Spring Desserts: Rhubarb Lime Sherbet

by moderndomestic on April 13, 2010

Rhubarb Lime Sherbet

I've eaten sherbet, sure. But what exactly is it?

It’s been unseasonably warm in DC this week – it’s felt much more like summer than spring. And with the warm weather my mind turns to ice cream, sorbets, and, lately, sherbet. Yes, I’ve become a little obsessed with sherbet – mostly because I recently realized that I don’t know what exactly it is.

Now, when I think of sherbet, I think of the Farrel’s Ice Cream Parlor in Eugene, which closed a couple of years ago. Farrell’s was an important part of growing up in Eugene – it’s where we’d go for birthday parties, after soccer games, and for post middle school dance dishing. It was outfitted like an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, with bright red booths, lots of brass fixtures, and waiters in straw top hats. What I remember most distinctly is some monstrous dessert they served at kids parties – called a “Zoo” (I think), it was a giant bowl of different flavors of sherbet. It was so large that it actually took an entire kids party to devour it – but we usually managed with no problem.

But while I’ve eaten my fair share of sherbet, I didn’t really realize what it was until I looked it up the other day. According to David Lebovitz, who is my go-to source on frozen desserts, sherbet is a midway point between ice cream and sorbet. Sorbets are usually made without dairy, while sherbets contain some kind of dairy – although they may also be made with egg whites. And these definitions can tend to get a little squishy, as some professionals will refer to sorbets made with dairy as sorbets. Well, wasn’t that confusing. It makes me feel a little better for not knowing the definition of sherbet off the top of my head.

Well, no matter what the definition is, I really loved the sherbet I ended up making. Since rhubarb is coming into season, I wanted to show off its tart, refreshing flavor. The lime juice adds another bright note to the sherbet, but the milk helps temper the tartness of the rhubarb and lime. This sherbet is light and refreshing – the flavor is less concentrated than a sorbet, but I liked the added creaminess. It’s a lovely way to celebrate the start of spring – and I think I might even like it better than the “Zoo.”

Rhubarb Lime Sherbet 2

A lovely way to use rhubarb. A lovely way to use lime. A lovely sherbet.

Rhubarb Lime Sherbet
Adapted from “Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments,” by David Lebovitz
Makes approximately 1/2 quart
Note: I made a half a quart of this because, well, there’s really no reason for me to have an entire quart of sherbet sitting around my apartment. The recipe is easily doubled if you’d like to make a full quart.

6 oz (two large stalks) of rhubarb, washed and trimmed
1/4 cup + 2 tbs sugar
1/3 cup water
3 tbs freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup whole milk

Thinly slice rhubarb. In a medium nonreactive sauce pan, combine rhubarb, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and let simmer 5 minutes, until rhubarb is soft and cooked through. Remove from heat and let cool.

Puree rhubarb mixture in a blender or food processor and scrape into a medium bowl. Add lime juice and milk and stir until combined. Thoroughly chill for 4 hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsay C April 13, 2010 at 11:29 am

Jenna, this looks wonderful! I have never made anything with rhubarb before, let alone sherbet! I will definitely have to try out this recipe. Maybe adding some strawberries would be good as well.


Olga @ MangoTomato April 13, 2010 at 11:31 am

Love the color: so very cherry blossom inspired!


colleen @ foodietots April 13, 2010 at 10:16 pm

I always loved sherbet when I was a kid (though I never tried anything as awesome as the Zoo), but this sounds a thousand times better than the old orange/lime/pineapple versions.


Amanda April 14, 2010 at 10:18 am

mmm, this sounds wonderful! I know I’ll be getting rhubarb in my CSA share soon. Looks like I might have to get an ice cream maker…


Linno November 7, 2010 at 7:02 pm

YUM this is so good! I made this last week, it was amazing.


moderndomestic November 7, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Oh awesome! So glad it came out well for you.


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