Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sherbets of Summer

It is firmly summer here. When I was in Calcutta last week, I went about with a permanently hang-dog face after 10 minutes outdoors. The heat is scorching but even more is the high humidity. It is slightly better in Madras, but only very slightly :>.... You need to top up your liquid reserves continuously. At home we shift from smoothies and milk-shakes to fruit juices. And preparing them becomes a labour of love. Especially if you make a concentrated version which can be watered down to rejuvenate you when one gets into the house and collapses. The following are recipes made from watermelons and unripe mangoes. This is the season for them. And we are wolfing them down; gladly, naturally :).

The unripe mango one is more seasonal since they will be off the markets in a month. In south India they appear almost as soon as the Sun starts ruling. You should try to get large mangoes. Too small and the labour becomes intensive. Traditionally, my mother would roast the mango on a gas flame until soft, the classic Aam Pora. The smoky overtones add another dimension. I admit I cheated. I will come to that in a minute ;->.

Unripe Mango Sherbet

2 large unripe green mangoes
1 cup white sugar or to taste
1 and half litre water
1 and half teaspoon (or to taste) Pink Salt or beet nun

Preheat the oven to the highest temperature. I set mine at 250 ̊C. Wash the mangoes very well. If necessary soak them for an hour in water to get rid of the sap which sometimes will run down the fruit when the mango is broken off the tree. Put the mangoes on the rack nearest and blister them. Take out the rack out 5 minutes and turn the fruit to blister it uniformly. After another five minutes, take it out. The mangoes should have softened a bit by now. For the rest of the softening, I put them in a pressure cooker with the water and cook them at highest pressure for 5 minutes. Let them cool down completely. Take the mangoes out of the liquid. Peel the mangoes. Scrape the flesh from the skin and add it to the liquid. Squeeze the flesh from the seed. I find it fastest to do it by hand. Add the sugar and boil it to dissolve the sugar. Puree the liquid. Put it back on a low flame and add the pink salt. One can use ordinary salt if pink salt is unavailable.Only this has a distinct sulphurous smell which I grew up with! Make sure it dissolves. Test to judge its salt/sugar/sourness component. Transfer to a carafe and chill it.
This is a concentrated solution so you might want to dilute it with chilled water for serving.

Watermelon Sherbet

2.5 kg watermelon
1 inch ginger
Sugar (optional)

Wash the watermelon. Remove the peel. Cut the red flesh out. Make sure the white flesh is avoided when the pulp is taken out. Remove the black and brown seeds. Peel the ginger and roughly chop it. Add the watermelon flesh and ginger into a blender and puree it. If it is too thick, add water and blend again. The watermelons here are very sweet, so sugar does not need to be added. However if necessary you can sweeten it with sugar. Serve chilled.

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