I often wonder why produce, and fruit in particular, often tastes better in Italy. The soils in Italy aren’t especially great. Perhaps it’s the more temperate climate, or perhaps the varieties are different, more carefully bred for flavor rather than other qualities such as uniform ripening or the ability to be shipped.
In any case, it’s been a disappointing year in our area for peaches. Both flavor and texture have been somewhat imperfect, and this can make it a challenge to do the sort of transparent cooking that we like. We had hoped this month to roast peaches in the oven with amaretti cookies, but the peaches we had access to just weren’t perfect enough for this preparation. So we decided on a perfect use for imperfect fruit: sorbet.
This is hardly a sacrifice. We probably serve various types of sorbets more often than any other dessert at the restaurant because sorbet is one of the most delicious ways one can end a meal, and no dessert is more light and refreshing. Of course, the best fruit makes wonderful sorbet, but it is one case where an imperfect ingredient can be transformed into a dish of great satisfaction.
Unlike gelato, sorbet can be made wonderfully at home in an inexpensive ice cream freezer. Because home models require about 20 or 25 minutes to freeze the gelato or sorbet (compared to less than 10 for commercial machines), ice crystal formation is nearly inevitable, which is a deal breaker for gelato – which is always milk/cream based – but not for sorbet, which is always water based.
We have two machines, a two-quart Cuisinart model and a one-quart Cuisinart model. I’m not sure there’s much difference from brand to brand, but for home use we recommend a one-quart model. After a number of hours in the fridge the sorbet will become rock hard and useless. It’s always best to eat sorbet the same day it’s made, just the way you would in Italy.
If you’re looking for further sorbet/gelato inspiration, make a trip to Capogiro in Philadelphia, America’s premier gelateria.
Peach Sorbet (Makes 1 quart)
- Peel and cube 1 pound of peaches. (That’s 1 pound after removing skin and pit.)
- Place the peaches in a blender along with 2 cups water, 1 cup sugar, juice from 1 lemon, and the tiniest pinch of salt. Process for 30 seconds or so until completely smooth.
- Chill for at least 8 hours or preferably overnight, then freeze in an ice cream machine according to the machine’s instructions.
- When the sorbet comes out of the machine, it will probably be too soft. Freeze for a few hours until it firms up just a a bit, but keep an eye on it because after too many hours it will become hard as a rock and not easy to use.