Rhubarb produces a rather creamy mixture for sorbet, as do various berries. Keeping sorbet from becoming icy is sometimes a challenge. Some recipes recommend adding a little alcohol, say a tablespoon or two of Grand Marnier. Others recommend a couple of tablespoons of light corn syrup, which while it sounds disgusting (corn syrup being the culprit in the obesity debate), it actually does seem to make a difference. While making this, I realized that whipping a lot of air into the mix does the trick just as well. Unlike some sorbets that I make, yielding 1 pint, or 1 ½, this time I made a full 3. It stretched the volume on my ice cream maker but the result was a smooth and creamy mixture that stayed that way after being frozen for a couple of days.
I have made this plain, with grated orange peel, ginger, and now vanilla bean. I had made a peach sorbet last week with peaches canned in vanilla syrup so vanilla was on my mind. It was a great combination with the rhubarb. I found that reserving some of the stewed rhubarb and adding it to the puree provided a nice texture. This was lovely topped with a few of the season’s first strawberries.
Rhubarb-Vanilla Sorbet (makes 6 cups)
1 ½ lbs rhubarb, in ¾-inch chunks (around 6 cups)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
½ vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out, both reserved
2 tbsp light corn syrup
Prepare the rhubarb. Make a simple syrup of water and sugar, bringing it to a boiling point and stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the vanilla bean (just the shell), lemon juice and rhubarb and simmer until the rhubarb is soft. Set aside to cool slightly. Reserve a couple of spoons of stewed rhubarb. Add the seeds from the vanilla bean and the corn syrup to the rhubarb, and puree it in a food processor. Add the reserved stewed rhubarb. After the mixture has cooled, chill it thoroughly in the refrigerator for several hours before processing in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.
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Because I like to make things from scratch and re-use anything I can, I’ve recently been labeled “hard-core.” I take that as a compliment even though it was a remark from a pair of co-workers trying to figure out just what was in those jars that I left as gifts. Maybe I better add instructions in the future. One of my great discoveries of 2009, a year that I wasn’t otherwise fond of, was how to make vanilla extract. It’s not that it’s a mystery, but I never took the time to concoct it well in advance of when I would use it. I had the same problem with preserved lemons until I got in the groove. Vanilla extract steeps for two months, preserved lemons for weeks, depending on the kind. See what I mean about thinking ahead?
The other issue with the vanilla was the cost and the quality of fresh beans. I found the answer in an eBay store called Vanilla Products USA. They offer a variety of assortments in bulk, including sampler packs, bonuses etc. I kept it simple and bought good quality 6” Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans and Gourmet Tahitian Vanilla Beans. Bourbon doesn’t refer to the liquor, but to an island once called by that name. Tahitian vanilla, which supposedly originated in Mexico like Bourbon, is quite different in flavor. In the future, I will steep them in the same solution to check out the difference, but this time, I processed the two totally differently.
Unlike some of the fancy stuff from Williams Sonoma, which contains sugar, I made the extract with only beans and booze. Using a ratio of three beans to one cup of liquor, I steeped Madagascar Bourbon beans in bourbon (seemed only fair) and Tahitian beans in vodka. The proportions came from Joy the Baker’s web post in July. The beans were split vertically but not cut through, added to a jar with a tight lid (I used a Kombucha bottle for one and a canning jar for the other), stored in a dark cupboard, and shaken up every week or so. 60 days later, we had lovely, aromatic extract. Now I’m amazed at how much vanilla extract I am capable of using. And I even had some to put in tiny dark bottles for gifts.
The homemade stuff is strong, so go lightly when adding to your favorite recipes. My next experiment is to see if I can top off the bottles and add more beans, rotating between the Bourbon and Tahitian beans. The former were more mellow but I’m not sure if it was because of the beans. The vodka could have made the other one a little harsh.
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