Lemon Verbena Sorbet
Fresh lemon verbena is in the wings waiting to be discovered and become a star. It has a wonderful herbal lemon bouquet. The difficult part of this recipe is hunting down fresh lemon verbena. Fresh lemon verbena is hard to find, even at premium farmers’ markets. But it easy to grow a few plants in your backyard. Dried lemon verbena makes for a lovely hot tea, but I would not substitute dried for fresh in this recipe. You can steep fresh lemon verbena into a memorable summer iced tea, but the precious leaves go lots further turned into a sorbet.
This simple procedure bypasses the usual sorbet process of making simple syrup and steeping the lemon verbena in the warm syrup. Avoiding heating the lemon verbena preserves its effervescent freshness. Instead, the lemon verbena is simply made into a paste with sugar in a food processor, combined with lemon juice and water, steeped and strained. It is then ready to freeze. This is a basic procedure for making herb-based sorbets.
Note: Lemon verbena is often available at the Z Farm stand in the Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market on Saturdays.
Do Ahead Sorbet may be made up to a month in advance and held in freezer. Make sure you cover the of sorbet with plastic wrap to protect from freezer burn. Remove sorbet from freezer at least 20 minutes before serving to temper or soften.
2 cups lightly packed lemon verbena leaves removed from woody stem
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, seeds removed – about 3 lemons
5 cups water
1. In work bowl of food processor, combine lemon verbena and sugar. Process until leaves and sugar are fully incorporated and turns into damp paste. Add lemon juice and process an additional 30 seconds. Transfer to large bowl.
2. Add 5 cups water and stir well. Steep in refrigerator at least three to four hours or overnight.
3. Pass through fine strainer to remove leaf fragments.
4. Freeze according to manufacturers instructions.
Lemon verbena sorbet is very easy to make. Just lemon verbena, fresh lemon juice, sugar and water. Some recipes call for superfine sugar, but I find it unnecessary. You do need a food processor and an ice cream freezer. Here I used somewhat more than two cups lemon verbena, but it all depends on how hard you press the leaves into the measure. A bit more or less is not a big deal. More is usually better than less.
In work bowl of food processor, combine lemon verbena leaves and sugar.
Process until verbena is well ground and forms a paste with sugar.
Juice lemons. Here I am using a reamer — a very handy tool when you need a little fresh lemon or lime juice. You extract much more juice than by squeezing by hand. You will need more than the recipe calls for because you will be straining out the seeds and pulp.
Strain out seeds and pulp from juice.
Add lemon juice to lemon verbena-sugar mixture and process until incorporated.
Transfer from food processor to bowl.
Add water and chill in refrigerator overnight or for at four hours until cold. Freeze according to directions of your ice cream maker. I use an electric Cuisinart ice cream maker with which you can make continuous batches. If you are using an ice cream maker that pre-freezes a bowl, you may reduce the recipe proportionately or make two batches, refreezing your bowl if required.
Inexpensive ice cream makers that requiring pre-freezing of bowl work very well and provide an excellent “entry level” frozen dessert making. They cost about $50 and make up to 6 cups at a time. The Cuisinart that I use costs about $300 new, though Home Depot sells reconditioned models at $159.
When serving any ice cream or sorbet, be sure to remove it from the freezer at least 20 minutes before serving to temper it, meaning to allow it to soften so you can scoop it and the texture is better for eating. Here it is from On the Table: Farm Stands of Lancaster Co.. I served it with lightly macerated nectarines and golden raspberries along with a Market Day canale. Canele are molded desserts that fall somewhere between a caramelized custard and cake.
Market Day canale are available in Philadelphia at the Clark Park, Rittenhouse Square and Headhouse Farmers’ Markets as well as other retail locations. Click here for details. Metropolitan Bakery also makes wonderful canale.
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