How to make good popsicles with natural ingredients ?
July 5, 2004 5:17 PM   Subscribe

How to make good popsicles with natural ingredients ? More inside with result of a first experiment with a juicy red watermelon...

Much to my disappointment, commercially avaiable popsicles ( for the Europeans, popsicles are that kind of icecream without milk or egg, basically frozen fruit juice on a stick) suck my will to live, because they contain addictional sugar I don't want and are way too sweet , not mentioning I doubt they contain but traces of fruit. I want to make my own out of fruit leaveing 100% fruit in it with no messy stuff.

So I tried my first self-invented recipe for red watermelon popsicle ..*drumrolls*

1. smashed and filtered red watermelon
(without making a mess, much to my gf disappointment)
2. poured the juice in a ice cast and freezed it

The result of first experiment was mildly disappointing, as the distribution of flavour was uneven and unlickable and one could suck the cube out of the juicy part leaving excess iced water as a leftover. That probably happens because of different freezing temperatures, so I was thinking about re-pressing the semi iced juice to extract a fine nectar. Too much labor for
a popsicle I guess.

I now am considering jelly-fication by the means of :

a. Agar , but I don't know if its sold under some brand name in Europe in stores. Best choice as it's a completely vegetal product.
b. Jell-o by Kraft = gelatin ? I understand gleatin it's a byproduct of animals. I'd gladly do without.
c. Pectine (E440). Again a product made out of vegetables.

What do you recommend ? Any recipe for popsicle and/or jellyfication ? Know any (european market) product name ?
posted by elpapacito to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I saw Rick Bayless make these on TV just yesterday. He used strawberries, mangos and a couple other fruits. All he did was blend them in a food processor, add lime juice and a sprinkling of sugar if needed, and pour them into popsicle molds. Maybe you'll have more luck if you puree the fruit rather than just smash it. Good luck, the ones I saw looked delicious!
posted by boomchicka at 6:17 PM on July 5, 2004

A ha! I found his recipe. Enjoy!
posted by boomchicka at 6:19 PM on July 5, 2004 [2 favorites]

You could use variations of this recipe for Tangerine Popsicles, or just freeze a juice blend from Tropicana, if you get it in EU.
posted by riffola at 6:21 PM on July 5, 2004

My first thought was to possibly simmer the juice down a bit to get rid of some of the excess water, but isn't watermelon 95% water? You'd be simmering for a long time! The very best thing you could do, if you really want to use such a watery fruit, is to puree it with another, thicker fruit, like mango or papaya.

I found a recipe online that calls for pretty much exactly what you did. It's amazing how many recipes call for adding tons of sugar or jello, but I see you'd rather not use either of those. If you're willing to experiment you might try adding a bit of plain or vanilla yogurt, for a nice, creamy texture. I think yogurt would stabilize the juice for even freezing - it's always worked for me. It makes it nice and thick.

The jellyfication medium that I think would work best is pectin, and it's a gum that's found naturally in fruit. You can buy it in powdered or liquid form, and it's available anywhere people do a lot of canning and jelly making. Look it up online, bet you'll be able to order some if you can't find it locally. Adding it to simmering watermelon juice will definitely thicken it up. I'm almost positive that pectin freezes well, although you may want to double-check that when you purchase some.

I'll share my favorite link for popsicle recipes. I think I've made every one on this page and they're all pretty damn good. Three disgustingly easy recipes: 1. layered puddings (my kids like chocolate and butterscotch), 2. pureed bananas (unbelievable), 3. plain old orange juice. I juice my own oranges and the popsicles are pretty amazing. Last week I made popsicles from coconut milk and coconut meat, and got a lot of raves for those. I did add some sugar to those, but just a tad. The thing about watermelon is, it's so sweet to begin with, that adding any sugar, or any kind of sweetener to it just makes it almost sickening. I've attempted watermelon water ice several times, and it always comes out cloyingly sweet.

Other natural sweeteners you may want to try, in lieu of sugar: honey, agave nectar (a clear, syrupy liquid from the agave cactus, which tastes very much like honey), stevia.
posted by iconomy at 6:23 PM on July 5, 2004

I agree with iconomy about reducing the water content and concentrating the flavour. This is at the heat of cooking bringing out the flavour of food by concentrating it. It will also concentrate the natural sugars making it sweeter. Since watermellon is so much water it may be a difficult one to start with though perhaps pineapple or another mellon family. Puree in a blender, simmer on low heat to reduce, taste and freeze. It will also thicken naturally that way. Looking at iconomys link it has some good recipes using store bought concentrated fruit juices.
posted by stbalbach at 7:03 PM on July 5, 2004

Thanks for the info mefites , I'll add some info I found while waiting for your answer.

About Pectine: there is natural pectine and "artifical pectine". The natural, fruit extracted pectine must be labeled E440 ..variations are E440a/b/c which afaik are not totally natural pectines. Sometimes natural, but off-the-shelf industrial pectines have a strong lemon taste, so ideally one should look for apple pectine which (apparently) give less taste problems.

Fruits naturally rich in pectine are lemons, oranges (in their white part, between the peel and the pulp) and apples (expecially the peel and the center part we usually discard) expecially apples with acidic taste. The pectine level decreases as the fruit becomes more mature.

Stbalbach: I guess i'll follow your slow heating advice, as it will reduce the water content and active the pectine with a small addiction of sugar. Apparently one can activate the pectine gelification process also by adding lemon juice instead of sugar (which is used in marmelades both for gelification and conservation purposes, but in freezer I really don't need the conservation properties of sugar for short-medium term conservation). Also the lemon juice makes the final gel more transparent.

On a side note : this info may be good for the gelification of wine :D mmmh yummy

boomchicka: I'll try your advice (or leaving the pulp) for pulp rich fruits, but with watermelon I guess I'll have to turn it into a gel :)
posted by elpapacito at 7:49 PM on July 5, 2004

If you're willing to throw the "natural" thing completely out the window, you could get one of those little bottles of artificial watermelon flavor (the flavor in most watermelon chewing gums or hard candies). I'll note that in the northern U.S., grocery store watermelons are often wan and lacking flavor. Natural watermelon flavor in my area is a little more likely to come from a farmer's market or food co-op melon.

Strawberry puree should work pretty well. Try sweetening with corn syrup (mixes in better, less grainy than just using table sugar), or better, sweeten with off-the-shelf strawberry flavored syrup (check the label for natural vs. artificial flavors--most are actually naturally flavored).

For pectin in strawberry puree, try melting some red currant jelly in a small saucepan and stirring it in. Will also add some welcome tartness.

Easiest method towards a great fruit popsicle: go to a Middle-Eastern or South Asian grocery in your area and look for the big cans of "mango pulp". You can pour it right out of the can and into your popsicle molds--no prep necessary. Or you can sweeten it if you like.
posted by gimonca at 8:36 PM on July 5, 2004

Agar could turn out to be overkill--I've had Japanese candy based on agar that kept very firm at room temperature or above....
posted by gimonca at 8:37 PM on July 5, 2004

boomchicka: Funny... I, too, saw Rick Bayless on TV yesterday doing a segment on paletas (sp?)... I thought it was the perfect answer to the question, so I was going to write it up — and I, too, planned on conveniently leaving out the fact that Rick was on Martha Stewart Living.

posted by silusGROK at 8:58 PM on July 5, 2004

Apparently one can activate the pectine gelification process also by adding lemon juice instead of sugar

Maybe that's why Rick Bayless used lime juice. I wondered if it was just for flavor or if there was a scientific reason.

I'd be interested in hearing what ends up working for you. Enjoy!

p.s. Silus! shh! heh ;)
posted by boomchicka at 9:03 PM on July 5, 2004

Although you won't avoid added sugar, the easiest popsickles I make are from using what the British call "squash", a concentrate of fruit juices, sweetened. "Roses" is the best, usually, and my favorite is a blend of lemon and lime. Dilute to taste, but the excess sugar is part of what gives the popsicle its frosty (rather than icy) texture.

Warning: At least in the UK, some squash has artificial sweetener that you won't know about without reading the fine print of the ingredients!

I had no idea that so many people appreciated popsicles.
posted by Goofyy at 10:07 PM on July 5, 2004

Well... the game's over: the cat is out of the bag. Boomchicka and I watch Martha Stewart... and I subscribe to REAL SIMPLE.

There. I've said it.

Anyway, Alton Brown (of Good Eats fame) did an entire episode on Jam... and he, too, mentioned a relationship between pectin and acid. Wish that Food Network had show transcripts. Maybe you can catch the episode.

Rick Bayless (whom boomchicka mentioned... and here's his recipe for a mango paletas), also has a book out (Mexico: One Plate at a Time) that has the paletas recipe inside.

Sorry: no Amazon book link — I can't for the life of me figure out how to strip out my session data from the URL to give you a nice, kruftless link to the book.

posted by silusGROK at 11:22 PM on July 5, 2004 [1 favorite]

Food Network doesn't have transcripts of Good Eats, but the Good Eats Fan Page does. Here is the jam episode specifically.
posted by calistasm at 12:55 AM on July 6, 2004

Juice popsicles have the main problem with how things crystalize up. It always seems that the flavor part separates out from the (huge) ice crystals and after a little sucking, you've taken all the flavor and left crystals behind. I think the trick is to interfere with the crystalization of the ice. One way to do that is by adding sugar. If you make sorbet1, this is done with a simple sugar syrup which is 4.5 parts sugar to 5 parts water, boiled until dissolved and cooled.

For sorbets, at least, the juice needs a little cooking. I agree that watermelon really needs a fair amount to reduce it down. That alone may be your issue.
1I've made a great deal of sorbet so I'm just pulling from that experience.
posted by plinth at 3:40 AM on July 6, 2004

On crystalization: try to thoroughly cool the popsicles in the fridge before moving them to the freezer, as you'll get smaller, more evenly distributed crystals (the shock of going straight to the freezer causes large crystals to form).
posted by silusGROK at 7:30 AM on July 6, 2004

News from the mad popsicle maker .

So I found pectine under the name FruttaPect 1:1 (Cameo product) ; the package says it can be used both for gelatine and for marmelade production. The proportions are the following

Gelatine : 50g (pack of Fructapect) + 800g sugar (!!) + 800g juice = a whole enormous lot of gelatine. Cooking time is: juice_first_boil(t) + 1 minute + add sugar time(t) + 4 min boiling. Add 50ml lemon juice per kg of juice if the consistency of gel isn't firm enough, boil again. Leave sitting for 24h in a glass container.

The pack says it can't be used for : watermelon, banana. Obviously I disoebeyed and attempted gelatinification with red watermelon, making opportune proportions with quantities.

The whole process is not messy, but you can't leave the stove as it produces a whole lot of foam. The result was Cameo is right, you can't use it with watermelon :) Next time I'll take some picture, but if you use watermelon the final output is 90% transparent gelatine with a red blob in it, but the gelatine definitely tastes watermelon !

Meanwhile I made banana puree and it's now in the freezer; I added lemon juice in one of the banana popsicle as acidity corrector and antioxidant. We'll see :) My recommendation is you add either milk or water when making the puree because it sticks like hell and is not very fluid


So the sugar problem remains in the gelatinification by pectine method. The alternative solution of adding lemon juice doesn't seem viable, as my watermelon gel tasted waay too much lemon to be palatable..probably because the lemon juice contains oils (?) that aren't volatile enough and therefore the flavor sticks.

plinth: yeah sorbets are fantastic (damn sugar). Try 2/3 lemon sorbet + 1/6 not flavored vodka + 1/6 prosecco wine. Godalicious. Indeed the problem with popsicle is also crystalizations. The redwatermelon ones I made apparently have all the taste on the surface, but after half a minute of licking you can distincly feel only water. Maybe the sucrose contents settled to one side during freezing.

silusGrok: good idea I'll try.
posted by elpapacito at 10:08 AM on July 6, 2004

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