cold things

prickly pear sorbet
Food Frakker

How to Make Prickly Pear Sorbet

prickly pear sorbet
About mid-summer here in Austin, the prickly pear get ripe. They bloat purple in the punishing sun, sprouting with tantalizing juiciness from the middle of daunting thickets of thorns. I pass by a lot of these prickly pear groves on my daily bike commute, the nopalito cactus flourishes in the poor soil and neglect of Austin’s interstitial spaces.

So with the help of gardening gloves and my cargo bicycle bucket, I picked about a gallon of the suckers. Unfortunately, my gardening gloves are only about 90% effective in warding the thorns of the mother cactus, or even the hair-like spines of the prickly pear itself. For weeks afterward I was plagued with the raspy feeling of raspy thorn heads buried just beneath my skin.

I managed to re-stick myself with more thorns as I prepared the prickly pear for consumption. If you soak the fruit in cold water and then briskly rub the skin, scraping off the patches of sharpness that spot the rind like measles, you can remove most of the near-invisible thorns.

But not all.

With a lemon juicer, I turned the pile of mostly de-fanged fruit into a bowl of viscous, purple juice, and another pile of pulp and seeds. A lot of seeds made it into the juice, but I don’t consider the prickly pear seeds a bad thing. They add texture and no doubt have significant nutritional value in their own right.

The juice retained a little of that slimey consistency that you might know from nopalito tacos. In a sorbet this is a good thing, it makes the finished product smoother and softer than what you would get from a simple fruit puree.

Getting the juice was the hard part. To that, I just added some sugar, lime juice, and rum to taste, and popped the slurry in the ice cream maker. The final result was not only eye-poppingly purple, but tasty as well.

I’ve been saving some seeds and cactus pads from particularly well-producing examples of the prickly pear fruit. Now all I need is some unkempt interstitial space to grow them in.

Food Frakker

Irish Moss Soda: A little soda, hardly any Irish

The first thing you notice about the Irish Moss Soda is that there is no moss in it. At least non visible. There is however a creamy, thick, slurry of peanut flavoring. It tastes exactly like a third cup of Peter Pan PB with a half cup of milk added to it.

We know this isn’t actually what it is, because the total calories for a can of Irish Moss Soda, while astonishingly high at 280, is less than what you would get with that combination.

It’s more likely a quarter cup of peanut butter and about seven fluid ounces of skim.

Food Frakker

Sweet potato popsicle

There I was, browsing through a convenience store off Cesar Chavez BLVD, when I came across this unusual flavor of paleta. A consultation with a handy smartphone translated the flavor, camote, as “sweet potato.”

At first, one might think that blue is an unusual color to represent sweet potato. Then you might think that potatoes of any sort are an unusual flavor for an icecream novelty. It brings to mind the curious habit of Eastern cultures to make beans a desert food. But the flavor was even more refreshing than what you might expect from a more conventional fruit popsicle. It was sweet, but it had a certain savory heartiness at its root, and there appeared to be actual pink flakes of sweet potato embedded in the paleta’s icy core.

It may not be as good as the rice flavor (the arroz paleta, which has actual pieces of rice and sometimes raisins too) but I would probably buy this flavor again if I came across it.