Grandma is partial to recipes that need few ingredients, like this simple sherbet. (This is the American spelling, Brits usually use sherbert, and in France it is called sorbet – Grandma has lived in all three countries, so take your pick!) Many electric stand mixers have an attachment for making ice creams and sherbet and the only caution is to thoroughly chill both the mixture and the machine attachments before starting the motor — at least 12 hours chilling time are needed. The same advance chilling is needed when using freestanding domestic machines. Ladyfingers or a crisp cookie are the ideal accompaniment when serving the sherbet.
Makes 1 quart/1 liter of sherbet to serve 5-6
1 cup/250 g sugar, more if needed
1 cup/250 ml water
2 lemons for zest
5-6 more lemons
1. For the lemon syrup: stir the sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves, simmer it 1-2 minutes and set aside. Finely grate the zests from the two lemons and squeeze the juice from all of them. Stir zests and juice into the sugar syrup. Cover and chill for 5-6 hours in the refrigerator until very cold. Taste, stirring in more sugar if needed. Chill the ice cream machine until cold. If storing the sherbet, chill a container for it in the freezer. Also chill bowls or glasses in the refrigerator for serving.
2. Strain the lemon syrup to remove the grated zest. Pour the cold syrup into the machine and churn to the consistency of fine snow, timing will depend on the machine. Transfer the sherbet to the chilled bowls and serve at once. Sherbet can be kept in the freezer up to 24 hours, but the consistency will be more granular.
If Grandma has plenty of time and willing helpers, she makes serving bowls from the lemon skins. Note that twice as many lemons are needed to make enough juice for sherbet to fill the ‘bowls’ full and overflowing so the sherbet rises high with the lid perched on top.
Cut a thin slice from one end of the lemon so it will stand upright on a plate. Cut a lid from the top and using a sharp teaspoon scoop the lemon pulp into a bowl. (Discard as much pith as possible from the lemon skins.) Chill the hollowed cups and lids in the freezer. Sieve the lemon pulp to extract the juice, taste and sweeten it, and use it to make sherbet. Chill it until it crystallises, 10-12 hours or overnight, stirring occasionally. Pack the sherbet into the frozen lemon cups, mounding it well above the edge of each skin. Set a lid on top and press down lightly so the sherbet still shows. At once chill in the freezer at least 6 hours. Just before serving, decorate each lemon with a fresh bay leaf or other edible green leaf.