The cantaloupes in my garden were perfect last week, and then there was a strawberry sale at the supermarket (hence strawberries in August...), so I decided it would be the perfect time to try out one of our popsicle molds. When I was growing up, my father would make 'icees' by pouring fruit juice into dixie cups. Once frozen, we would scrape the tops with a metal spoon until there was a perfect mound of fruit-flavored 'snow' (and a few wax dixie cup shavings...). I had always thought that popsicle molds were just a little too fancy for us. Besides, the one time we did put wooden sticks into the dixie cups, they slid out of the middle before we could get the ice out from the sides - so disappointing.
Enter the perforated stick! These days, popsicle molds include a plastic stick that is perforated along the center, meaning that liquid will freeze inside of it and prevent it from sliding out of your popsicle while it melts. Genius! I used Star Popsicle Molds for this recipe. They're adorable, but I will probably need a bottle brush to properly clean them out, so if you want something you can fit a sponge into, I would go with the Groovy Popsicle Molds.
Now, you can put whatever you darn well please into a popsicle mold, but good old sweetened water (just like sorbet!) is the general beginnings. Pureed fruit or fruit juice works perfectly, so you really don't have to add extra sugar (in which case you may want to skip the ode-to-sucrose that is to come), but I am going to digress for a moment and talk about simple syrup.
I spend an inordinate amount of time in the summer preparing simple syrup. Yes, I acknowledge I have a sugar addiction - I'm working on it - but I consider simple syrup to be the non-oil answer to compound butter. Mix in some flavorings and it adds an instant boost to any beverage or frozen treat. An old Italian bakery trick is to sprinkle simple syrup between cake layers to keep them moist. The secret to the majority of flavored simple syrups is the lemon zest. Which brings me to my next point...
Sometimes we have a product that really honestly has no equal. One of those products is the Microplane zester. Microplane has a patented laser-cut zesting surface (originally produced for woodworking) that is perfectly angled and never gets dull. I've used so many other zesters and have not yet come across one that removes only the oily aromatic rind of the lemon without any of the pith (ok so a very adept barkeep can make perfect lemon zests with a cheap peeler but that takes a LOT of practice and a perfectly ripe lemon).
This recipe is going to be a bit rough on the measurements because every popsicle mold has a different capacity and because I am not particularly good at recording what I do while I do it.
Cantaloupe Strawberry Popsicles
One Ripe Cantaloupe
5-6 Strawberries, chopped
1 cup Water
1 cup Sugar
Fresh Mint Leaves
- Combine water, sugar and lemon zest in a small saucepan over med-high heat. Heat and stir until sugar dissolves (ie: make simple syrup).
- Remove syrup from heat and add mint leaves. Cover and let sit 15 - 30 min.
- Strain lemon zest and mint leaves from syrup. Pour into sealable container and put in fridge/freezer to cool (your popsicles will work if the syrup isn't completely chilled, they'll just take longer to freeze).
- Remove fruit from cantaloupe, chop and blend in a blender or food processor. I left mine kind of chunky since cantaloupe is so watery anyway, but you can process to your heart's content.
- Add about 1/4 cup of the lemon-mint simple syrup to the cantaloupe mixture - depending on the ripeness of your melon, you may want to add more or less. Remember that freezing makes things taste less sweet (cold numbs your taste buds). Leftover lemon-mint syrup is great in cocktails, homemade soda, and any other kind of frozen treat.
- Grab clean popsicles molds. Fill each one with about a tablespoon of the cantaloupe mixture. Add a few pieces of chopped strawberries, then another tablespoon of cantaloupe, and continue to alternate like this until you get to the top of the mold. Resist the urge to just fill the whole thing with strawberries and then pour in cantaloupe from the top - that will leave air bubbles in your popsicles that will turn into holes when they're frozen and make it more difficult to remove the popsicles from the mold whole.
- Pop in your sticks and place your popsicles in the freezer. Freeze for 4-6 hours.