Plum Sorbet

When I wrote the first edition of The Perfect Scoop. I only allowed myself to use the word “refreshing “ once, which I’m pretty sure I did. When you write a book, there’s a tendency to include everything that you possibly can, but a number of things can nudge them out, such as having photos, which everyone loves. So although I included Plum-Blackberry Swirl Ice Cream, Plum Granita, Plum Ice Cream, Plum-Raspberry Sorbet, Plum-Rasberry Swirl Ice Cream, and a Plum-Berry Compote (whew!), I didn’t include a Plum Sorbet recipe.

It probably didn’t include it because I would have had to use the word “refreshing” to describe this distinctly tart-tangy Plum Sorbet, which tastes like the best of summer is one remarkably colorful scoop. Since this recipe is on the blog, I’m gonna invoke the “Do whatever you want, it’s your blog” rule and go ahead and say that this is, indeed, very refreshing.

I’m a fan of any and all plums, and never met one I didn’t like. I even add a salty Japanese umeboshi plum to the pot when I make rice. When the rice is done, I pluck out the fermented fruit and eat it, which is said to be good for all sorts of things that might ail you.

Most of the flavor of plums are in the skins, especially that tangy flavor we all love. In France, big, red juicy plums, called prunes (a word which always trips me up, because that’s the word we use for dried plums in English, which in French are pruneaux…) are harder to come by. We get amazing Reine Claude plums, and the cult-like forces make an appearance at the mention of the word “Mirabelle,” but I’m also a huge fan of Santa Rosa, Elephant Heart, and other lush, pulpy, purple plums.

Much of that adoration I owe to a personal hero of mine, Luther Burbank, a horticulturalist from Northern California who cross-pollinated fruits in the late 1800’s and came up with a number of hybrids, including the russet potato and plumcots, but most notably the Santa Rosa plum, an excellent, all-purpose plum that’s still popular today.

There’s nothing more satisfying than cooking up a pot of plums, too. They don’t get peeled and that peel, in addition to adding spectacular flavor, gives them a color that, when churned up into Plum Sorbet, is terrific on its own, but especially shines when paired with other seasonal fruits and berries.

Although not salty, or fermented, this Plum Sorbet is very good for curing what ails you. It’s especially refreshing, and I’ve been using it this summer to cool things down, making it just what the doctor ordered.

Plum Sorbet
Print Recipe
4 to 6 servings
1 1/2 pounds (680g) plums
1/2 cup (100g) sugar, or 1/3 cup (65g) sugar plus 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 to 3 teaspoons kirsch, maraschino liqueur, or vodka
a few drops fresh lemon juice
1. Pit the plums, slice them, and put them in a medium-sized saucepan with 1/4 cup (60ml) water. Cover and cook over medium heat, lifting the lid and stirring occasionally, until the plums are soft and completely cooked through. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
2. Blend or puree the plums. You should have about 2 cups (500ml) of plum puree.
3. Put the sugar, or sugar and corn syrup, in the saucepan with about 1/2 cup (125ml) of the plum puree and cook it over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and stir it into the rest of the plum puree. Mix in the kirsch or maraschino and a few drops of lemon juice, then chill the mixture thoroughly, preferably overnight.
4. When the sorbet mixture is thoroughly chilled, freeze the sorbet in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Here are a few pointers and tips about the recipe:

Why do you cook the plums? Can I make this with raw plums?

Much of the flavor of plums comes from the delicious, tart skin. Cooking the fruit draws out that flavor and melds it with the flavorful juicy flesh. So I cook the fruit.

Why is my sorbet so hard after it’s been in the freezer?

Fruit is around 90% water, so sorbets tend to freeze harder than ice creams, which have more fat to mitigate that. Also, home freezers tend to be much colder than the freezers used at ice cream shops. This sorbet is softer than others, and plums have less water than citrus and other fruits, so isn’t as much of an issue in this sorbet. For tips, check out my post, Tips for Making Homemade Ice Cream Softer.

Do I need to use an ice cream machine?

Nope, although the steady churning of a machine gives the sorbet a nice consistency. (For tips on ice cream machines, check this post.) If you want to make this without using an ice cream machine, freeze the sorbet mixture in a shallow, freezer-safe container; one that’s plastic will make it easier to remove the sorbet mixture in chunks when it’s frozen. Once frozen, break the sorbet mixture into rough chunks, place them in a food processor, and pulse the mixture until it’s smooth.

Why is my ice cream machine so noisy?

Many small appliances with motors are noisy, such as blenders, stand mixers, and vacuum cleaners. (My defense against not wanting to vacuum is that I can’t stand the noise.) When someone invents a noiseless vacuum cleaner, perhaps they’ll work on a whisper-quiet blender and ice cream machine. If I need quiet, I put mine in my office, next to my kitchen, and close the door. But I don’t mind the noise too much coming from my machine since I know something good will come out of it…

Can I use less sugar?

Yes, but the sorbet will be much firmer when it comes out of the freezer. If you want to reduce the sugar substantially, you may wish to make granita. To do so, pour the sorbet mixture into a shallow, freezer-safe container and rake the mixture with a fork as it’s freezing in regular intervals, to create little crystals. For more information, check my post on Baking Ingredients and Substitutions.

Can I omit the alcohol?

Yes, but alcohol will help keep the sorbet softer in the freezer. If you omit it, it will be firmer so best to take it out of the freezer 5 to 10 minutes in advance of scooping it. You can use other spirits or liqueurs in this, such as Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, Cointreau, white rum, vodka, gin, or a fruit-forward eau-de-vie.

Why use corn syrup, and what are some substitutes for it?

I offer up two version of sweeteners for the recipe. Check my post: When to use, and not use, corn syrup in a recipe. Spoiler: The corn syrup that you buy in the supermarket isn’t high-fructose corn syrup, which is something you should avoid. Natural food stores carry organic, non-GMO corn syrup, which you might prefer to use over supermarket brands.

Can I use other types of plums for this?

I use purple plums, which are my favorite types of plums for baking and cooking, due to the tartness in their skins. If using a sweeter plum, such as Reine Claudes, Damsons, Italian prune plums, greengages, or Mirabelles, you might want to augment the tartness with additional lemon juice.

A tangy treat! Seasonal Plum Sorbet, perfect with fresh fruit or berries

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43 comments

  • August 2, 2018 2:59pm

    The recipe sounds/looks delicious, but your tips at the end are the best!

    • Natalia
      August 2, 2018 4:35pm

      I totally agree!!

  • Caroline
    August 2, 2018 3:15pm

    Damsons in the UK are the sharpest of all plums and also tiny. If using damsons, I’d recommend cooking them first then squeezing out the stones. Use gloves though, as the deep purple stains everything. I’d be very surprised if you needed extra sharpening; much more likely to need extra sugar. Our damsons will ripen in the next couple of weeks – will try to remember to try this recipe and let you know.

    • Lisa B
      August 2, 2018 5:33pm
    • Gavrielle
      August 3, 2018 5:07am

      I’d just decided today that when summer finally gets to NZ I was going to leave this year’s crop of damsons for the birds as I have all the damson jam and paste we can eat. Then you mentioned this delicious-looking sorbet, not to mention all the other Perfect Scoop plum goodies I’d forgotten about…sorry, birds!

  • August 2, 2018 5:05pm

    Hi David, I just made some as I’ve gone on a churning fest trying out dairy and non dairy gelato and sorbet recipes… Plum is top of the list I did…though I should have cooked mine like you suggest. Fruits this year have been pretty lousy, climate change…eek..

    • gfy
      August 3, 2018 5:28am

      I agree with you eek-wise re: climate change – I’m near the end of the epic NYT’s article on the topic (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/08/01/magazine/climate-change-losing-earth.html) but in our area it’s been a bumper crop year for stonefruit! Aaand I have only this year developed an allergy to them after a lifetime of no issues! I hope it’s only a matter of eating strictly organic, but I am afraid to experiment – my face turned red and swollen after only a few bites of plum last month…sob…

  • Anne
    August 2, 2018 5:12pm

    If you come across a variety called Plumegranate do try it…think it was bred by Ben Dor nursery & I’ve been waiting patiently for the trees to become available to the home grower. But it’s one of the nicest–and certainly one of the prettiest–varieties I’ve encountered. (And pay no attention to the sales clerk if they try to tell you, as they did me, it’s an actual cross between a plum and a pomegranate, which is a biological improbability, I’m pretty sure.)

    • August 2, 2018 5:43pm
      David Lebovitz

      There have been a number of hybrids that I (mostly) see in the U.S. from Aprium and Pluots, to something I saw recently (while I was in New York): Red velvet apricots. Never heard of Plumegranates, but the name is hard to pronounce, although fun to say!

  • Jlhpisces
    August 2, 2018 5:15pm

    As a Santa Rosa, CA native, I love to see Luther Burbank getting a mention. Our namesake plums are the BEST!

  • Jan
    August 2, 2018 5:28pm

    I’m in France and have never seen corn syrup. Is it necessary?

    • August 2, 2018 5:47pm
      David Lebovitz

      No. I gave two alternatives for people. The first was just using regular granulated sugar. Right after that, I gave an alternative if people want to use corn syrup, which gives it a slightly smoother texture. You can use either. (I’ve seen sirop de maïs at Naturalia, Bio C Bon, and Biocoop natural food stores in France.)

      • August 2, 2018 6:02pm

        Would Golden Syrup be a good sub? I find that here in France, typically in the sections for British expats.

        (I confess I was going to give this recipe a pass when I saw I needed an ice cream maker, as I left mine behind in the US and haven’t replaced it, so I was delighted to see you added a “when you haven’t an ice cream maker” directive. Now I’m going out to buy some plums…)

  • Barbara
    August 2, 2018 5:49pm

    We suffer from a surfeit of red currants some of which are now headed for sorbet thanks the prompt of this recipe.

  • Leslie
    August 2, 2018 5:51pm

    Recipe looks great and I can’t wait to try it. I noticed 2 little things that I thought you might want to correct:
    1. The ingredients mention the possibility of adding vodka, but the third step in the recipe only references adding kirsch or maraschino. Also, you may want to make sure people know you mean the maraschino liqueur, and not the juice from maraschino cherries since the point is to add alcohol, as you say later in your helpful notes.
    2.One note says: Spoiler: The corn syrup that you buy in the supermarket isn’t high-fructose corn syrup, which is something you should avoid. Didn’t you mean to say that supermarket corn syrup IS high-fructose since you then suggest considering using organic corn syrup, which is not high-fructose?
    Can’t wait to enjoy this sorbet and maybe even share some.
    Thanks so much for the recipe and helpful tips.

    • August 2, 2018 5:58pm
      David Lebovitz

      Hi Leslie: Thanks for your suggestions. In recipe writing, it’s common in the instructions to mention usually the most preferred (or important) ingredients, since many people prefer concise recipes, but I will include “liqueur” after maraschino.

      The corn syrup that you buy in the supermarket, such as Karo syrup, usually isn’t HFCS, which is an industrial product. There may be brands that include it, but the most available one, Karo, doesn’t. Thanks!

      • Geraldine
        August 3, 2018 11:17am

        David, you are so patient and polite. FAB recipe, I understood perfectly. The heat wave in Spain is a killer, will try this immediately…have your book Perfect Scoop, it is perfect as are ALL of your recipes !!!

  • August 2, 2018 6:05pm

    hi David, I just finished L’Appart and may want to write about it. Is the cover photo showing your building? Could you post before and after photos or drawings or diagrams?

    • August 2, 2018 6:47pm
      David Lebovitz

      The building on the cover isn’t mine, but was taken by someone I know, in Paris. There’s information about photos here. (You’ll need to scroll down to the question/answer.) Thanks.

  • August 2, 2018 6:46pm

    Bonjour David, magnifique recettes sublimes photos qui mettent vraiment de dévorer tes réalisations. Un grand bravo, à bientôt

  • Ian K
    August 2, 2018 7:07pm

    David,

    What do you think of replacing the corn syrup And liquor with Mirin? https://foodfacts.mercola.com/amp/mirin.html.

    I’ve got Mirin in my pantry and it seems like it would be a reasonable substitute.

    Plum sorbet was ony mind just before I found your post, and I was just about to search for a recipe – so thanks!

  • Jeannine
    August 2, 2018 7:59pm

    You apparently use a Cuisinart ice cream maker. Does it operate effectively using a voltage adaptor? As used with a hair dryer? I once had a huge voltage adaptor for a US fridge, no longer available so what do I do nor for US small appliances in EU, please?

    • August 2, 2018 8:21pm
      David Lebovitz

      I use my Cuisinart (that came from the UK) in France with just an outlet converter and it works fine, although best to ask the manufacturer as all appliances are different. I did ask KitchenAid how they felt about people using their American stand mixers in Europe, and here’s their response.

      • August 2, 2018 10:44pm

        There never is a guarantee. I’ve used mine (6-qt) for the past 9 years using a heavy-duty transformer and it’s been fine, but the key is not to let it run too long. Even though my transformer allegedly converts 60Hz/50Hz (and it’s that, the differential in the speed of the current, that causes burnout long term, even with a transformer), I’m very careful to watch it so it doesn’t start smoking. I’ve also run my Cuisinart toaster oven on it for the same period of time but I’m careful not to use the convection feature, as a precaution, and it runs brilliantly.

  • Alex S
    August 2, 2018 8:12pm

    I wish I would have known you when I had a plum tree in my backyard in Sherman Oaks (San Fernando Valley) in LA. It produced so many delicious plums, I bagged them and took them to my office. Back then I wrote, Never Sprayed, it was true. A Purplish Red outside but yellow inside. (House pre-remodel built in’50). Been on the ‘net since ‘94, but not many Plum recipes back then. We moved in 97, not many fruit trees like those in Coastal OC. Thanks for the memories.

  • Cissyh
    August 2, 2018 9:22pm

    Do remember, “It’s my blog and I’ll say what I want to…” along the lines of Leslie Gore.

  • Rachael
    August 2, 2018 11:03pm

    Popped over to your site specifically in search of plum recipes (recently bought a house with three plum trees in the backyard)–and as usual, you came through! :)

  • witloof
    August 3, 2018 4:04am

    Re: noisy vacuum cleaners: Unfortunately my new Miele vacuum is preternaturally quiet, so I have no excuse now.

  • August 3, 2018 5:03am

    Sadly Santa Rosa plum season has come and gone already in NCalifornia. It seems to get shorter every year, and more difficult to find. I’d would love to try this, I will keep my eyes open for a suitable replacement.

  • Amy
    August 3, 2018 7:52am

    Hi David!
    You said you cook rice with umeboshi, is this just for Asian style rice?
    I’m curious what it imparts flavorwise , and if you recommend it elsewhere?
    Thank you!

  • Susan H.
    August 4, 2018 2:16am

    I am going to make sorbet with my wild yellow plums. Then another batch with white peaches.

  • Cindy
    August 4, 2018 3:52am

    It was delish, can’t figure out how to post my pic!

  • Lynn in Tucson
    August 5, 2018 9:38pm

    I hail from Santa Rosa and grew up on Santa Rosa plums! There’s nothing like ’em!

  • Michael Duffy
    August 6, 2018 1:27am

    Your recipe came at the perfect time: we had just pulled about four pounds of plums off one of the trees in our backyard. Made delicious plum jam last week, so the sorbet was a great alternative for this week’s effort. Very yummy! This recipe is a keeper. Thanks, David.

  • Dennis R.
    August 6, 2018 1:47am

    Hi David,

    I just made your plum sorbet recipe and it turned out great with my old reliable Cuisinart ice cream maker!! Thanks for sharing your recipe! Perfect for a hot summer day in Pasadena, CA!!

    Dennis

  • Barbara
    August 7, 2018 4:12am

    Hi David,

    You’re right. I made this for my husband and the first words out of his mouth were how “refreshing”! I’ve copied the recipe and tucked inside my copy of The Perfect Scoop.

  • Rosemary
    August 7, 2018 4:15pm

    David–I love this Plum Sorbet! It has great mouth feel and consistency. It doesn’t freeze like other sorbets. It is my husband’s new favorite. I am pairing it with Gale Gand’s Sour Cream Ice Cream and Rozanne Gold’s Chocolate-Chipotle Sorbet for an updated Neapolitan!

  • August 8, 2018 10:33am

    Thanks for the recipe David, will prepare this for my husband tonight.

  • August 9, 2018 4:02pm

    So delicious! What a pretty color they are. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Food303
    August 10, 2018 12:57am

    Hi David,

    Thanks for your thoughtful recipes and easy to follow writing style.

    Since I’ve been known to eat more than a standard serving of frozen treats, Would you be able to please clarify what 4 to 6 servings look like in volume for this recipe? Full pint/ less than a pint/quart?

    Thank you!

  • Susan
    August 10, 2018 5:56am

    I churned this tonight. It was absolutely delicious. It’s been hot and steamy in the Chicago area so my husband really enjoyed it after mowing the lawn.

  • Michele Romeo
    August 11, 2018 8:44pm

    Made per recipe using sugar + corn syrup option & maraschino liquer. Simple to make, came together exactly as expected, gorgeous color and dee-luscious to eat. Thank you!

  • ABIGAIL MENARD
    August 16, 2018 3:50pm

    Amazingly I saw Santa Rosa plums at the farmers market so had to pick them up to make this even though I had Methley plums already. I usually add wasabi to my plum sorbets just as future idea.