Perfect and Easy Recipe for Homemade Lemon Sorbet

Updated on July 8, 2019
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Jan has been cooking and writing about food for over twenty years and has cooked on multiple television stations, including Food Network.

Perfect Recipe for Homemade Lemon Sorbet

I adore lemon—I think I'd choose lemon over chocolate most of the time. There's something about lemon that just screams "fresh," and lemon sorbet is one of my all-time favorites.

Sorbet is like ice cream's older, more sophisticated cousin. Almost always made with fruit juices, they differ from sherbets and ice creams in one critical way: sorbets don't contain any dairy. This makes them the perfect decadent treat when you're avoiding dairy for any reason. They still contain lots of sugar, so you can't call them health food by any means, but take your justifications where you can get them.

Sorbets are made with simple syrup, which is a mixture of sugar and water. The easiest way is to churn them in an ice cream maker, but you don't need a machine if you don't have one. Place your simple syrup and fruit juice mixture in the freezer and set a timer. Every thirty minutes, stir the freezing sorbet with a couple of forks. This will loosen the mixture and mimic the same texture that you get with an ice cream churn.

This recipe works just as well with any fresh citrus juice, so indulge. Make some for yourself and see!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 lemons, zested
  • 12 lemons, juiced (2 cups of lemon juice)
  • 1 tablespoon vodka (optional)

Note: The vodka really isn't necessary if you are going to serve the sorbet within about 24 hours. But it does help keep it loose enough to scoop if you want to make it ahead.

Directions

  1. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and simmer until sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from heat and allow simple sugar mixture to come down to room temperature—or chill it, which is even better. The cooler the sugar water (simple syrup) mixture is when you put it in the ice cream maker, the better the results will be.
  2. Once chilled, pour simple syrup, lemon juice and lemon zest into the chilled container of an ice cream maker. Churn according to manufacturer's directions, until chilled and with body. Serve immediately if you wish—it will be very, very soft. You can also transfer it to a container in the freezer and allow it to harden off.

Note: If you choose to use vodka, it will help to keep the sorbet workable once hardened off in the freezer. This particular recipe tends to stay workable anyway, but your freezer may be set extra cold, and the alcohol helps keep it scoopable. If you want to make it ahead by a couple of days, you may want to check it to make sure it hasn't hardened too much—depending on your freezer setting you may end up with a giant lemon popsicle—not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be hard to serve. A little splash of vodka helps keep that from happening, and allows you to make it ahead if you wish.

Fresh Lemon Zest Is Key

There really is no substitute for fresh lemon zest—the flavor just isn't there without it. Most of the flavor is in the citrus oils, which reside in the thin outside layer. You capture that glorious flavor with the zest!
There really is no substitute for fresh lemon zest—the flavor just isn't there without it. Most of the flavor is in the citrus oils, which reside in the thin outside layer. You capture that glorious flavor with the zest!

Real Lemon Juice: Get Ready to Squeeze

You need a full two cups of lemon juice, and while I often will give you a pass and don't mind high quality bottled juice in many recipes, in this case, fresh matters. The flavor is brighter and more zippy - so go with fresh squeezed. I use about 12!
You need a full two cups of lemon juice, and while I often will give you a pass and don't mind high quality bottled juice in many recipes, in this case, fresh matters. The flavor is brighter and more zippy - so go with fresh squeezed. I use about 12!

Zest First, Then Squeeze

You need about 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon zest; it usually takes just at 2 fresh lemons worth of zest. I think the easiest way is to zest two lemons first, then squeeze them once you know how many you'll need to zest for the 2 tablespoons.
You need about 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon zest; it usually takes just at 2 fresh lemons worth of zest. I think the easiest way is to zest two lemons first, then squeeze them once you know how many you'll need to zest for the 2 tablespoons.

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is nothing more than sugar water—usually made with equal parts sugar and water. This ratio also helps keep the final sorbet scoopable once hardened off in the freezer.
Simple syrup is nothing more than sugar water—usually made with equal parts sugar and water. This ratio also helps keep the final sorbet scoopable once hardened off in the freezer.

Ice Cream Churns Make It Easy

I love homemade ice cream so much I have two churns, just so I always have one at the ready. Just pour in your chilled ingredients and press "churn."
I love homemade ice cream so much I have two churns, just so I always have one at the ready. Just pour in your chilled ingredients and press "churn."

How to Zest a Lemon

© 2019 Jan Charles

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