The last emperor in Julius Caesar's dynasty, the cruel Nero, was known for his flamboyant lifestyle and his inability to delay gratification. Among his whims, his runners had to fetch snow from the Alps to prepare sorbet. His cooks toiled and seasoned it for him with pureed summer fruit and simple syrup, so he could eat his sorbet on Rome's hot summer days.

Sorbetto - "something frozen" - originated in Sicily, where the locals, influenced by their Arab neighbors, concocted this remarkably refreshing delicacy from the snows of Mount Etna.

Italian sorbetto might easily be considered the best in the world if it weren't for French sorbet. Catherine de Medici took her cooks to France when she married Henry II, where she sought to teach the French staff the frozen dessert's secrets. And as is often the case, the student outdid the master. French sorbet is considered more exquisite, mainly because its low sugar content results in a more pronounced fruit flavor.

In days gone by, a frozen dessert was meant for special occasions, since ice was not readily available. Purchasing, hauling and storing ice required effort and money.

Good sorbet is a light dessert and a lovely way to end an Israeli summer meal. There are many ways of making frozen sorbet from ripe fruit. Traditional sorbet is made from simple syrup, fruit puree and lemon juice. Some people add whipped egg white for an airier consistency.

In order for the fruit and sugar mixture to freeze, you must use the correct ratio of simple syrup to fruit puree.

Too much sugar will make the sorbet watery, whereas too little will make the sorbet hard. When using fruit with a relatively low sugar content, such as melon, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, lemons and oranges, maintain a ratio (by weight, not volume ) of 1:1 between the sugar syrup and fruit puree.

With sweeter fruit like pineapple, mango and apricots, use two parts fruit to one part simple syrup. Adding alcohol prevents crystallization, which lets you reduce the amount of sugar slightly.

The key to making a good sorbet is selecting fruits that are at the peak of their season, ripe and strong flavored. When using fruit that draws much of its flavor from its skin - such as plums, pears, nectarines and apricots - you need to mash the fruit with the skin and possibly also strain it so that the mixture is smooth.

Good sorbet should be served shortly after preparation. Sorbet that has been in the freezer for too long will harden and soak up odors.

 

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Simple syrup for making sorbet
Ingredients:
1 kilogram sugar
1 liter water
Preparation:
Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a pot. Lower the flame and cook for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Rosewater nectarine and nana mint sorbet
Ingredients:
350 grams sugar syrup ‏(use a kitchen scale‏)
700 grams ‏(net weight after removing stones‏) rosewater nectarines or white nectarines
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons nana mint, finely chopped
Preparation:
In a blender, liquefy nectarines, sugar syrup, and lemon juice. Add the lemon zest and nana mint and mix by hand.
Transfer the mixture into an ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Alternately, pour into a shallow bowl and freeze for at least six hours, cut the frozen sorbet into large chunks and blend in a food processor or blender. Transfer to a serving dish, cover tightly and freeze again.

Red apricot and Amaretto sorbet
Ingredients:
350 grams simple syrup ‏(use a kitchen scale‏)
700 grams red or orange apricots or Santa Rosa plums ‏(weight without pits‏)
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 tbsp. Amaretto liqueur
Preparation:
In a blender, liquefy apricots, sugar syrup and lemon juice.
Stir in the lemon zest and Amaretto liqueur by hand.
Transfer the mixture into an ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Alternately, pour the mixture into a shallow bowl and freeze for at least six hours.
Cut the frozen sorbet into large chunks and blend in a food processor or blender.
Transfer to a serving dish, cover tightly and freeze again.

Melon, arak and rosetta sorbet
Ingredients:
250 grams simple syrup ‏(use a kitchen scale‏)
200 grams sweetened almond syrup ‏(“rosetta”‏)
700 grams Charentais or Baladi Charentais orange melon ‏(weight without seeds‏)
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. arak
1 tsp. lemon zest
Preparation:
Blend the melon, simple syrup, rosetta and lemon juice in a blender. Stir in the arak and lemon zest by hand.
Transfer the mixture into an ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Alternately, pour into a shallow bowl and freeze for at least six hours, cut the frozen sorbet into large chunks and blend in a food processor or blender. Transfer to a serving dish, cover tightly and freeze again.

What’s new in the market?


* “Rosewater” nectarines from Ben Dor Fruits & Nurseries: a sweet and juicy nectarine with a unique aroma that carries a delicate whiff of rosewater. Its flesh is white and firm, and its skin is pinkish red.
* Apricots from Ben Dor’s “Aroma Cot” line, in six different colors: white, red, purple, black, tiger and orange. These apricots have a dominant flavor and are wonderfully sweet. They have a taste reminiscent of red plums and baladi apricots, which arrived in the markets a month ago and are already gone. Their uniqueness, beyond their spectacular color and sweetness, lies in their great juiciness and good taste.
Ben Dor Fruits are available at the supermarket chains Hezi Hinam, Supersol, Rami Levy, Tiv Taam, Mega and the farmers market at the Tel Aviv Port throughout the summer.
* Baladi Charentais melon: A new Israeli development by Dr. Eyal Vardi, Charentais melons have firm, orange flesh and an elliptical shape reminiscent of the baladi melon. They are unusually sweet and have a delicate aroma. They also have a remarkably long shelf life.
* Watermelon with a green rind and yellow flesh: Once you overcome your initial deterrence at the unusual color, you are in for a pleasant experience. This watermelon is especially sweet and firm, and has a superb watermelon taste.
* Gold watermelon: This one has a yellow rind and red flesh, and is sweet and good tasting. For a refreshing change, combine the two colors of watermelon on an attractive dish, and serve with good Bulgarian cheese, a few drops of ouzo and spearmint leaves ‏(nana‏).
* Individual-sized classic watermelon: This is its first season in the market. It has a particularly thin rind, with firm, very sweet flesh. Its powerful flavor is reminiscent of the Malali watermelons of our childhood.
The new melon and watermelons are available at Uri Rabinovich’s stand at the Tel Aviv Port farmers market.