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A Quick Recipe: Lime Sorbet

This is not a complicated thing to make, but it’s terrific. My family and I polished off a large batch of it last night – it’s still warm and humid enough around here to make it an excellent dessert. The only thing you need is some sort of stirring ice-cream freezer – we have one of those where you put the cylinder in the freezer for a day, and then turn a hand crank. But anything will work, as long as it’s cold enough and allows you to keep mixing.
The ingredient list is short. Fresh lime juice really is essential, though, although if you have lemons around, lemon sorbet is (naturally) the same recipe, and is also excellent.
1 cup (250 mL) fresh-squeezed lime juice
1.5 cups granulated white sugar (300 grams)
Enough water to take the volume to 4 cups (1 liter)
Squeeze the lime juice. If you want a really smooth texture in the finished product, you can strain the pulp out, but I don’t bother. Add the sugar, adjust to the final volume with water, and stir to dissolve. The sorbet will form more quickly, of course, if you chill this mixture beforehand. Add this solution to the ice-cream maker, and stir steadily until the mixture is very thick. Constant stirring will keep the sides from icing up, and make the finished product more homogeneous. I’ve found that you need to keep freezing things past when you think it looks ready, as the sorbet gets looser once it’s being dished out. You’ll also probably need to stir it again during that process; some syrup tends to pool up in it as it stands.
If you like the flavor of lemon or lime, this is probably going to be the best sorbet you’ve ever tasted. There’s nothing like the fresh juice, and this will give you a cold, concentrated blast of it. These proportions are a little more sour than the ones given by Harold McGee for a “sweet fruit ice” in his book The Curious Cook, so if you find this a bit acidic, you can add four tablespoons more sugar (50g) to the mix next time. McGee’s book has a chapter which includes tested recipes for doing this sort of thing with a huge variety of fruits, so it’s worth seeking out if you find that this is your favorite route for self-administering vitamin C.

13 comments on “A Quick Recipe: Lime Sorbet”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Try freezing with liquid nitrogen, it’s quicker and avoids the need for stirring. 😉

  2. johnnyboy says:

    Sounds great, I love lime – usually in cocktails, but non-alcoholic use is also acceptable 😉
    For an additional little trick: if you are having trouble getting much juice from your limes, put them in the microwave for 10-30 seconds (enough to get them warm but not boiling). Really increases the juice output, especially if the fruits tend to be a bit dry.

  3. Pat Bowne says:

    What can your chemical expertise tell me about why artificial sweeteners are less effective in depressing the freezing point? Is the difference mainly due to the lower amount required?

  4. jbosch says:

    Strawberries and fresh Rosemary, give that a try. It’s addictive. Also instead of sugar I replace with Truvia.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Use salt instead of sugar, and tequila instead of water. Oh what the hell, and whiskey instead of lime juice.

  6. Derek Lowe says:

    #3 – that’s exactly it. The amount of sugar dissolved in the water is the key to the freezing point depression. To a good approximation, it doesn’t matter what’s being dissolved, just the ratio of that to the water (an example of what’s called a “colligative property”). That starts to veer off track at higher concentrations, but it works for quite a while.

  7. Scarodactyl says:

    Do you have any insight as to what type of chemical they have inside that frozen cylinder? It must have a very high specific heat to stay as cold as it does for as long as it does.
    Also, can’t wait to try this recipe, though unfortunately it will probably be well into fall before I can.

  8. Matthew K says:

    #7 it’s just brine (concentrated NaCl in water). Because it has a freezing point below freezer temperatures, it remains a -4 degree liquid drawing heat from the bowl surface and convecting it away. A block of ice would just melt at the surface and the temperature would equilibrate with the bowl pretty quickly, plus it releases the latent heat of solidification. Brine is used to rapid freeze stuff like commercial popsicles etc.
    Also, brine is completely food safe (unless you drank a cup of it and vomited I suppose).

  9. Jim D says:

    Thanks, but what about the relevant details:
    What’s the bio-availability?
    What’s the half-life?
    Did you perform a double-blind taste-test against sugar pills?

  10. cooking safely says:

    #2 Be sure to poke through the lime rind with a fork a few times before microwaving. You don’t want to know how I learned this.

  11. Dave says:

    Do you have a diabetic friendly version?

  12. ScientistSailor says:

    Sounds Great. Maybe garnish with some fresh mint…

  13. Oblarg says:

    My experience with ice-cream freezers is that there’s nothing that works nearly as well as the good ol’ salt-and-ice behemoths. The freezer-cylinder types are really compact and work OK for small batches, but I find they seldom have enough effective heat capacity to get the proper texture for a large batch.
    I’ve been thinking of building my own using cannibalized parts (namely the dasher and central cylinder) from one whose motor recently broke down on me; using a drill motor/clutch assembly to properly tune the freezing-time to match the batch size would be a big improvement over the models you can buy.

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