Midwinter Summer Fruit Sorbet

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


Appears in

The Feast of Christmas: Origins, Traditions and Recipes

The Feast of Christmas

By Paul Levy

Published 1992

  • About

Inspired by Jane Grigson’s rule-of-thumb recipe for sorbet in her Fruit Book, we pick the glut of raspberries, fraises des bois, redcurrants, blackcurrants and gooseberries in late June and early July, and flash freeze them loose on trays. Then we tip the frozen pellets into polythene bags and keep them in the freezer. They are often most wanted in winter, when a sorbet is the only tolerable pudding after a heavy, warming meaty or fatty meal.

If you have an electric sorbetière — our Gelato Chef is the second most-used kitchen machine, after the food processor itself — you can do the trick I learned from Michel Guerard, and make the sorbet only as you sit down to dinner. A fruit ice is at its freshest twenty minutes after it’s been frozen. The texture changes dramatically the longer it stays frozen.


Take any quantity of soft fruit, alone, or in interesting combinations, such as redcurrants and raspberries or redcurrants plus blackcurrants, from the freezer and allow to thaw. Process them and sieve carefully — important for annoying raspberry pips.

For each 500 g (1 lb) of puréed or liquidized and sieved soft fruit, add alternately a dollop of lemon or orange juice (to sharpen the flavour) and a slug of sugar syrup (to sweeten the flavour and give a good texture).

The syrup is made by boiling steadily for 5 minutes 150 g (5 oz, cup) white sugar in 300-500 ml (8-12 fl oz, 1-2 cups) water until you have a limpid but sticky syrup. Jane Grigson advises varying the quantity of water in the syrup with the intensity of flavour in the fruit you mean to use the syrup with: more water for blackcurrants, less water for wild strawberries.

You can add the syrup to the fruit either hot or cold. If it is hot, you will get a very slightly cooked fruit flavour, whereas cool syrup will preserve the raw freshness of the fruit. (Some people do not appreciate raw currant flavours.)

This is the mixture you freeze. If you’re using a sorbetière, you can add some alcohol now. Eaux de vie such as kirsch, framboise and myrtille add interesting flavours, and a little alcohol makes the texture smoother. This is the time to use up the crème de cassis and other sticky liqueurs at the back of the drinks cupboard. A Tbsp or two per pound of fruit is quite enough, though.

If you are freezing your water ice in an ice cube tray or in a bowl in an ordinary freezer, as soon as the sorbet is firm and icy at the rim and still liquid in the centre, tip it into a mixing bowl and beat it with an electric beater on full speed, incorporating lots of air and dissolving all the ice particles. Add the booze now. Return to the freezer, and repeat the whole performance one more time if you like. Jane Grigson thinks two beatings is as much as a sorbet can endure, and that more make no difference to the final texture.

An alternative to beating your sorbet is to wait until it has just gone firm, and then crunch it up in the food processor fitted with the metal blade. ‘It makes a dreadful noise at first,’ says Jane Grigson, ‘and thumps about’, but it gets beautifully smooth. It pays to leave this step until just before you want to serve the sorbet, as the resulting texture is so nice. But it takes nerves of steel, as an extra thirty seconds in the whizzer will liquify the whole mixture, and you have to start all over again.