If there are only two things I know about summer, they're these:
1. Fresh food proliferates. Whether it's in your garden or the blackberry bushes by the side of the road, the bounty of the harvest all summer long is truly that… bounteous.
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2. Most of the time, it's hot.
So, given these 2 axioms, what better way to celebrate summer than to indulge regularly in cold, refreshing, nourishing popsicles, packed with seasonal delights?
Many of these popsicles are a pairing of fruit and herbs. This is inspired by the Mexican tradition of adding herbs or spices to fruit juices and nectars before they're made into paletas. This stimulates the immune system to help cool you more efficiently and arouses the senses, thus helping you relish your cold treat all the more.
Each of these recipes makes approximately 3 cups of liquid, which is about 1 batch of popsicles in this popsicle mold. I developed and tested each of these recipes in that mold, so I can't guarantee exactly how many ice pops each recipe will make in other molds, but I can more or less guarantee the volume of each recipe, which will have to suffice, I'm afraid. 🙂
Sugar Syrup in Popsicles? Don't We Want to Avoid Sugar?
You may also notice that some of these recipes include an added sugar syrup — which may seem ridiculous when most of us are trying to avoid the stuff and we're already blending fruit! However, there are three reasons why we include a sugar syrup (made with evaporated cane juice or honey, to at least avoid the most refined versions):
1. Sugar provides a better flavor.
Like salt, sugar helps bring out flavor. Surprisingly, many of these popsicles are actually rather bland without a bit of added sugar — freezing juices requires a deeper, more intense flavor just to taste “normal”.
The herb flavors also dwell more harmoniously with the fruit flavors when there's a bit of sugar present.
2. Sugar provides a better texture.
The water content in most fruit and some vegetables is quite high, so it causes popsicles to freeze more like an ice cube than like a creamy, slightly bite-able treat. Thus, fruits which have a high water content (such as watermelon, cucumber, and strawberries) freeze into very solid popsicles and by adding a bit of sugar, we change the phase a bit, resulting in a slightly softer, more manageable popsicle.
It also helps with separation. Anything with a high water content will separate slightly during the freezing process, with the water ending up at the tip and the creamier ingredients on top. Granted, Jennifer McGruther capitalizes on this in these gorgeous Cultured Coconut Mango popsicles where the coconut water separates out slightly, so perhaps this separation isn't a bit deal.
It's up to what you like, but just know that a sugar syrup helps minimize separation.
3. Sugar provides a medium for the herbs.
If you blend the herbs directly into the popsicle mixture, the herb pieces will float to the top as the popsicle mixture sits in the freezer. This results in a not-very-present flavor at the tip of the popsicle, but an overwhelming flavor closer to the bottom as you're eating.
By infusing the herbs into the sugar syrup, you get the flavor of the herb spread evenly throughout the popsicle.
If You Must Go Sugar-Free…
Go ahead and make any of these popsicles without the added sugar syrup. To do so, steep the herbs in an equal portion of boiling water to the amount of sugar syrup called for in the recipe, then proceed with the recipe as described when the water is cool.
Remember: Sugar-free popsicles will be “icier” than regular popsicles. It's not bad – just different.
Need a sugar-free popsicle for your toddler to help with dehydration? Make breastmilk popsicles.
Tips for Making Perfect Popsicles
1. If you are using molds that require wooden popsicle sticks rather than preformed handles, don't add the popsicle sticks right away. Instead, pour the popsicle mix into the molds, let freeze for about an hour (set a timer!), then add the popsicle sticks. This will help the popsicle sticks stay upright in the lid, it keeps the sticks from floating to the top, and helps the popsicle mixture adhere better to the sticks. (It's always frustrating when you're removing popsicles from the mold and the stick comes out but the popsicle does not!)
2. When making especially creamy popsicles, such as Sweet Carrot Pops or Honey Avocado Popsicles, you may also want to soak the wooden handles in water for about an hour before adding them to the popsicles, as this also helps the popsicle stick adhere to the popsicle mixture.
Now, go enjoy the summer!