Until I figured out the magic behind making homemade ice cream sans machine, I had basically stuck to making popsicles and granita when I wanted something icy cold for dessert. Those were things I could make without having to fork over a hefty sum for a machine I’d have no room to store anyway.
Then I made my very first batch of ice cream in my own little freezer, with no help from a machine needed whatsoever. There was no turning back. Now every fruit is a worthy candidate for turning into some sort of frozen treat, with stone fruits and berries my current victims since they’re in season and at their most delicious.
Case in point: blueberries. These little indigo gems are still going strong & showing up at almost every market, and I couldn’t be happier. Last month I found some great ones at my local farmers market for as low as $2.50/lb (insanity!) and they were big, ripe and full of true blueberry flavor. As always, I did my rounds and compared prices before committing to buying from a certain stand. And I’m ever-so-glad that I did; at the very last stand I found the biggest, bluest berries of the day, for a truly ridiculous price: $2.50/lb. That’s a dollar cheaper than the $3.50/lb we payed when we picked our own! A fantastic deal, indeed.
But back to today’s recipe. While our summer here has been extremely mild compared to folks in Texas and the Southeast, it’s still summer. And no matter where you are, it’s always nice to have a frozen treat on hand when the weather’s warm (though I have to admit I’m one of those freaks that enjoys frozen treats in the winter, too). The thing is, when it’s hot outside, a rich, custard-based ice cream isn’t always my first choice for refreshment. I prefer to indulge in something a little lighter, like a granita or sorbet, to help me cool down from the inside out.
But what does one do if one is still craving something creamy, just not as heavy as an egg-based ice cream? Why, one makes frozen yogurt, of course.
Just like with the ice cream thing, why it hadn’t occurred to me to make this sort of thing sooner, I have no clue. While I’m not as huge into the soft serve fro-yo scene as many others are, I do appreciate a good frozen yogurt for a couple of reasons. It’s a bit healthier than regular ice cream, especially when non-fat yogurt is used, and it tackles that I-want-something-creamy-but-not-super-heavy dilemma easily. And because there’s very little cooking involved, the prep time is much shorter, resulting in shorter delays between the making and the eating of this tasty frozen treat.
Since this recipe uses real yogurt and real fruit, don’t expect this to have the same flavor qualities that major chain soft serve frozen yogurts have. This is the real deal: it will have the tang of the yogurt and the sweetness of the blueberries, not artificial sweetening agents and faux dairy products. It also has the consistency of “real” ice cream, making it a lovely, healthier alternative for those hot summer days when you’re looking to indulge in something sweet, but not entirely sinful.
Can’t afford to get fresh berries in your area? Don’t fret! Frozen blueberries, which are readily available in most grocers’ freezers and less expensive than fresh ones, will also work just fine in this recipe. In fact, that’s what I used! Granted, they were the berries I got from our berry picking adventures in Apple Hill last month, but they were still frozen and gave great results. Got a ton of berries and not quite sure what to do with them just yet? Stay tuned after the recipe for some tips on how to store them.
Blueberry Frozen Yogurt (makes about 2 pints; total cost per pint: $3.50)
1/3 c sugar
1 T lemon juice
1 c nonfat milk
2 c nonfat plain yogurt (Greek style is preferable)
1. In a medium sauce pan, combine the blueberries, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a low boil and simmer gently for about 5 minutes, until the berries have created their own syrup and have started to soften. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. When the berry mixture has cooled to room temperature, transfer to a blender (or cup or bowl, if using an immersion blender) and puree until smooth. NOTE: If you prefer more fruity texture, you can skip this part of Step 1.
2. Combine the yogurt and milk in a large bowl and whisk together until smooth. Gently fold in the blueberry puree and mix until completely incorporated into the yogurt mixture. Pour the mixture into a 9″ x 9″ metal pan and freeze for about 45 minutes.
3. Remove pan from freezer and, using a whisk or fork, stir in the icy bits from the edges and mix with the softer center until completely smooth. Place in the freezer for another 30 minutes. Repeat this process every 30 minutes for up to 2 hours, making sure to whip until smooth before putting it back in to freeze.
4. Store in an airtight container and freeze until ready to use. Garnish with extra blueberries, and enjoy!
Poor Girl Tip: Though the crazy weather made a lot of crops start later than usual, berry season will be over very soon, so this is a great time to stock up on all sorts of berries. When I get them from the farmers market or U-pick farms, I eat a couple handfuls first (no self-control around berries, sorry) and set aside only the ones I will use immediately; the rest I make sure to freeze so I can use them at a later date.
To do this, I wash & pick through my blueberries, removing any stems that may still be hanging around. Then I shake off the excess water and pat dry them with paper towels. Next, I line a cookie sheet with foil, spread the berries out in a single layer, and stick them in the freezer for about 20 minutes. After that, I put about a cup or two in individual Ziploc bags, seal ‘em, and put them back into the freezer until I’m ready to use them. That’s it! Now you can use your berries in all sorts of recipes for months to come.