Friday, August 08, 2008

Sherbet, various.

Fermented mare’s milk must have been too shocking an idea for you all yesterday – narry a comment or email. Teeth and brain stuck still stuck together with Tomato Marshmallows, are they?

In that case, I will give you a nice frothy un-frightening topic today. I don’t believe I have discoursed upon the topic of sherbets in this blog before, although I have elsewhere. To save myself some effort on this soon-to-be-too-busy-morning, I give you a brief extract from my contribution to ‘elsewhere’.

‘Sherbert’ derives from the Turkish/Arabic word for ‘drink’. In other words, a sherbet used to be a beverage – a costly beverage to be sure, in its home culture. Early European visitors to those fantastically distant and exotic places described it raptly as a sweetened fruit drink made fragrant with expensive ingredients such as roses, violets, musk and ambergris. Those intrepid adventurers made the best fist they could of the strange language, and the Arabic word gave rise to a multitude of phonetic interpretations from charbe to zerbet. ‘Sorbet’ came about as a result of the phonetic and linguistic coincidence of the Italian verb ‘to drink’ sorbire - and the name stuck because the Italians became masters of frozen confections during the Renaissance.

The sherbet of my English childhood was not like any of these variations. It was neither drink nor ice. It came in a little yellow packet with a hollow liquorice ‘straw’ with which to suck up the palate-and-nose-tingling sour-sweet effervescent lemony powder therein. I guess the following recipe would substitute nicely. Now, if only I can get hold of some hollow liquorice sticks, I’ll be right, as we say.

Sherbet Powder.
Rub half a pound of loaf sugar upon the rind of a lemon till the yellow part is taken off. Crush the sugar to powder, and mix intimately with it four ounces of tartaric acid and four ounces of bicarbonate of soda. Rub the mixture through a fine sieve; put it into a dry bottle, and keep it well corked until wanted. If liked, forty or fifty drops of essence of lemon may be used instead of lemon rind. The powder must be taken up with a dry tea-spoon. Sufficient for one pound of sherbet. A tea-spoonful of this powder stirred into a tumbler of water will make a refreshing summer drink.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery, circa 1870’s.

Quotation for the Day …

Peanut butter [is] the pâté of childhood. Florence Fabricant.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for clearing something up, Janet. When I was a kid in Chicago we always used to call it "sherbert" and it was a gelatin based orange water ice with a fairly sharp flavor. In snooty circles it was offered at the beginning of a meal "to cleanse the palate". However, the snooty folks called it "sorbet" and some people called it "sherbet". it is nice to know now that I was right all along :)

Anonymous said...

I love "mix intimately" - they don't make cookbooks like that anymore!