Kitchen Witch - On ice

Winter citrus sorbet

I've long prescribed to the notion that winter is an ice-cream-free zone. Even when snow fails to make an appearance or the temperature feels more like spring, winter is dark. And darkness makes us turn inward.

We fold up the patio furniture and retreat indoors. We brood over bowls of broth and cocoa, linger over tea and cookies and tuck into curry and stew. And we don't lap up a rapidly melting mountain of rocky road or chase after a Good Humor truck.

In the midst of our deep winter nap, Mother Nature shows up juggling balls of citrus, reminding us that the sun still exists. In their natural state, eaten in hand, winter citrus brings us out of our caves. It juices our veins and refuels the synapses. It is citrus that makes us forget about winter.

A recent love-a-thon with a bowl of tangelos had me thinking out loud: If citrus makes us forget about winter, but will be long gone by the time summer is here, what would happen to the world order if we made citrus ice cream or sorbet?

I decided to throw caution to the January wind and embark on a frozen-dessert expedition. The tangelo, a tangerine-pomelo hybrid known for its nipply head, dimply, deep-orange rind and tangy juice, was the perfect candidate for this experiment.

Unlike ice cream, sorbet needs only a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water heated until sugar is dissolved) as its base, which means a quicker route to the ice cream machine. After a 30-minute churn, the tangelo juice is icy but not frostbitten, which translates into a soft, tender mouth feel, allowing for immediate interaction with the fruit and sensory overload of the best kind.

By far, the sorbet below is one of the cleanest-tasting, most refreshing desserts I've ever made. I confess: Its sunkissed brightness has turned my ice-cream-free-zone theory upside down, but I don't care. I'm already looking forward to next January.

Winter citrus sorbet

Inspired by The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater

1 cup granulated or superfine sugar

1 cup water

Grated zest of 2 oranges

3 cups juice of oranges, tangelos and/or blood oranges (6-8 pieces), strained

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon rosewater (optional; available at Middle Eastern groceries)

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon vodka (a small amount of alcohol helps keep the sorbet from developing a hard crust)

Make a simple syrup: Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add zest; allow syrup to cool. Once syrup has cooled, strain it to remove zest, and to the strained mixture add juice, lemon, rosewater and salt, stirring until combined. Pour into an airtight container and chill for at least four hours and preferably overnight, until very cold.

When ready to freeze, pour mixture into ice cream machine and add vodka. Stir to combine. Churn until firm and nearly frozen, about 30 minutes. Remove from bowl and freeze for at least one additional hour before serving.

Makes 1 quart sorbet.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O'Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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