Slush fun: Memories of cool drinks on the deck
On one of those hot days over the Memorial Day weekend, I was thinking of my summers of long ago. Back when summer was slush season in our family.
On weekends, my dad would get us all loaded into the car to head to Gull Lake north of Brainerd where we had a cabin of sorts that eventually became a home and was ultimately the place where my parents retired. My mom made sure we always had plenty of snacks and good food at the lake. And good drinks, too.
In the freezer at the lake, we could always find a big ice cream bucket full of slush. My mom made sure there was always one bucket of an icy mixture that may have included ingredients such as frozen lemonade, fruit juice, water, strong tea and/or a simple syrup of sugar and water. The adult-style slush included some type of alcohol. I just went through my mom's recipe box and found her slush potions with spirits such as vodka, gin, rum, brandy, wine or sloe gin stirred in. The sweet mixture was poured into a 5-quart ice cream bucket (another thing of the past) and stored in the freezer for a few days before serving. Lemon-lime soda was poured over the slush mixture in glasses at serving time. Each glass of slush was presented with a straw to use for stirring and sipping.
When her grandchildren were old enough to drink slush, she found a non-alcoholic concoction that was always in the freezer along with the slush for her adult friends. Everyone loved happy hour out on my mom and dad's deck, with a tall glass of slush and plenty of chips and salsa. And then one summer, my mom was so busy taking care of my dad who had become ill, she didn't have time to make slush. There were no more happy visits with friends on the deck. That summer brought the death of my dad. And, it was the end of summer slush in our family.
As my grandchildren and I jumped and danced around the sprinkler under the hot sun the other day, we worked up a thirst. I thought about that non-alcoholic slush my mom and I both used to make. I remember making simple sugar syrup by cooking sugar and water together and then combining it with some mashed ripe bananas, pineapple juice and frozen orange juice concentrate. It would all go into a big plastic ice cream pail before going into the freezer. The frozen fruity mixture could be scooped into glasses and topped with lemon-lime soda for a refreshing drink that was fun for all to suck through a straw.
I haven't heard much about ice cream bucket slush in a long time. But it was that delightful drink from the past that inspired my recipe for Summer Ice. Ripe bananas, fresh orange and lemon juices and sugar syrup can be put into an ice cream maker to create a fluffy, smooth consistency that is perfect for serving as a cold and creamy treat on a hot summer day. Serve it in cups made of hollowed-out orange or lemon halves and it's pretty as a picture.
Frozen in a shallow glass dish, the mixture can be scraped out with an ice cream scoop, dropped into a glass and topped with sparkling water.
Lemon thyme is up and thriving in my garden once again this year. I added a few sprigs to the sugar syrup when I took it off the heat. The flavor it infused added a pleasant new dimension to the ice. Feel free to experiment with any fresh herbs you have handy. Lemon basil or mint, maybe? Or, just leave them out completely.
Summer Ice is not ice cream, not sherbet. It's not sorbet or granita. And, it's not ice cream bucket slush. But it's close. Your family and friends will love sipping or spooning Summer Ice during happy visits under the hot sun. No deck required.
3 cups sugar
3 cups water
3 sprigs fresh lemon thyme
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 ripe bananas, peeled
Sparkling water for serving
Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Allow mixture to boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add sprigs of lemon thyme, pushing them down into the liquid. Set aside to cool.
Grate zest from top half of each orange and lemon (the half that includes the stem). Set zest aside.
Cut oranges and lemons in half. Squeeze juice from each stem half. Discard juiced stem halves.
Carefully squeeze juice from remaining halves, being careful not to tear the rind. Pull remaining pulp from halves and discard. Cut a thin slice of rind from bottom of each citrus cup so they will stand upright. Place citrus cups in a plastic bag and refrigerate.
Pour 1 cup orange juice and 1/3 cup lemon juice (squeeze more oranges and lemons, if necessary, to produce amounts needed) into a blender. Add bananas and puree until mixture is smooth.
Remove thyme from cooled sugar syrup. Stir fruit mixture into cooled syrup, blending well. Add reserved grated zest and mix.
Pour mixture into a 13- x 9- x 2-inch dish. Cover and freeze until almost firm (3 to 4 hours), stirring occasionally. Spoon partially frozen mixture into a chilled mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed of an electric mixer just until smooth. Return mixture to dish. Cover and freeze until firm.
To serve as a cool beverage, scoop Summer Ice into tall glasses. Add sparkling water.
To serve as dessert in citrus cups, scoop Ice into chilled orange and lemon cups.
Tip from the cook
--For something a little different, create individual desserts by layering softened vanilla ice cream, Summer Ice and more vanilla ice cream, forming three layers in a glass custard cup or small ramekin. Store in freezer until serving time.