Vegetables for dessert? No, this isn’t a gimmick to trick a picky child!
This dreamy frozen dessert will have you craving your recommended five servings of produce a day. Though the presence of seeds makes them technically a fruit, cucumbers often get pushed to the savory sphere. But their light flavor lends nicely to sweet applications as well.
When paired with a touch of sugar and the bright floral notes of elderflower, this garden vegetable favorite makes a simple, refreshing dessert. This is the perfect dish to serve at a spring cookout after the meal, or for an afternoon by the pool.
Any variety of cucumber works nicely in this dish. I use American cucumbers, as they are typically the cheapest where I live. However, English or Persian ones would be lovely as well; they would even lend a touch more sweetness to the dish.
You could also use a combination of varieties – experiment with the flavors until you find what you like best!
If you are avoiding alcohol, you can substitute an elderflower syrup for the liqueur. However, keep in mind that this will affect the final texture. Read more about the roles of alcohol and sugar in sorbet here.
Looking for another version of spiked fresh fruit sorbet? You’ll love our recipe for a mango tequila version – find it here.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Set up your ice cream maker
Depending on what type of ice cream maker you have, this may require some advance preparation.
For an old-fashioned hand churn variety, make sure you’re set up with an adequate supply of salt and ice. For the freezer bowl type, place the bowl in the freezer at least 12 hours in advance of making this recipe.
Other electric types generally require no advance warning – if you have one of these, you’re probably good to go! Check the manufacturer’s directions to make sure. And double check that you have everything you need before you get started, including power cords, dashers, and mixer attachments.
If you are looking to purchase an ice cream maker so you can churn your own frozen desserts at home, check out our helpful guide to choosing the best machine for your needs.
Step 2 – Peel the cucumbers
All set up? Wash all of your veggies, and get out your vegetable peeler. Looking for a new one? Check out our review of the best models on the market.
Be sure to peel all of the skin away, and cut off the stem ends. While it’s true that these contain a lot of their nutrients in the peels, you’re not going to want to add them to this recipe.
Instead, you can reserve the peels for use in a green juice recipe, or use them to make flavor-infused water (if they’re not waxed). Or, just toss them on the compost pile.
If you haven’t already, you can juice your lemon at this point too. I also like to measure out all of my ingredients before I start, so feel free to measure your sugar and liqueur or syrup now as well. Set these aside.
Step 3 – Slice cukes in half
This step’s not too complicated. Just be sure to cut those babies in half lengthwise – we’re trying to get at the seeds here.
Step 4 – Remove the seeds
Now that they’re exposed, get out a sturdy spoon and scrape those seeds into a bowl. Be sure to get them all! Set them aside, for straining in a later step.
Step 5 – Chop, then combine ingredients
Now, it’s time to chop up your peeled and seeded veggies. A coarse chop or even slices will do, since you’ll be blending these into a puree later.
Place your chopped cukes in a large mixing bowl and combine with the sugar, elderflower liqueur, and lemon juice.
Step 6 – Strain the seeds
Remember those seeds that we set aside earlier? Get our your strainer and set it over a large bowl. With a sturdy spoon, press the seeds to get out as much liquid as you can. Add this to the mixture, and discard the seeds (or reserve them for juicing).
This step can also be done with a piece of cheesecloth – just place your seeds in the center, wrap up the bundle, and squeeze from the secured end down towards the center, until you’ve gotten out every last drop.
Step 7 – Macerate
This step takes care of itself. After giving the mixture another quick stir to assure that all of the ingredients are combined well, leave it to sit for about half an hour on the counter at room temperature, to macerate the cucumbers.
This process happens when the sugar, acid in the lemon juice, and the alcohol begin to break down the cucumber. While you wait, you can do the dishes. Or take a quick catnap!
Step 8 – Blend
Get out your immersion blender, food processor, or traditional blender and blend the mixture until you have a smooth puree.
Step 9 – Check the sugar ratio
For this step, you’re going to perform an egg test. Carefully wash and dry a raw egg, and place it in your bowl of sorbet base.
If it floats, hooray! The sugar ratio is perfect. If not, take the egg out of the mixture and add sugar (or simple syrup) about a tablespoon at a time. Give it a stir, redo the test, and repeat until the egg floats.
Step 10 – Chill, then churn
Time to take another break! Cover the bowl with plastic and put it in the fridge to chill for about an hour.
Whenever you’re making a frozen churned dessert, you always want to chill the base before pouring it into your ice cream maker. Time to get something else done around the house, or watch an episode of your favorite show.
Pour the mix into your ice cream maker, being sure to get all of that tasty goodness out of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for churning.
When it’s done, you can serve immediately, or place your sorbet in a lidded storage container in the freezer for a few hours, for a more firm and scoopable treat.
Speaking of scoops, there are so many out there, but we’ve done the work for you. Take a look at our review.
Though this is delicious and refreshing on its own, I have another serving suggestion for you:
Try turning this sorbet into a float by adding a citrusy soda or sparkling water, like grapefruit, to a tall glass filled with a few scoops, and a straw. Or make a cocktail float by serving a scoop in a glass with an ounce of gin and 4 ounces of tonic water, or bourbon and citrus soda.
Be sure to tell us about any other fun combinations that you try in the comments below!
Photos by Kendall Vanderslice, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.
About Kendall Vanderslice
Kendall’s love of food has taken her around the world. From baking muffins on a ship in West Africa and milking cows with Tanzanian Maasai, to hunting down the finest apfelstrudel in Austria, she continually seeks to understand the global impact of food. Kendall holds a BA in Anthropology from Wheaton College and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University, and has worked in the pastry departments of many of Boston’s top kitchens. Based in Somerville, Massachusetts, Kendall helps to run a small community supported bread bakery and writes about the intersection of food, faith, and culture on her personal blog, A Vanderslice of the Sweet Life.