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Tangerine and Grapefruit Sorbet

Tangerine and Grapefruit Sorbet

Citrus fruits are perfect in the springtime. With the winter months come and gone and the heat of summer steadily approaching, it’s now within the confines of “seasonal” to begin turning towards dishes that are lighter on both the palate and the stomach (yea, that’s right… I’m looking at you guy who obviously had a few too many winter stews).

Citrus fits the bill perfectly. Contrary to popular belief (I’ve argued with my dad endlessly about this to no avail), citrus is actually at it’s peak from mid-winter to spring, not in the summer when a cold glass of fresh squeezed orange juice is so desired. It’s one of those unfortunate facts of life, I know.

The problem is that during the miserable coldness of winter, comforted by warming desserts that compliment it so well, no one in their right mind wants a cold glass of juice or sugary sorbet. As a result citrus goes unnoticed and under appreciated at a time when it’s at it’s best.

But springtime is different. Pears are long gone,  strawberries are still hard and tasteless, peaches and raspberries are on the horizon, but citrus is still packed with flavor and ready to handle all that spring has to offer.

And so I push for citrus, in all it’s various forms, to be the go-to springtime fruit.

Tangerines and Grapefruits

Today I make my push with a tangerine and grapefruit sorbet, a near-perfect way to showcase the bare deliciousness of the fruit, second only to a glass of the cold stuff.


I found a basket of tangerines at a produce stand on my ride home from school and with one whiff I knew I had to have them. I couldn’t believe the perfume they carried– pungent, earthy, with a strong smell reminiscent of orange flavored bubblegum, unlike any other tangerine I’ve ever smelled. I knew instantly that sorbet was on the menu… you should have seen the look on the man’s face when I asked, “so, how much juice do you think I could get out of these babies?”

The great thing about sorbet is that it’s so easy to make– foolproof even. I even have a special technique to make perfect sorbet every time (more on that below). With this version I’ve tried to pack in the maximum amount of flavor possible, complicating the process just a tiny bit (not too much and certainly worth the effort, I promise!)

To soften and intensify the flavor of the sorbet I’ve added vodka. But not just regular vodka, extra special vodka soaked in a mix of tangerine and grapefruit peel over night to add an extra hit of fruity flavor. The peel perfumes the vodka without extracting any of the harsh essential oils (which I suspect aren’t alcohol soluble) that lie within the peel.

Tangerine Peel

(Funny, but Brittany hates my finger hair in that picture, lol)

Next, I’ve introduced the intensely flavored peel into the sugar syrup. Added when the syrup is still piping hot and left to cool slowly to room temperature, the peel slowly releases the essence of the fruit, again without any of the harshness of the essential oil.

Lastly, in order to improve the final texture of the sorbet (we’re going for smooth, not icy), I’ve deviated away from the standard 1:1 ratio of sugar to water for the simple syrup and switched to a 2:1 ratio instead. This reduces the total water content of the sorbet which would serve only to create more ice crystals in the finished product.

The result? This sorbet is super smooth and incredibly tasty. Being the fool that I am, I decided to taste the unfrozen base after it had been chilling in the fridge for a couple of hours… twenty spoonfuls and one deep trance later I emerged, shook my head, and said to myself,  ”man, that is SO good!” It’s like getting punched in the mouth with a tangerine… in a good way. No, in a great way.

Tangerine and Grapefruit Sorbet:

  • 1 ½ cups fresh squeezed tangerine juice (about 12 tangerines)
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed grapefruit juice (1 large grapefruit)
  • 1 tablespoon tangerine and grapefruit infused vodka
  • Tangerine and grapefruit simple syrup
  • 1 egg (for special technique)
  • Lemon juice (if needed)

For the infused vodka-

  • 5 ounces vodka
  • Zest from 1 tangerine, in strips
  • Zest from ½ grapefruit, in strips

In a small container, combine the zest and vodka. Cover tightly (with a rubber band, if needed) and to allow to sit at room temperature for at least 24 hours.

For the simple syrup-

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Zest from 1 tangerine, in strips
  • Zest from ½ grapefruit, in strips

Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil for 30 seconds, or until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add in the citrus zest and, without stirring, allow to cool slowly to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator.

Special Technique:

The trouble with sorbet is that different fruits have different sugar contents. In fact, different batches of the same fruit can vary greatly in their sugar content, making set measurements unreliable. With sugar being primarily responsible for determining the texture of the sorbet, as well as its sweetness on the palate, it’s important to add just the right amount of sugar to achieve the perfect texture while preventing the sorbet from being overly sweet. With a simple technique you can achieve the perfect balance of sugar to juice without fail, regardless of what fruit juice you use. All that’s involved is a well-cleaned, uncracked egg and the scientific property of density.

In a bowl large enough to float the egg, combine the fruit juice and 1 tablespoon of infused vodka.

Gently place in the egg. Depending on the sugar content of your juice, it should sink.

Slowly pour in the dense sugar syrup until only a nickel size portion of the egg is exposed.

There you have it, perfect sorbet every time, simple as that. All that’s left is to season to taste with lemon (if desired), chill, freeze. Just don’t forget to take out the egg before you proceed :)

How-to make sorbet

Chill in the fridge for a minimum of two hours and up to overnight (though the flavor won’t be as bright or intense overnight).

Freeze the chilled base according to your ice cream makers instructions.

A few tips:

  • This recipe works with any citrus juice– orange, grapefruit, blood orange, Meyer lemon, ugly grapefruit, etc.
  • If you don’t want to mess with the infused vodka, substitute a commercial brand such as Charbay instead.
  • Allow the sorbet to harden in the freezer for at least two hours after freezing to improve the texture and scoop-ability.
  • Chill the serving bowls in the freezer for 30 minutes before serving to prevent your hard earned sorbet from turning into a soupy mess.
  • Sorbet is best the day it is made. If in a few days you decide that you want to enjoy your now rock hard sorbet you have two options: Allow to soften in the fridge for a few hours before serving or melt at room temperature and refreeze.
  • Suggested pairings and garnishes: Mint, Rosemary, fresh raspberries, Lindemans Framboise, candied citrus peel.


1 Cooking Rookie { 04.02.10 at 4:23 pm }

This looks great. I am only wondering, do I need an ice cream maker or will the freezer be enough?
.-= Cooking Rookie´s last blog ..Mushroom and Eggplant Quiche =-.

2 Chase { 04.02.10 at 4:46 pm }

From what I can tell, without an ice cream maker you really have one option- make granita.

Granita is an icy dessert from Sicily in which a base is partially frozen, scraped with a fork, frozen, scraped and repeat until it reaches the texture you like. It’s a bit more work, and you’ll never get it as smooth as sorbet, but that’s okay because granita has a character all it’s own.

As for ice cream makers– I own a Cuisinart ICE-30 For the money, it can’t be beat. You do have to keep the bowl in the freezer, but I haven’t found that to be a problem. Besides, with compression models costing upwards of $250, I don’t really have a choice ;)

For more information on Granita:
Wikipedia: Granita
Strawberry Granita

3 diane and todd { 04.07.10 at 12:20 am }

wow, this look fabulous and what a great write up! The bright combinations of both citrus fruits are amazing. Absolutely fresh!
You post is so thorough, great pics and fabulous blog.

4 Chase { 04.07.10 at 4:24 am }

Thanks! Coming from such an incredible blog that means a lot for a newbie like myself… I’m blushing! =^_^=

5 Brett { 06.08.12 at 12:13 pm }

Chase, I’ve been making and loving your modified minion boston butt recipe for over a year now and I only recently saw this recipe of yours the other day when I was sending your link to a friend. This looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it.
I did have one question: Have you ever used Cointreau or a something similar instead of the infused vodka? I didn’t know if one was thicker than the other or if it made any difference. Have you already tried both and found more success with the infused vodka (which I love by the way). I imagine the infused vodka gives a much fresher taste…?
Thanks man,
Can’t wait!

6 Chase { 06.25.12 at 7:29 am }

Brett, thank you for your comment; I don’t know the answer to your question regarding Cointreau. There is an American company, Heartland Distillers that creates infused Vodkas; you can find them here (http://www.heartlanddistillers.com/) The honey lemon, orange cream, and raspberry citrus would pair nicely with tangerine and grapefruit both in the sorbet or as accompaniments.

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