Are you a sucker for a popsicle? I sure am. I miss the Mexican-style paletas sold at the long-gone but much-missed La Paleta on 24th Street near Mission, especially their cool, spicy cucumber-chile. While others swoon (and queue) for Bi-Rite Creamery’s salted caramel scoops, my fellow pop lovers and I beat the line and bask in the park licking blackberry and blood-orange popsicles bought at the soft-serve window down the street. In my 1970s youth, purple and orange tongues dyed neon-bright by candy-sweet tubes of flavored ice pushed up through skinny plastic sleeves were a badge of summertime, just like sailors bracelets and terry cloth shorts. And even the dark-chocolate snob that I am would still grab a drippy Fudgsicle any hot summer day.
Popsicles are easy and cheap to make, and if you’ve got kids who slurp them down every summer afternoon, you can have a lot of fun making your own rather than running to the store for yet another box of plastic-wrapped storebought pops. They’re also a great way to cool off and enjoy the bounty of summer fruit, especially the super-ripe stuff from the farmers market that comes home nearly deliquescing.
No need to turn on the oven or pull out the bikini-busting sugar, butter, and flour. No ice-cream maker required, just a little freezer space. You don’t even have to buy wooden sticks or made-for-the-purpose popsicle molds, although they’re easy to find and ever so cute. A few empty paper cups (or single-serving yogurt tubs), some leftover plastic spoons to double as sticks, and there you are! Ready for dessert time, snack time, hot afternoon pick-me-up time. In fact, the sooner they’re eaten, the better, before textures get icy and flavors fade.
Popsicles are pretty, and pretty irresistible, as their appearance on a jillion Pinterest boards will attest. The more fruit, the better, which makes plum popsicles are a natural choice for this season, when ripe plums are dropping off backyard trees all over the Bay Area. And while a plain plum pop offers all the joys of a ripe plum, only chillier and without the pit, few pop makers can resist adding their own signature flavor boost.
When local ice-pop makers Pop Nation put plums on the menu, they pair the fruit sometimes with cardamom, other times with anise-tinged Thai basil. Holistic health coach Sara Seinberg, who admits to being obsessed with popsicles these days, has a couldn’t-be-simpler recipe for a raw-food popsicle: 2 ripe pluots, 1 cup raw coconut water, 5 basil leaves, pureed together and frozen. Her site also offers a blissful recipe for roasted peach, honey, yogurt, and tarragon pops, which I think would work beautifully with plums. Shiso leaves, the minty, ruffled Japanese herb often used to flavor sushi rolls, can add an unexpected, refreshingly herbal note.
In their new cookbook People’s Pops, published last month by Berkeley’s Ten Speed Press, Brooklyn pop makers Nathalie Jordi, David Carrell and Joel Horowitz roast their plums, then mix the puréed fruit with simple syrup. Delicious on its own, but you could also steep the herb or spice of your choice in the simple syrup as it cools. I’d be tempted to try a split vanilla bean, a curl of orange peel, some shredded fresh ginger root, or a wheel of star anise. (The bi-colored pops in the picture are made by pouring in a layer of puréed red plums, freezing it, then adding a layer of puréed yellow plums. Once those two layers are frozen, the pops are topped up with a final layer of red plum pureé.)
Be careful, though: it’s easy to get carried away. Before long, you might be freezing everything you see. And then, danger! You could be tempted to contribute to the hipster-food economy, as the New York Times warns in a recent article about the food scene in East Nashville, Tennessee.
In the way an abundant oyster bed indicates a healthy estuary, a neighborhood thick with hipsters is an indicator that good food is not far away. Look for the signs: a fixed-gear bicycle shop, a coffee roaster run by fellows with scraggly beards, a bar with handmade bitters, food trucks and, perhaps, a paleta shop run by young women with advanced degrees.”
Roasted Red Plum Ice Pops
If you feel like it, doll up the simple syrup with vanilla, star anise, cardamom, or cinnamon (wintery!) or just leave the plum plain and simple (summery).
Reprinted with permission from People’s Pops: 55 Recipes for Ice Pops, Shave Ice, and Boozy Pops from Brooklyn’s Coolest Pop Shop by Nathalie Jordi, David Carrell, and Joel Horowitz, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes, plus 4 hours’ freezing time
Yield: Approximately 10 pops, depending on size of molds
1 1/4 pounds plums (about 12 small or 5 large), halved
1 cup (8 fl oz) simple syrup (see below)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the plums cut side down on a cookie sheet, then roast until the skins and flesh have significantly softened, 20 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
2. Once the plums are cool enough to touch, remove and discard the pits and whiz the plums, skins and all, in a food processor, though feel free to leave the purée somewhat chunky. You should have about 2 1/8 cups (17 fl oz) of purée.
3. Transfer the puréed plums to a bowl or measuring pitcher with a pouring spout and add the simple syrup. Stir until the mixture is well incorporated and taste. The mixture should be sweet yet slightly tart.
4. Pour the mixture into your ice pop molds, leaving a little bit of room at the top for the mixture to expand. Insert sticks and freeze until solid, 4 to 5 hours. Unmold and transfer to plastic bags for storage or serve at once.
2/3 cup (5 oz) organic cane sugar
2/3 cup (5 fl oz) water
1. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is transparent. Turn off the heat and let cool.
2. Add any spices before the mixture starts to simmer; add any herbs only after you’ve turned off the heat. Store plain and infused syrups in sealed containers in the fridge.