The other day I heard a nostalgic melody streaming through my window as an ice cream truck tooled along the streets of my neighborhood. My mouth suddenly watered for an old-fashioned malty, a 50/50 bar, or a rainbow Popsicle. Nothing beats the heat like a fruity, refreshing ice lolly. Over a century old, this frosty treat has come a long way from its Northern Cal roots.
On a chilly San Francisco night in 1905 young Frank Epperson playfully mixed a spoonful of soda powder in a glass of water using a wooden stirring stick. The 11-year-old inadvertently left the glass outside, and in the morning discovered that the mixture had frozen. By running the glass under hot water, he dislodged the frozen novelty using the stick, and started licking away. He serendipitously created the precursor to the iconic Popsicle that he aptly named the “Epsicle.”
Nearly 20 years later, he applied for a patent for his “frozen confection on a stick,” and after having children of his own renamed the delight a “Popsicle,” honoring his paternal status. Today over two billion Popsicles are sold yearly in this country, cherry the most popular, while artisan crafted pops with such exotic amalgams as strawberry balsamic, lemon basil, avocado with cactus pear, and passion fruit mojito are peppered throughout the land.
You can handcraft your own frozen treats at home impaled with flat wooden Popsicle sticks, toothpicks or skewers, plastic or edible sticks made of rock candy or cane sugar, or stiff vegetables like celery, carrot or parsnip sticks. For the vessel there are dozens of molds available from conventional to novelty shapes and sizes, some stackable, others vertical including trays and matching sticks in stainless steel or plastic (make sure these are BPA-free).
You can also use sturdy paper cups, shot glasses, or go moldless by freezing whole or cut fruits on a stick like a bananas foster drizzled in super dark chocolate and rolled in toasted almonds, mango chunks sprinkled with coconut shavings or supersized Cotton Candy grapes going solo.
For the “meat” of the pops, freeze pureed seasonal fruits, including super foods (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries), stone fruits (nectarines, peaches, plums, apricots), along with tropical delights (pineapple, mango, guava, passion fruit, and bananas), and tangy citrus (key limes, Meyer lemons, tangerines and grapefruits).
For splashes of color and an antioxidant oomph add acai pulp, pitaya (dragon fruit), or pomegranate juice; for interesting texture blend in chia or flaxseeds, toasted coconut shreds, chopped walnuts, pecans, macadamias or pistachios, carob or chocolate chips, or rice crisps. If you prefer a creamy texture over an icy one then blend in or alternate layers of coconut cream, Greek yoghurt, almond or cashew milk with a drizzle of acacia, chestnut or orange blossom honey, maple syrup or date sugar.
Fresh chopped mint leaves, basil, rosemary, flat leaf parsley, or baby spinach add a bright zing of flavor, while edible flowers like peppery calendula blossoms, golden fennel flowers with notes of licorice, lip-puckering hibiscus, purple pansies, and vibrant violets make a striking presentation. These herbs, leafy greens and petals also enliven savory pops like a frozen gazpacho on a stick with crushed heirloom tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, scallions, red peppers, and purple carrots with zippy spices.
For an icy adult treat whip up a batch of “Tipsycles” with a splash of your favorite liqueur or cordial into the fruit or veggie puree from Limoncello and Grand Marnier to Frangelico and Kahlua. Note that alcoholic beverages with high alcohol to water ratios (high-proofs) have lower freezing points than booze with diluted alcohol content. Vodka, for example, with a souped-up level of alcohol would probably stay in liquid form even on Neptune.
Recipe: Creamy Dreamy Summer Peach Pops
• Ingredients: 6 ripe peaches, peeled, sliced; 1/2 inch fresh ginger, grated; 1 1/2 cups Greek or Sheep’s milk yoghurt; 3/4 cup coconut cream; 3 tablespoons orange blossom honey.
• Method: In a large mixing bowl, blend yogurt, cream and honey. In a food processor or blender, puree peaches with ginger. Alternate layers of peaches and cream in the Popsicle mold, and insert sticks. Freeze for about 6 hours or until solidly frozen. Keep in freezer for up to 4 weeks.
— Catharine Kaufman can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org