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Difference between Sorbet and Sherbet...Is there?

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Okay somebody brought this up on a post and I've always been curious. Is there a difference between Sorbet and Sherbet? I thought Sherbet still had milk in it.

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  1. sorbet is entirely dairy free, while sherbet has milk.

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    1. re: artemis

      This is true. Also sorbet is used by those who think it sounds elegant and French, and I use sherbet since it's closer to the original version of the word, the Persian sharbat. Although my computer has just informed me (thank you, Google)that sharbat was originally a cool fruit drink, and the word sherbet was first used for a frozen dessert around 1890, whereas sorbet was first used in English in 1590.

    2. Sorbet comes from France, and Sorbetto, from Italy are frozen desserts made from pure fruit and sugar . No milk products are ever added.

      I have been reading Giuliano Bugialli's book on the cooking of Naples and Campania, and he has discovered that most of these desserts originated in Roman times, in what is now Italy, long before the Arab invasions. His books are fascinating, written from the point of view of an historian.

      Sherbet is a totally American creation made with milk.

      1. I know I'm going to get some flack for this, but there is no hard and fast rule for what is sorbet and what is sherbet. It all depends on where you're getting it and who made it.
        Often lemon sorbet will have dairy in it, the milk/cream helps off-set the harsh acidity. And I've had delicious clementine sherbet without a trace of dairy.
        It's kind of like comparing ice cream to gelato (oh no, what am I starting here?). There are so many different methods and recipes for each, it's hard to nail down ONE true answer. The proportions change, the equipment varies, the conditions are what they are.
        The terminology is often determined by where you are, incidentally. In France, yes it's sorbet, in North America, why that's sherbet!
        And of course, everyone's an authority.

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        1. re: rabaja

          Sherbet, along with most dairy products, is subject to a federal standard of identity. To be legally sold as sherbet in the United States, it must have a butterfat content of at least one percent but not more than two percent among other standards. These standards are why ice cream must have at least 10 percent butterfat. There is no legal upper bound for butterfat in ice cream but in practical terms it is hard to go much above 20 percent without tasting like sweetened whipped butter. Gelato normally does not meet the standards for ice cream, but somebody who wants a good gelato is not looking for ice cream.