Orange Sherbet: An Oldie But Goodie

When you tell people you spent your freshman year — and only your freshman year — in Florida, at a small school in Clearwater just a quick drive from white, sandy beaches and surrounded by year-long sunshine, the most typical response is confusion, especially when they find out you later transferred to the northern woods of Wisconsin, just a half hour from the U.P.

Delicious looking orange sherbet with a garnish of fresh orange slice at the side.

What can I say?

The truth is, Florida and I never quite hit it off: first, there was the intense heat when I arrived in August, with humidity that made my hair frizz any time I stepped out the door.

Then there were the bed bugs, the failed French test, the homesickness and the time I passed out, trying to give blood. Mostly, there was Christmas time, and while I loved the beach on spring break in high school, it was an entirely different thing in December, when white twinkling lights and waving Santas dotted yards of palm trees and colorful flowers, and we still didn’t need coats.

One thing I will say for Florida though, and this is something important: it makes a good orange. More times than I should admit, my friend Liz and I hopped in her bright yellow Volkswagen bug, the one with daisies propped up in the console, headed to the retail shop for a local orange grove.

A white chopping board, a knife, and sliced orange on top of a wooden table.

I guess some people would make the trip for the oranges, or the juice maybe. Us? We went for the ice cream.

Orange Blossom Groves in Clearwater, at least in the 2000-2001 school year, made the most amazing orange soft serve ice cream, totally worth our driving over in the middle of the day, even more than once a week. That soft serve was perfection: silky, creamy, icy cold, incredibly fresh.

Freshly made orange sherbet, ready to be plated,

Of course the entire place smelled like citrus — the way your hands do when you peel one and the fragrance sticks to your fingers, your palms, the knife you cut it with – but the ice cream’s taste was the smell times ten. You know that episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where they’re in Italy and Robert gets the peach gelato and says it’s like he’s never tasted a peach before?

That was what this soft serve was like, only orange. So you can imagine how excited I was when, this weekend, my attempt to use up extra orange juice yielded me this: orange sherbet so similar to that orange-grove soft serve, I will never need to go back.

On top of a table, a glass of orange sherbet topped with an orange slice complete with a spoon on the side.

Essentially, all this sherbet is is a mix of orange juice, milk and a few other things, blended together and chilled, then churned in an ice cream maker or with a simple freeze-whisk, freeze-whisk method (see below). When complete, it is as refreshing as it gets, pure orange in creamy, icy form.

In fact, talking about it right now makes me want more — which wouldn’t be a problem if there were more than a spoonful left in the bowl.

Orange Sherbet
Adapted from Alton Brown

7 ounces sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups orange juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups very cold whole milk (I substituted 3/4 cup skim milk + 3/4 cup heavy cream)

In the bowl of a food processor or a blender, combine all of the ingredients except the milk, and process until the sugar is dissolved, approximately 1 minute. Transfer this mixture to a mixing bowl, and whisk in the milk.

Cover the bowl, and place in the refrigerator until the mixture reaches 40 degrees F or below, approximately 1 hour. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process until it is the consistency of soft serve ice cream*.

You may serve now or transfer to a lidded container and place in freezer until firm, approximately 3 hours.

*If you don’t have an ice cream maker, place the bowl in the freezer for about 30 minutes, remove and whisk thoroughly; repeat until it’s the texture you’d like.

Do you love ice cream? Check out our homemade ice cream guide for some more ideas.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn,, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens,, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World,, Babble,, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.

27 thoughts on “Orange Sherbet: An Oldie But Goodie

  1. this is like a orange creamsickle, only better because it’s homemade. this sounds so refreshing, Florida in a bowl. what a lovely way to visit that hot and humid state without the damage to the hair. 🙂

  2. Oh, I can absolutely guarantee we’ll be trying this. Soon. Sooner if I hadn’t already made today’s grocery run! 🙂

  3. Sounds awesome and considering I have two loaded orange trees in my backyard, I’m definitely making this. Only thing is I’m not a weight-cooker but rather a measurer. Do you happen to know what the 7 ounces of sugar translates to in tablespoon or cup measurements? Thanks so much.

    • 7 ounces is not more than a cup. There are 8 ounces to a cup, so common sense would tell you that the recipe calls for just shy of a cup! I made this very similar recipe and I thought the cup of sugar was not sweet enough!

      • @Stacy whoops! I accidentally wrote over when I meant under! Thanks for pointing that out. And the sugar can definitely be adjusted to taste.

  4. I am so excited to see this recipe! My ice cream maker is in storage halfway around the world so I thought desserts like this were out of the question. If this tastes at all like an orange julius, I will be a HUGE fan!

  5. Nom nom! The ice cream looks yummy. I had never tasted avocado before I had avocado ice-cream at a famous deli back home and that reminded me of the ELR episode too!

  6. Yum! I have to keep reminding myself that I do not have space for an ice cream maker in my kitchen but maybe it’s time to try the freeze and whisk method…

  7. Maureen – Absolutely!

    DD – Ha! I remember those!

    Cate – I am a big fan of the freeze/whisk option. Try it! And, yes, very reminiscent of Orange Julius. You will love.

    Amrita – Love that! PS – Avocado ice cream sounds awesome!

    Gemma – Try it! You will love it!

  8. SO good and gluten free so I can eat it myself instead of just watching my brother eat it. 🙂 I’ve enjoyed having my bro here. I have someone to cook for. He really enjoys baking too whenever he actually gets enough time to.

  9. Jo – that’s fantastic! make this! PS that’s so fun that you’ve been getting to cook for your brother. I agree completely it’s more fun to eat with people you love than without.

  10. Sue, Right? That was basically all I was saying after I took a spoonful.

    Angela, I love profiteroles, so I’d love to see a citrus version. You have such great ideas!

  11. Shanna, got directed here from your mint choc chip post, and reading it, felt as if I were there at the orange grove with you.

    Loved these lines in particular – “Of course the entire place smelled like citrus—the way your hands do when you peel one and the fragrance sticks to your fingers, your palms, the knife you cut it with—but the ice cream’s taste was the smell times ten. You know that episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where they’re in Italy and Robert gets the peach gelato and says it’s like he’s never tasted a peach before? That was what this soft serve was like, only orange.”

    Yours is one of those blogs whom I never get tired of, and even though I can see your style of writing has changed since 2009, it’s still good in every post, and makes me feel like I really want to meet you, friend!

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