Sorbetto al melone

The Sorbet: The Pleasure of one of the oldest Dessert

The sorbet is a cold dessert, very popular in Italian meals.
It has to conclude a meal (especially if you have eaten too much) with a light, fruity note and it is able to reduce the feeling of heaviness.

The sorbet is more and more used to replace the classic “after-dinner course”, even if it was not born as a dessert, but as refreshing drink between meals.

Let’s step back and find out where the sorbet come from.


The origin of the term is uncertain. Many experts think that the word “sorbet” comes from the Arabic “sherbeth” (cold drink), while others insist on the Latin verb “sorbeo-es-sorbui”.

In any case it seems that the name was used in the Middle Ages because the word invokes the sound made by sucking fresh fruit drinks.

During the first centuries of the Middle Ages in Europe, the art of preparing frozen drinks was almost forgotten and only around the 9th century the Arabs reintroduced the knowledges on the preparation of sorbets in Sicily.

In fact, it was discovered that it was possible to cool and thicken the fruit juice when mixed in a receptacle covered with snow.

During the second half of the 16th century, the sorbet became very popular in many Italian courts and then in the European bourgeoisie thanks to the Sicilian Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli and his “Café Procope” in Paris.

Features of the Sorbet

The sorbet, as we know it today, has very few similarities with the real ancestor of the ice cream.

Today is mostly served in a semiliquid version after a meal in restaurants (with the addition of milk to make it more stable), which has nothing in common with the real sorbet.

A real sorbet is a cold culinary preparation, similar to an ice cream, but more liquid and it had to separate the meat courses from those of fish.

The sorbet is composed mostly of so thin ice that it is barely noticeable.
Its few ingredients are fruit juice or fresh fruit puree to give flavour and freshness while the sugar syrup increases the sweetness and softness.
What differentiates the sorbet from the ice cream is the lack of cream, milk or other fat. In fact, the sorbet is also much lighter.

The predominant flavour is sweet, but it was originally more acidic and slightly alcoholic.

Structure and Preparation

The structure of a sorbet is particularly complex, since it contains all the three phases of matter.
It is in fact composed of solid, liquid and gaseous elements: small ice crystals and air bubbles immersed in a sugar syrup at temperatures below 0°C.

The mixture is cooled and water freezes at 0 ° C. However, the presence of other substances (such as sugar) reduce the freezing temperature.

During the freezing process, the mixture should be continuously stirred to maintain the small ice crystals and to incorporate the tiny air bubbles which help to make the sorbet less dense and softer.

Even partially beaten white eggs (practice in disuse because of the risk of contracting salmonella, without pasteurization) or gelatin are good ways to get the right softness.

You can also add a distillate, but be careful because it greatly reduces the freezing temperature and makes the sorbet very liquid.

Considerations and Warnings

Water has a major role in the sorbet preparation.
It had to solidify in part and also remain liquid or micro crystallized.
So it is very important not to underestimate the choice of water: the best should not be too rich in mineral salts.

Adding sugar is important and plays a dual role: to keep the water in a non-solid state through its antifreeze properties and to enhance the flavour of others ingredients.

You should not overdo the amount of sugar in the sorbet: it is very important to take account of the sugar already present in the fruit, which will contribute to the sweetness as much as the added one. The risk is to obtain a too heavy and sweet sorbet.
Do not add milk and any other dairy products! Those people who opt for the sorbet are looking for a light and refreshing food, with no fat milk and cream (in fact, it is a perfect for people with lactose intolerance!).

Ripe fruit is the best because its more intense flavour makes the sorbet strong and very fruity.
As usual, here are some fresh sorbet recipes to cool the hottest days!


Raspberry sorbet

Ingredients: water, pulp raspberries, dextrose, sucrose, dehydrated glucose syrup, lemon juice

Put the sugar, dextrose and glucose syrup in a pot and cook it at 65°C for 2 minutes.
Then let the mixture cool.
The last step is to add the raspberries pulp and lemon juice, stirring constantly and gently to get a smooth texture.

Grapefruit sorbet

Ingredients: water, grapefruit juice without sugar, sucrose, dehydrated glucose syrup.

Put the sugar and the glucose syrup in a pot and cook it at 65°C for 2 minutes.
Then let the mixture cool.
The last step is to add the grapefruit juice, stirring constantly and gently to get a smooth texture.

Melon sorbet and port

Ingredients: water, pureed melon pulp, dextrose, sucrose, dehydrated glucose syrup, Porto, lemon juice.

Put the sugar, dextrose and glucose syrup in a pot and cook it at 65°C for 2 minutes.
Then let the mixture cool.
Add the pureed melon pulp and lemon juice, stirring constantly and gently to get a smooth texture.
At the end, add a good dose of Port.


Some tricks are extremely important to achieve a great result. These tricks uses two physical and chemical mechanisms and they are: the osmotic potential of the starting liquid and the constant mixing of the product during cooling to obtain a soft and dense texture.

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