Clementines are the quintessential Christmas fruit. In our house, when my children were little, Father Christmas used to drop them into the bottom of Christmas stockings along with shiny new coins and small chocolate treats. My children, in turn, left Santa a glass of single malt whisky and a mince pie. The latter gifts were a welcome late-night accompaniment to present wrapping and stocking filling. I’m a very organised person but I always loved to leave the stockings until the last moment on Christmas Eve. For me, it was the real beginning of Christmas.
Clementines are just the most gorgeous little citrus delights: sweet and juicy, easy to peel and completely moreish. They’re really just a variety of mandarin but their easy peeling is appealing and they usually have a better taste, I find, than satsumas. However, inevitably, they vary and supermarket ones can be disappointingly tasteless so do make sure you find a really tasty, sweet kind before making this sorbet.
I’d packed my ice-cream maker away with summer gone, but the idea of making a Christmas sorbet of just clementines took shape and yesterday I put the machine back in the freezer. It takes quite a few hours to get cold enough to use so the actual sorbet making had to wait until today. For Christmas stockings I always like to buy clementines with their leaves still on – it seemed to be what Santa would do! Today I grabbed a couple of bags in my local M&S and did a taste check once home. Yes, nice and sweet, so the sorbet making could begin.
First of all I cut about 10 clementines in half and juiced them. In the end I collected 300ml of juice. I also added the juice of 1 lemon. The sorbet would need a little bit of sharpness too. You might like to strain the juice for a smoother finish but I didn’t bother. Meanwhile, I had a sugar syrup bubbling.
Add 150ml water to 100g caster sugar in a small saucepan, bring to the boil, stirring to mix, then allow to bubble and thicken a little for just 2 or 3 minutes. Allow to cool completely before adding to the juice. Mix the juice and sugar syrup together and then I like to leave in the fridge for half an hour to an hour to get really cold before putting into the ice-cream maker. I find my little machine works better that way, but you could always go straight ahead at this point and do the churning. Set the ice-cream maker up and running and then pour in the juice mixture.
I’m afraid my one-handed photography is a bit out of focus – but you get the idea! Allow to churn until you reach the nice soft-scoop stage. At which point I couldn’t resist a taste! Mmmm.
Transfer to a freezer container and put in the freezer until ready to use. If you make it well ahead then you’ll need to take it out of the freezer for a little while to soften slightly before serving.
It was really wonderful. There was a clarity and purity to the clementine taste that was stunningly fresh but intense. Amongst all the richness of a traditional Christmas dinner, this would be a lovely between-courses palate cleanser or just a brilliant dessert for some other Christmas time meal when you’re not serving the traditional rich pudding and mince pies but want something lighter. And really, I can see I might want to make and eat this all through the clementine season, it was so good!