The other day I looked up from my computer and found it was midsummer. Suddenly, I was no longer the parent of a high school senior, but rather a college-bound high school graduate, brown as a nut (as my friend Kelly might say) from his job as a tennis camp counselor. His younger sister, meanwhile, managed to earn her driver’s license, take her ACTs and SATs, and pick up two part-time summer jobs.
One of those jobs is scooping custard at a local frozen custard shop. It’s a place we’ve been going to since she was a toddler and seeing her behind the counter, taking people’s orders on a busy summer night, makes me proud. Driving home one evening (she was driving, of course) she listed the featured flavors of sorbet ~ lemon-rosemary, lime and fresh mint, plum with honey and thyme. A few I remembered from summers past, others were new. They all sounded lovely and poetic. She had been tasked with tasting them all so she would know exactly what she was serving customers (tough job, right?!).
Her descriptions made me want to try my own hand at making sorbet. I loved the idea of plum sorbet, but I had no plums. I did, however, have some fresh pineapple in the fridge. We’ve been eating a lot of pineapple lately because it’s been exceptionally good ~ juicy and saturated with tart sweetness. (Apparently it is peak pineapple season.)
The Italian word for pineapple is ‘ananas’ (AH-nah-nas). It’s one of the funniest words in the Italian language (go ahead and say it), probably because it’s not Italian at all. The word, like the fruit, has its origins in South America. Pineapple arrived in Italy a few centuries ago by way of Spanish and English explorers. It is still popular in Italy, and every gelateria serves pineapple gelato and sorbetto.
I found a good basic recipe on Giallo Zafferano, and tweaked it to my liking, adding basil and coconut milk. The coconut milk was, literally, a last minute addition. As the sorbetto was churning away, I could smell the sticky-sweet pineapple, which of course made me think of piña coladas. I dashed back to the pantry and dug around for that one lonely can of coconut milk that had to be there. And it was! How did it even get there? How was it not expired? Who was I to question serendipity?
Though I’ve made plenty of ice cream, gelato, and granita over the years, this was my first attempt at sorbetto; it’s icier than ice cream but creamier than granita and I’m delighted with the way it turned out ~ rich but not heavy, and full of syrupy pineapple flavor. I served it plain, but I’m guessing it would be wonderful with caramel sauce, or scooped atop a grilled pineapple ring.
I hope you’ll give this one a try. In fact, make it now, before your babies grow up and get summer jobs and go to college. Or at least before pineapple season is over.
Pineapple sorbetto, infused with fresh mint and basil, is especially refreshing in midsummer. To get the smooth texture of true "sorbetto," use an ice cream machine to churn the ingredients. This recipe is loosely adapted from one posted on the website Giallo Zafferano. The original recipe calls for adding milk to the pineapple mixture. I substituted coconut milk for half of the milk to give the sorbetto a nice tropical twist. You can use all coconut milk if you want to make this vegan.
- 2 kg (2.2 pounds) fresh pineapple chunks
- 350 g (1 3/4 cups) sugar (see Notes)
- 800 g (3 1/3 cups) water
- 3 strips lemon zest (no white pith)
- 1 packed cup fresh mint leaves
- Handful of fresh basil leaves
- 150 ml (2/3 cup) whole milk
- 150 ml (2/3 cup) coconut milk
Puree the pineapple chunks in a stand blender until smooth; you will probably have to do this in batches.
Coarsely chop the mint and basil leaves, just to break them down a bit, not too much.
Combine the sugar and water in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the lemon zest. Set over medium-low heat and cook, stirring gently, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Raise the heat to medium and bring the sugar syrup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.
While the sugar syrup is cooking, coarsely chop the mint and basil leaves. Remove the sugar syrup from the heat and stir in the chopped mint and basil and the pineapple puree. Cover the pan and let the mixture cool and steep for 3 to 4 hours. Strain it through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and stir in the milk and coconut milk. Transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate overnight, or until completely chilled.
Churn the mixture in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions until thickened and frozen. Transfer the sorbetto to a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid and freeze until ready to serve.
If you don't have an ice cream machine (or a stand mixer ice cream attachment), pour the sorbetto mixture into a sturdy container with a tight-fitting lid and freeze for 2 to 3 hours. Puree the mixture with an immersion blender and return it to the freezer for another 2 to 3 hours. Repeat the blending step two more times to break up the sorbetto, and then once again 30 minutes before serving (see Notes).
I used vanilla sugar, which is simply sugar into which I have buried a few pieces of vanilla bean.
Churning the sorbetto in an ice cream machine gives it a creamy and smooth texture. I have not tried the immersion blender technique, but included it as it was described in the original Giallo Zafferano recipe.