Refreshing, smooth, a blast of pure and distinct flavor—these are just a few ways to describe the perfect sorbet. Because of specific freezing properties, making your own fruit sorbet can be a bit intimidating, but by following your taste buds and a few very basic rules, you can easily create your own delicious sorbets.
A flavorful base means a great-tasting sorbet
The first and most important part of making a sorbet is to capture the distinct and fresh flavor of your main ingredient in a base that you can freeze. The base must be a liquid or a smooth purée. Happily, many sorbet ingredients, like citrus juices and other fruit juices, are already liquid and ready to go, but most fruits need to be puréed and strained to get a smooth consistency. In order to develop ultimate flavor and in some cases to destroy the enzymes that cause fruits to oxidize (turn brown), you may need to cook the fruit a bit before you purée it.
Fruits that oxidize, like bananas, apples, and stone fruits, should always be cooked to keep the base from browning. Citrus juices, melons, and tropical fruits such as mango and papaya should never be cooked because heat kills their flavor. For berries, cooking is optional; for instance, perfectly ripe strawberries can be puréed and used as is, or they can be warmed with a little sugar to pull out more of the juices. If the berries aren’t perfectly ripe, heat will enhance their flavor. If you’re ever in doubt, cook a small amount and compare the cooked version to the raw fruit.
As the fruit cooks, taste it often. If the fruit seems extremely sour or tart, stir in small amounts of sugar, but treat the sugar as though you were adding salt to a soup: Add it gradually, one spoonful at a time. Freezing dulls flavors just a bit, but essentially your sorbet will taste just like the base. If you have a great-tasting base, you’re well on your way to a perfect sorbet.
Most fruits need a little heat and sugar to taste their best in a sorbet
Barely cover the bottom of a pot with water, add your fruit, and sprinkle with a little sugar. Set the pot over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is very flavorful (this should take no longer than 30 minutes). Taste frequently.
When you’re happy with the flavor, purée the base in a food processor or a blender. Pass the purée through a fine sieve to remove any seeds or pulp. The base should be no thicker than heavy cream; add a little water to thin it if necessary. Chill well before freezing.