It's popsicle time again!
When the weather gets hot, I see a lot of nostalgic chatter online about the neighborhood ice cream truck that drives around on hot summer days and stops to serve $1 ice cream cones or popsicles. Is this something that became a rarer occurrence after 1986? Because if my memory is correct, I've only encountered this mythical ice cream truck and its cheerful, jingly music on a handful of occasions during the last 30 years, and I'm pretty sure the time I remember most clearly is actually an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I do have a vague memory of once stopping for an illicit popsicle while riding my bike home in Texas, circa 1996, and an oppressively hot and humid August day in Washington, DC in 2003 when I bought a popsicle from a cart, but I don't know if I can consider that urban food cart to be the "ice cream truck," can I?
What I do very clearly remember from both occasions is that I went for the most brightly colored, artificially flavored, fun-shaped popsicle illustrated on the board, the rocket pop. Something about that blindingly neon, tri-colored popsicle seems to promise sweet relief from the heat in a way an ice cream bar shaped like Sonic the Hedgehog somehow doesn't.* On that late summer day in DC, it was pure heaven.
*Not to mention, chewing through a frozen gum ball "eye" calls for a level of effort I'm never going to muster when it's so hot that the very act of breathing makes me sweat.
But what isn't heavenly in a real rocket pop are the ingredients. Blue "razzberries" are as mythic as unicorns and real cherries never come out that brilliantly red, as I learned while making these very popsicles. So, instead of relying on some sort of kool aid or gatorade combo to mimic the real thing, I went with a more natural, fruit-based approach for my rocket pops. I blended up some strawberries and blueberries, made a lemon sorbet, then layered them all into some star-shaped popsicle molds I long stopped believing were anything but a waste of money (but so cute!).
Once they froze, I had some pretty cute, space themed, patriotic pops promising all the refreshment and none of the scary food dye of the real thing. And as I found out, if you take long enough dipping your frozen molds in hot water, the red layer melts enough that they even kind of look like rockets when you release them! Whatever shape you make them in, these are tasty, cute, and perfect for that red, white and blue holiday coming up on Monday.
Homemade Rocket Pops
Makes 6 popsicles in these molds, maybe more or less in other molds.
- 1 cup strawberries
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1/2 cup sugar, divided
- 1/3 cup water, divided
- 2 tbs fresh lemon juice, divided
- 1 cup your favorite lemon sorbet (I used a recipe from David Leibovitz)
- In a small pot, combine the strawberries, half of the sugar, and half of the water and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved and the strawberries are soft and beginning to give up their juice. Remove from heat, let cool a bit then add in 1 tbs of the lemon juice. Puree mixture in a blender and then transfer to the refrigerator to chill.
- Repeat with the blueberries and the remaining sugar, water, and lemon juice.
- When fruit purees are well chilled, fill each mold about 1/3 full with the strawberry puree, then transfer to the freezer to set a bit. You may have some leftover puree.
- Once strawberry layer has set, spoon softened lemon sorbet into the molds, and gently tap to settle and release any air bubbles. Molds should be about 2/3 full. Transfer to the freezer to firm up a little if necessary (I would recommend, otherwise the blueberry layer kind of seeps in a bit, as you can see in my photos).
- Once sorbet layer has firmed up a bit, top off the molds with the blueberry puree, then insert the popsicle sticks and tops and transfer to the freezer. Freeze until completely solid.
- When ready to serve, dip the molds in warm water and gently remove the popsicles.