What Is Sherbet?

A Guide to Making and Storing Sherbet

Rainbow sherbet
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Sherbet is a sweetened frozen dessert made with fruit and some sort of dairy product such as milk or cream. Egg whites are also sometimes used in making sherbet.

Making Sherbet

Sherbet can be made with fruit juice, puréed fruit or both. The amount of dairy product in sherbet is low compared with other frozen desserts. Whereas ice cream will contain at least 10 percent butterfat (often as high as 20 percent), and gelato between 4 and 8 percent butterfat, sherbet contains only 1 to 2 percent butterfat.

Common sherbet flavors include orange, raspberry, lemon, and lime. There's also a variation called rainbow sherbet, which is made by combining layers of raspberry, lime, and orange sherbet.

If you were making orange sherbet, you'd use orange juice, combining the juice, sugar, and milk in an ice-cream maker and processing until done. Orange zest, lemon juice, and vanilla extract would also make a simple citrus sherbet. 

For other flavors, you can use a fruit purée rather than juice. For example, to make raspberry sherbet, puree frozen raspberries and strain the puree through a sieve or cheesecloth to remove the seeds. Then combine the purée, milk, sugar, and lemon juice, and process in your ice cream maker. You could use whole milk or 2 percent milk. For a creamier sherbet, you could add a splash of cream.

Making Sherbet in a Blender

If you don't have an ice cream maker, you can still make sherbet. A high powered blender, like the Vitamix, can be used instead. Make sure your blender is fully-equipped to make sherbets and sorbets—if you aren't sure, just check the manual. 

A simple summer recipe for peach sherbet can quickly be made in the blender. Start with about a pound of frozen sliced peaches (soften them at room temperature for 20 minutes or so), a cup of milk, about 1/4 cup of honey, and about 1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract. Purée the ingredients in the Vitamix for 30–60 seconds and serve immediately. 

Honey is used in this recipe because it's liquid and will incorporate smoothly into the sherbet, but you can use granulated sugar instead—about 6 tablespoons of sugar is the equivalent of 1/4 cup of honey.

Sherbet vs. Sorbet

The word "sherbet" is often mispronounced and misspelled as "sherbert," as if it rhymes with Herbert. It's pronounced the way you would say "sure, but..." 

Sherbet is not to be confused with sorbet (even though the words are slightly similar). Sorbet is made of frozen fruit juice, without or without pureed fruit, along with some sort of sweetener, but no milk, cream, or other dairy is used in making sorbet. 

Storing Sherbet

Sherbet should always be stored in the freezer in a sealed container. About 10 minutes prior to serving, take the sherbet out of the freezer and let it soften just slightly. This will make for perfect scooping consistency and a nice sweet treat. Then, simply scoop the sherbet as you would ice cream or other frozen desserts.