Homemade Orange Sherbet

Pardon me as I wax a bit nostalgic for a moment here, but for me, summertime in the ‘hood back in the 50’s and 60’s was just plain fun; the ‘hood being a middle class neighborhood in a suburb of L.A.  Our particular neighborhood was peopled with working class families with lots of post-war kids, and if you can even imagine it, not one electronic device other than our big ol’ radios and black and white TV’s.  Which meant that summer evenings were spent playing freeze tag and kick ball and waiting for the ice cream truck to make its way over to our street.  I’ve always been pretty up front about my age, but if this doesn’t make me sound old, I just don’t know what.

But back then it was always a tough decision to have to choose between fudgsicles, popsicles, drumsticks, ice cream sandwiches, Eskimo Pies, and one of my personal favorites…the creamsicle or 50-50 bar, which was half vanilla ice cream and half orange sherbet.  I think I most often ended up with that 50-50 bar, and for years ever after, I’ve had an orange sherbet crush, made all the better if I can pair it up with some vanilla ice cream.  And which probably led to my total and complete addiction to the Orange Julius in high school. 

But here’s the thing… to me, orange sherbet just isn’t quite what it used to be.  It could be all the additives and artificial ingredients that get thrown into it nowadays, or it could just be a selective memory thing, or maybe it really was better back then.  Hard to say, but I decided it was high time I made some up just to see if I could replicate those sherbet flavors of my youth. 

But why isn’t it spelled sherbert?

I started with a recipe from my Cuisinart ice cream maker (very forgettable); moved on to one from Alton Brown (better, but still not quite there) and then landed on this one from Fine Cooking.  Score!!  Oh man, is this stuff good.  Super bright and orange-y, balanced with just the right amount of creaminess and the perfect sweet to tangy ratio, and in my humble opinion, maybe even better than my beloved childhood sherbet. 

We’re going to start with fresh oranges, which, of course, is what this sherbet is all about, although one time I swapped out a few of the fresh oranges for some fresh-squeezed, organic tangerine juice and it was amazing!! 

Then we’re going to zest up a few of those oranges and infuse this stuff with even more orangey-ness, which is what I think sends it right over the edge of sherbet mediocrity and into orange sherbet legend. 

Of course, you don’t have to dredge up some sappy childhood memories from the 50’s to get excited about orange sherbet.  It’s just pretty much one of those cold summertime treats that's ever so easy to love.  Here’s the recipe…

Homemade Orange Sherbet

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe Courtesy Fine Cooking

Makes about 1 quart

At the risk of setting your expectations impossibly high, I’m still going to say that this may be some of the best orange sherbet you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting.  It’s bright and citrusy and creamy and sweet and tangy all at the same time and all of that is so perfectly balanced and just so good.  The only change I made to the recipe was to use half and half instead of cream.  We loved it, but if you’re game for using the cream, I can only imagine how even more creamy and wondrous it would be.  Please DO use fresh-squeezed orange juice.  From real, fresh oranges.  Mostly because of the fresh orange flavor, but also because you absolutely cannot skip the step where you steep the orange zest to make this even more awesomely orange.  Lovely stuff.

10 medium navel oranges (about 5 lb.)

1 cup granulated sugar

1-1/2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

3/4 cup heavy cream (I used half and half)

Finely grate enough zest from the oranges to yield 2 Tbs., and then squeeze the oranges to yield 3 cups juice.

In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the zest, 1 cup of the juice, and the sugar to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Strain though a fine sieve into a medium bowl, pressing on the zest; discard the zest.

Strain the remaining orange juice and the lemon juice into the bowl, and then whisk in the heavy cream. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer the sherbet to an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

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