It’s been a summer of 100-degree days. All you want to eat is something cold, sweet, and simple to prepare. Ice pops, which balance fruit, fruit juices, and herbs from the garden, are a great chiller — and when you make your own, you control the amount of sugar. Some extra hydration is just an added bonus. Plus, ice pops are quick and easy to make. It takes longer to assemble the ingredients than to mix them up and pop them in the freezer.
For a frosty treat, simply freeze lemonade or juice and you’re done. However, if you want to be more adventurous and creative, here are some guidelines to get you started making ice pops that tickle the taste buds and freeze the tongue.
Preparation is straightforward: Choose a liquid, mix in tasty flavors, and freeze. Your proportions may vary a bit, but in general, a batch of ice pops requires one to two cups of liquid, such as fruit juice, water, yogurt, or milk. Add a sweetener to taste, such as sugar, honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup. Jazz them up with bits of chopped or crushed ripe fruit, berries, nuts, seeds, herbs, or edible flowers. Then freeze in any type of mold, from convenient retail forms to muffin tins, paper cups, shot glasses, or ice cube trays. If you are improvising a mold, you may need to purchase food-safe wooden sticks.
Take Your Pops to the Next Level
A basic ice pop is simply frozen juice or lemonade. Create an interesting mix of juices such as apple and cranberry or cherry and blueberry. Toss in a bit of mint or thyme to take the flavor up a notch. To add texture and visual appeal, mix in finely chopped fruit, such as watermelon, strawberry, mango, pineapple, kiwi, or almost any other fruit.
For a more complex treat, create a creamy ice pop that is a cross between frozen fruit and ice cream by stirring in cream, milk, coconut milk, or yogurt. Lift the flavor with ginger, vanilla, or finely chopped herbs. Provide texture by adding crushed fresh fruit or finely chopped nuts.
Ice pops aren’t just for youngsters! Consider creating grown-up ice pops with a touch of spirits such as vodka, gin, or rum. Alcohol-laced ice pops have a softer texture than nonalcoholic ice pops due to alcohol’s low freezing point, so plan to freeze them overnight.
Freezing the Pops
Ice pops may be easy to prepare, but they are not an instant pleasure since they need time in the freezer. Depending on the ingredients and the thickness of your ice pops, allow at least four to eight hours in a freezer that is zero degrees Fahrenheit or below. Overnight freezing is the safest bet. Keep in mind that crushed fruit and other additions do not freeze as quickly, so allow extra time in the freezer.
Once completely frozen, submerge the mold halfway in lukewarm water for about 30 seconds to release the pops. If the ice pops aren’t going to be eaten immediately, wrap each pop in wax paper and place them in a freezer bag to store in the freezer to enjoy later.
As with any kitchen concoction, experience improves success. Here are a few tips to help avoid some pitfalls.
- As fruit freezes, it becomes less intense, so choose ripe fruit.
- Crushed fruit and other additions do not freeze as quickly, so allow extra time in the freezer.
- Chop fruit and nuts into small pieces or crush them, as they freeze into hard, crunchy bites.
- Alcohol does not freeze solid, so maintain a ratio of about one part alcohol to four parts other liquids to achieve a well-frozen ice pop.
- To eliminate air bubbles in creamy popsicles, fill the mold partially, tap it lightly on the countertop, and then continue to fill.
- To hold ice pop sticks straight, cover the mold with foil and poke the stick through to let the foil hold the stick upright. Or allow the ice pops to freeze for 20 – 30 minutes until slushy and then insert the sticks.
Here are some recipes to tempt you into the kitchen and fill the freezer with chilly summer treats!
Melon with Rosewater, Mint, and Vodka
4 cups of cubed watermelon or honeydew melon
1 – 2 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
1 teaspoon rosewater
1/4 cup vodka or to taste
Place the ingredients into a food processor or blender and combine until thoroughly mixed. Pour equal amounts into ice pop molds and freeze overnight.
Pink Lemonade with Lavender
1 12-fluid-ounce can frozen pink lemonade, prepared as directed
1 – 2 tablespoons food-grade lavender
Combine 2 cups of prepared pink lemonade with lavender buds. Let soak for 30 minutes. Pour into ice pop molds and freeze for 30 minutes. Stir the lavender buds through the slushy ice to distribute. (If you want the lavender flavor but not the buds, strain out the buds after the 30-minute soak.) Freeze for 4 – 6 hours or overnight.
Pineapple Cilantro with Coconut Water
1 cup of crushed pineapple with juice
1 cup coconut water
2 tablespoons fine sugar, such as Baker’s sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
Stir together the crushed pineapple and coconut water. Add chopped cilantro. Pour into ice pop molds and freeze for 6 hours or overnight.
Since tomorrow will likely be as hot as today, zip into the kitchen to collect whatever you have on hand to make a batch of ice pops. Ice pops will make tomorrow a frostier and sweeter day!
Pop Pairings from the Garden
Many herbs from your garden pair well with fruit and citrus for tasty ice pops.
Basil: Pair with strawberry, melon, citrus, or mango and stone fruits such as peaches or plums.
Cilantro: Pair with bananas, citrus, melon, mango, or pineapple.
Lemon balm, lemon verbena, or lemongrass: Pair with pineapple, mango, melon, or citrus.
Mint: Pair with melons, berries, citrus, or pineapple.
Rosemary: Pair with citrus, grapes, pineapple, apple, kiwi, or berries.
Tarragon: Pair with citrus.
Thyme: Pair with cherries, figs, grapes, melon, peaches, pears, or berries.
Story by Jackye Meinecke
Photography by Olivia Belcher
Originally published in Neighbors magazine | 2022