When the summer sun is beating down, a popsicle or ice-cream bar can be really refreshing. But unfortunately, many of the ones available commercially may have undesirable ingredients: refined sugar, artificial flavours, excess fat.
In Mexico, people can grab a paleta when they need to cool down, and it’s a much healthier option. Freshly made, these frozen pops have simple, whole ingredients and fresh fruits. They also come in a variety of interesting flavours you aren’t likely to find at your local convenience store.
Maybe you can’t make a trip south, but you can enjoy the fresh flavour and healthy fruit of paletas here in Canada. A new book, Paletas, has dozens of recipes for the healthy snacks, as well as for shaved ice and aquas frescas. The following three recipes, excerpted from the book, are delicious and healthy ways to fight the heat. All you need are the ingredients and some popsicle molds.
Strawberry ice pops (paletas de fresa)
This is probably one of the most common paletas — maybe because the flavor is so kid- and adult-friendly. Strawberry paletas have been my brother’s favorite since he was a kid.
The best strawberries in Mexico are from Irapuato; they’re a kind of wild strawberry that sweetens the air, and people travel from all over to get big baskets of them. If you are lucky enough to have access to wild strawberries, which are smaller than those that you find at grocery stores but have intensely concentrated sweet flavor, please use them to make these paletas. They are so good and also quite delicate, so they squish easily—perfect for our purposes.
4 cups fresh strawberries, preferably wild, hulled and cut into quarters
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Combine the strawberries and sugar in a bowl. Let sit until the strawberries start releasing their natural juices, 20 to 30 minutes. Place in a saucepan with the water over medium heat. Simmer until they are slightly softened, about five minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
2. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor, add the lemon juice, and puree until smooth; alternatively, you could leave some chunks in if you like.
3. If using conventional molds, divide the mixture among the molds, snap on the lid, and freeze until solid, about five hours. If using glasses or other unconventional molds, freeze until the pops are beginning to set (one and a half to two hours), then insert the sticks and freeze until solid, four to five hours. If using an instant ice pop maker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Makes eight to 10
Lime pie ice pops (paletas de pay de limón)
These paletas are quick to make. The only effort is in squeezing the limes, and it’s worth it. Don’t use that bottled stuff or the flavor will suffer. Lime pie isn’t a typical paleta flavor, but the pie itself is popular. I wanted to make it into a paleta, and the result is this creamy, lip-smacking treat.
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup half-and-half
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 4 large limes)
2 teaspoons lime zest
Pinch of salt
3 cups coarsely crushed Maria cookies, or graham crackers
1. Put the sweetened condensed milk, half-and-half, lime juice, lime zest, and salt in a bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined.
2. If using conventional molds, divide the mixture among the molds, snap on the lid, and freeze until solid, about five hours. If using glasses or other unconventional molds, freeze until the pops are beginning to set (one and a half to two hours), then insert the sticks and freeze until solid, 4 to 5 hours. If using an instant ice pop maker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
3. Spread the graham cracker pieces on a large plate. Unmold the paletas and press each side into the graham crackers, coating completely.
Makes eight to 10
Red shaved ice (raspado rojo)
Rojo means “red,” and this syrup gets its name from the vibrant color of fresh pomegranates. Similar ices made with grenadine are found all over Mexico, but grenadine is usually made with artificial flavors and colors. I wanted to include a recipe using fresh pomegranates because it’s really tasty. You can clean an extra pomegranate and sprinkle the seeds on top of each serving for a lovely garnish.
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons corn syrup
Shaved or crushed ice
1. Cut the pomegranates into quarters and remove the seeds. Put the seeds in a saucepan, add the sugar, and muddle to extract the pomegranate flavor and form a puree. Stir in the water and corn syrup. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture is simmering and the sugar has dissolved. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve.
2. For each serving, mound about one cup of shaved ice in a serving dish. Drizzle six to eight tablespoons of the pomegranate syrup over the ice and serve immediately.
Makes six to eight
Note: The syrup color will vary depending on the pomegranate’s ripeness. For a little extra color and fruitiness, coarsely chop 1 pint strawberries and mix with 1/2 cup sugar. Let sit until the sweet juices are extracted, 30 to 40 minutes. Mix the strawberry juices with the cooled syrup (and use the strawberries for topping, if you like).
Excerpted from Paletas by Fany Gerson Copyright © 2011 by Fany Gerson. Excerpted by permission of Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.