A refreshing treat that’s light & tangy, Whole Lemon Sherbet is sweet, tart, smooth, and creamy. It's easy to make and all natural!
Satisfying a craving
As with most of my posts, this one started out as a craving.
I really can't say why this idea flitted into my head, but I suddenly started thinking about smooth, tart, creaminess on a hot, humid day, and an idea started percolating.
Then it turned into a "what if I..."
Yeah, baby, let's pack as much lemon flavor as possible into sorbet, then tame the tartness with cream. That's a recipe for Whole Lemon Sherbet!
Sherbet vs. Sorbet
According to Yankee Magazine, "The word sherbet comes from the Arabic sharab or sharbat, a cold, sweetened drink usually made with fruit juice. Over time, the cold fruit juices were frozen into fruit desserts.
Sherbets probably reached their peak of popularity in this country from the 1950s to the 1970s when Howard Johnson’s orange sherbet was its signature dessert. Today, sorbets, made with only fruit and sugar, are more popular, whereas sherbets, which contain a small amount of milk or cream, have declined."
Sherbets are the fruit cousin to gelato. There is more milk than cream like in a gelato, so they are lighter in fat than regular ice creams. And they can be lower in sugar, too, but that depends on the fruit.
Sorbets are skinny sherbets. That is, instead of using milk and cream, they use water.
What goes into Lemon Sherbet
Because lemons have a lot of flavor, you don't need a whole lot of extra flavoring ingredients. And like with lemonade, you do have to balance the lemony tartness with a sweetener.
I like to think of recipes for Lemon Sorbet as frozen lemonade. Substitute milk and cream for the water, and you've pretty much got a Homemade Lemon Sherbet recipe.
There is one item that's generally not found in lemonade, though. Cornstarch is added to give the sherbet a smoother texture. It's optional, but it helps to keep the sherbet from getting grainy.
It's optional if you'd prefer to leave it out.
Use the whole lemon
Just like with my Two-Bite Lemon Tartlets, we're going to use the whole lemon in the purée. Why? Because I wanted to infuse as much flavor as I could into the base.
Plus, I didn't feel like zesting and juicing a bunch of lemons.
Don't worry, the larger pieces of zest that don't purée well will be strained out. I won't have you chewing on a piece of lemon peel!
Also, you'll want to combine the lemon juice and milk just before churning the base to keep the mixture from curdling.
That wouldn't be pleasant.
Cold deadens flavor, so make the base sweeter or tarter than you think it should be. Grab a taste test at 10 and 20 minutes and add more lemon juice or simple syrup in one tablespoon increments.
Why simple syrup? It's just equal parts sugar and water that has been heated until the sugar fully dissolves. It’s useful here to adjust for sweetness after the base starts churning because just adding sugar directly would make the sherbet grainy.
You may not need it if your sherbet is sweet enough, but it’s easy to make and keeps well in the refrigerator so it can’t hurt to have just in case.
Helpful sherbet hints
Meyer lemons are sweeter than standard lemons, so decrease the sugar if you're going to use them. Whichever variety of lemons you choose, look for fruit that feels heavy in your hand for its size...those are juicier.
As a guide, 1 lemon yields about 2 - 3 Tbsp of juice, so 4 lemons should give you about ¾ cup of fresh juice.
I use 1% (low-fat) milk, but you can use whatever milk you have on hand. If you want the sherbet to be richer, increase the amount of heavy cream and reduce the amount of milk by the same amount.
Can you use non-dairy milk products? Yes, just adjust the amount of sugar to accommodate more or less sweetness in your beverage of choice.
Truth be told, when the sherbet went into the container after being churned, it was pretty soft. After an hour or so in the freezer, it was still soft and I was worried.
But not to fear, after about four hours, the lemon sherbet was hard enough to scoop, but not overly so.
Lemon goodness was at hand.
Homemade Whole Lemon Sherbet has lemony tartness with sherbet creaminess. It's light and bright and sweet and truly refreshing on a hot, humid, summer evening.
It's made with real fruit, all natural with no extra preservatives or additives. I'm telling myself it's a health food. You know, like dark chocolate.
I wonder what I'll crave next?
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Want lemony goodness in your life? Try some of these citrus recipes!
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Whole Lemon Sherbet
- 4 lemons, small- to medium-sized, see Recipe Notes
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- 2½ cups milk, cold, see Recipe Notes
- ½ cup heavy cream, cold, see Recipe Notes
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch, optional, see Recipe Notes
- simple syrup, chilled, see Recipe Notes
- Cut each lemon in half. Check if the thickness of the white ring of the skin (the pith) is larger than ¼-inch thick. If so, pare the zest from that lemon, cutting away any of the pith before proceeding. Starting with three lemons, slice the lemon halves into thin slices, removing the seeds. Juice the remaining lemon with a citrus juicer to adjust tartness later.
- Put the entire slice (plus any zest pieces) and the sugar into the container of a food processor. Purée the mixture, scraping down the sides of the container as needed, until the lemons are chopped as fine as possible.
- Press the lemon mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove larger pieces of zest (and any missed seeds).
- Have your ice cream maker ready to go (I use a KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment). You want to churn the base as soon as you combine the lemon mixture with the milk & cream to avoid curdling.
- Pour the cream, milk, and cornstarch into the bowl and whisk quickly.
- Immediately pour the sherbet base into the ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. until semi-firm, about 20 to 30 minutes. Check for taste after 10 and 20 minutes, adjusting with lemon juice or simple syrup as needed.
- Transfer the sherbet to a non-reactive sealable container and freeze until firm, about 4 hours. Serve & enjoy!