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Mar 11, 2005 12:29 AM

Beet sorbet, anyone?

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After all the discussion on beet sorbet today, I had to try my hand at this newfangled dessert, using fresh organic beets from my new grocery-delivery service (hurray for CSA). My first attempt at beet/orange sorbet resulted in…mixed results. The texture and flavors were fine, and the color was fantastic. The overall taste of this sorbet was a tad vegetable- for my tastebuds, and I would seriously consider adding some apple juice to add some complexity to the dessert. Otherwise, here’s a newly born recipe that some might find worth a try, and others might definitely find worth refining. Post back and let’s see if we can’t create something beautiful!

1 beet, baseball size
½ cup frozen orange juice concentrate
½ cup sugar (more or less, to taste)

I boiled the beet until it was tender, then peeled it under cold running water. I sliced it into a few pieces, then threw it into a blender with the orange juice concentrate and sugar. I blended it into a smooth liquid, adding about a cup of beet water to thin out the liquid (you probably don’t need beet water if you use fresh or bottled orange juice). I tasted it to make sure it was sweet enough, since the liquid always needs to taste extra sugary to come out right in an ice cream maker.

When the mixture seemed right, I chilled it in the fridge for a few hours, then put it through the ice cream machine it. Like I said, the flavors could use tweaking, but the texture was fine. It’s a good start!

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  1. I might suggest blood oranges. Right color, but being fresh, they aren't - by definition - 25% concentrate. I also 'see' rosemary, though I don't know why. I actually bought a refractometer to ensure the sugar level, but never use it for my own sorbet since I don't follow recipes.

    Not sure of your purpose, but an earthy sorbet could be a nice interlude between courses rather than after main course. Or in a sorbet combo with two other vibrant colors (arugula green and lemon yellow?).

    7 Replies
    1. re: SteveT

      This is a new one for me...what is a refractometer and how is it used for sorbet and other cooking? Sounds like it measures sugar concentration? What is the ideal sugar concentration for sorbet?

      To the OP: I applaud your experimentation since I'd like to try this myself. My thoughts: I would use blood or Valencia oranges--both juice and zest. Wouldn't use the beet water since that probably added to the strong earthy flavor. I can see how this would need another dimension like you said. Apple or white grape juice is a good idea. For some reason, infusing this w/ ginger also comes to mind.

      Please post any future results and I will do the same!

      1. re: Carb Lover
        Caitlin McGrath

        In answer to the question, What is the ideal sugar concentraion for soerbet?, I recommned the book "The Curious Cook," by Harold McGee, which has a chapter addresing this. He discusses the science of it, and has a chart detailing the necessary ratios of sugar/liquid/fruit depending on the desired texture (e.g., icy crystals, scoopable, creamy). The amountof sugar naturally depends on the kind of fruit, and just as naturally, his table doesn't include beets. It's an enlightening read, though (as is everything he writes).

        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

          Duh! I never even thought about that. I started making homemade ice cream/sorbet/sherbet because I think commercial products are way too sweet. Then I wondered why my results weren't as creamy/scoopable as I like. Of course, it's because the sugar concentration isn't high enough and I have lots of crystals (more like a granita, I think).

          I guess you can't have everything...I've been making do by letting the more crystal-like sorbets melt down a bit before scooping. That usually solves most of the problem.

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            This book seems to answer a lot of my random questions. I need to get it soon. Thanks for the info.

            1. re: Carb Lover
              Caitlin McGrath

              I can't recommend Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking" - his encyclopedic tome - enough if you're interested in the science behind the food, or wonder how cooking "works." "The Curious Cook" is a complementary volume in which McGee explores various issues in more depth, like the sugar in sorbet question, or whether searing meat really "locks in juices" (it doesn't).


          2. re: Carb Lover

            Ooo I like the ginger idea, though I might try candied ginger. Reduces some of the bite, and the sugar can be reduced in the simple syrup.

            Refractometers do indeed measure sugar concentration. Just think about how uneven two crops of strawberries or peaches are. In jam or sorbet making (professionally) they are probably key.

            Interestingly, beets and peaches have the same ideal sugar concentrations. Banannas, pears, and English peas are higher, and if you didn't know, wine grapes are much higher when ripe than table grapes.

            1. re: SteveT

              Yeah, most people think that because wine isn't sweet like grape juice that wine grapes aren't sweet. They forget that the reason is that all the sugar has been converted to alcohol.

              A couple of years ago I was at a winery during the crush and the winemaker let us sample some of the fresh crushed grape juice. It was amazingly sweet and delicious.

              With the glut of wine grapes in California, I'm really surprised that one of the fresh juice companies (i.e. Odwalla) isn't doing a fresh, whole (with pulp) grape juice. It's hard to believe that they couldn't make a ton on money, since a 16 oz. bottle of Odwalla sells for more than a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck, with a lot less cost of production.

        2. As the person who started the original discussion, I want to thank you for your help with the research.

          I stopped at the juice bar this morning and got some fresh-pressed beet juice, and I'm going to experiment this weekend with a combination of raw juice, cooked beet and fresh orange juice.

          Its particularly helpful to know I don't have to sieve the cooked beet puree (which sounds messy -- after touching the beet juice this morning I realized my lovely white kitchen is going to be red when I'm done with this project).

          1. I started with 12 ounces of raw beet juice (courtesy of the local juice bar), one large roasted beet, pureed with a couple of tablespoons of water (about 3/4 of a cup of puree), and some fresh squeezed orange juice (valencia and blood orange).

            I started with 2 ounces of each ingredient and then added more one ounce at a time until I got a flavor balance that I liked. I meant to go about this in an orderly fashion and keep track of the proportions, but after the first couple of rounds I realized I'd lost track. I ended up using about 10 ounces of the juice, and with 16 ounces total, and I think I used the same amounts of puree and orange juice, so I think the proportions were about 3 parts raw juice to one part each cooked puree and oj.

            Once I had the sorbet "base" I used the Deborah Madison method: made a syrup using one quarter the amount of sugar as there was sorbet base (in this case half a cup), dissolved into a small amount of the sorbet base and heated just until the sugar crystals dissolved. Added this back into the beets-orange mixture, chilled, and finally froze in my ice cream maker.

            It's quite sweet -- definitely dessert. I think I did a decent job of balancing the flavors so it tastes distinctly of both beets (initial flavor) and oranges (more on the "finish"). It has almost a maple-syrup quality, perhaps from the roasted beet. The texture is quite good, and perhaps it would be possible to use a little less sugar without losing too much texturewise. It's the prettiest color -- somewhere between raspberry and pomegranite. I think it's delicious, but I'm inviting my sister and BIL over for a second opinion.

            This has been really fun! Thanks for all the help and encouragement.