cups)
  • pineapple
    Pineapple: 1 medium, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks (about 3 cups)
  • strawberries
    Strawberries: 5 cups, hulled
  • kiwi
    Kiwi: 1-1/2 lb. (8 to 10), peeled
Add the stir-ins

Stir-ins not only add extra flavor but also give an interesting textural element to the pops.

Combine the 2 cups fruit purée or juice and the reserved syrup. Distribute your choice of stir-in(s) (see options below) among ten 1/3-cup pop molds. Add the fruit mixture to each mold, leaving about 1/4 inch at the top to allow for expansion. Stir gently with a Popsicle stick to distribute the stir-ins.

Choose one or two stir-ins, up to 1 cup total (optional)

  • orange wege
    Orange or tangerine segments, cut free of membranes and halved
  • blackberries
    Blackberries, halved or quartered if large
  • mango
    Mango, cut into small dice
  • coconut shavings
    Unsweetened dried coconut, lightly toasted (max 3/4 cup)
  • kiwi
    Kiwi, cut into small pieces
  • dried cranberries
    Dried cranberries, lightly chopped (max 1/2 cup)
  • apricots
    Apricots, cut into small dice
  • strawberries
    Strawberries, cut into small pieces
  • mint
    Fresh mint, chopped (max 1/3 cup)
  • dried cherries
    Dried cherries, lightly chopped (max 1/2 cup)
  • cucumber
    Cucumber, cut into small pieces
  • papaya
    Papaya, cut into small dice
  • pineapple
    Pineapple, cut into small pieces
  • cantaloupe
    Cantaloupe, cut into small dice
  • wild blueberries
    Wild blueberries, whole
Freeze the ice pops

Freeze until partially frozen, about 1 hour. Insert sticks and freeze again until the pops are fully set, 4 to 6 hours more.

To unmold, dip the mold in a deep pan of hot water until the pops pull out easily, 30 to 40 seconds, or let sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes. Unmold and store the pops in individual resealable plastic bags; they’re best eaten within 3 weeks.

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