The week my son was born (6 years ago this week), the weather was vastly different from what we've been experiencing lately, here in the northeast. We're finally experiencing a "break" in the weather – which just means the 90-100 degree weather with oh, 200% humidity and 0 breeze, has dropped way down to the low to mid 80s. WITH a lovely breeze that ruffles the curtains throughout my house and makes me feel less ornery than I have been of late.
Six years ago, it was cooler and kind of dreary that week. I had Alex on a Monday afternoon and we brought him home on that Wednesday (if I remember right…I'm pretty sure I had two nights in the hospital) and sleeping was comfortable the rest of the week. But pretty soon, summer hit, no preamble, no fanfare – just HOT and uncomfortable.
Now, I don't really shine in the hot humid weather, other than the glistening sweat that shows up. I don't mind warm, but once we're into the 90s, I wilt like our rhubarb plant does. Give me water, water…oh, I don't think I'll make it! Kind of like that, only less dramatic.
And when you combine that with my (then) postpartum body and all the…um…reorganization (I'll spare you the gory details) that was going on with it, PLUS the sleeplessness that comes with nursing a ravenous newborn, PLUS the accompanying FAT COW WITH ACHING UDDER feeling and the faint hint of warm human dairy product lingering in the fabric of onesies and the shoulders of my shirts…well, it's not a relaxing day at the cabana, I can tell you that.
And I found that one of the very few things that could simultaneously soothe both my overheated lactating body AND my foul, sleep-deprived temper was a chocolate popsicle.
Not a fudgicle (fudgcicle? fudgecicle? however you spell it) from a box. No. It was homemade, and I made it, and I thank Martha Stewart for saving my sanity, because I found the idea in the June 2002 issue of her magazine.
It was actually an article on how to make simple sorbets – a perfect idea for the heat of June and July - mainly from fruits. Basically, a fruit puree combined with some simple syrup, and run through your ice cream maker. SIM-PULL. And in addition to all the various fruit suggestions, there was also…chocolate.
And chocolate, at that point, appealed to me way more than strawberry or melon or lime. I needed chocolate. I needed indulgence. I needed to feel…rewarded.
So I combined the specified amounts of cocoa powder and hot water with the simple syrup I made a little earlier, and instead of making sorbet with it in my ice cream maker, I just poured it into popsicle molds and tried not to check the freezer every five minutes.
Once they were finally ready, and I figured out the logistics of getting a popsicle out of the mold without stabbing at it with a steak knife (it really doesn't work – don't bother trying it), I sampled one.
And it was good.
Icy cold, of course, and dark and richly flavored. This was an adult popsicle. And it was ALLLLLL mine. I ate many of those during the hottest part of that summer, and I am eternally grateful to Martha Stewart for having the forsight the previous autumn or whenever they put together the June issues of things to include an article on sorbets…specifically the chocolate variety. After all, she is a Mom. She must have known what I would need.
Anyway, here we are, six years later. And there have been other hot summers in the meantime, or at least hot sections of summer. But I haven't made the popsicles since then because I couldn't find THAT magazine among the piles of magazines I had hung onto over the years. I couldn't find it. And over the years, I have peeled my own clingy fingers off these piles of magazines to throw them away (in the recycyle bin) because how many stacks of magazines do I really need to save? Do I ever re-read them? Mostly no. Do I have some sort of master index telling me which magazine has that ravioli recipe I thought I'd like to try some time? Of course not. So gradually – usually in fits of "my life's a mess and I need to GET RID OF STUFF," I tossed ancient editions of Martha Stewart Living and Gourmet and Bon Appetit…whittling away at the clutter until all that was left were the couple of stacks on one of the two big bookcases in my dining room and a couple of stacks on the floor nearby. Well, that "my life's a mess and I need to GET RID OF STUFF" feeling hit me again last week, so I pulled out all the remaining magazines (plus loose recipes printed from the internet, stuff I'd scribbled down, old notebooks, all kinds of paper debris) and made two piles – keep, because yes, i'll REALLY use it, and SEE YA.
And that's when I found it. That edition of MSL from June 2002. Open to the page with the little chart of proportions of fruit to simple syrup, like I'd been looking at it just yesterday. I had, apparently, figured that sliding it in at the very end of a shelf would make lots of sense to the future me who would be looking for it again come the following summer. Of course, mothers of newborns don't make a lot of sense at times, and so that explains that silly line of thinking. Maybe I also assumed I'd be going through all those magazines and scraps of paper a lot sooner. Ah well.
Enough of my chatter.
I started this post several days ago and keep getting interrupted. I'll shut up now and get on with the popsicle making. Because it's only June, and we all know the hot weather may go away for a while, but it's bound to be back.
I made two kinds of popsicles this week – lemon and chocolate. I didn't use the ice cream maker – I just poured the mixtures directly into the popsicle molds and shut them in the freezer for several hours. Too many hours if you ask my kids.
First, you want to make yourself some simple syrup.
All you do is pour equal parts (by volume, not weight) of sugar and water in a pot, set the pot on the stove, and heat the water until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
To make the lemon popsicles, you want a cup and a half of lemon juice and two cups of the cooled simple syrup. Combine them and put them in the fridge for at least an hour.
If you're making the chocolate popsicles, then you want a cup and a half of cocoa powder – use the best you can, since that plus the sugar is all the flavor you'll get. To the cocoa powder, add two cups of very hot water.
Whisk to combine.
Add two cups of simple syrup to the cocoa mixture, and put that in the fridge for at least an hour.
Once the mixture is chilled (either the lemon or the chocolate), pour into the popsicle molds…
And then put the little stick things in and put them in the freezer.
I got a bit smarter with the chocolate ones - instead of leaving a bit of space between the level of the liquid and the top edge of the mold, I filled most of them up to the brim, or a teeny tiny bit below. Since liquids expand as they freeze, I figured this way when the liquid swelled, it would rise up and stick to the flat part of the decorative stick thing. (I know, I am doing a terrible job of explaining this. I'm sorry.)
Anyway, put the molds in the freezer and try to be patient.
Mine took at least 4 hours to freeze solid. Overnight is probably your best bet.
To unmold them, I ran them under hot tap water. You'll also want to briefly run the tops under some water too, just to loosen them. Then hold the mold sideways with one hand and gently, GENTLY turn the little sea creature handle (if you have this style) and carefully twist the popsicle out of the mold.
Hand to your impatient son and take a picture.
Send him outside, as you don't want the melting popsicle dripping on the floor, and he can rinse off with the hose when he's done. Same thing with his sister.
And then they'll want the chocolate ones the next day.
And that next day, in the morning, when the light is better in your kitchen, you can take whimsical photos of popsicles in cordial glasses (the glasses are for drinking cordials…they are not necessarily polite glasses. (Forgive the daffy humor, I've been trying to get this post finished for several says now…the weather isn't even terrible at this point, but hopefully some reader somewhere is suffering in sweltering heat and will actually be interested in making popsicles now.)
Oh, and I strongly recommend using actual lemon juice that you squeezed yourself, rather than that stuff in the bottles. Just…you know…in case you had a bottle of that in your fridge because you were in a weakened state at the store one day and your daughter thought it was lemonade and talked you into buying it and now you're trying to figure out to use up the rest of the atrocious stuff. Not that that would happen to YOU, of course. But in case it did. Don't use it for these. Use the real juice. Pulp and all.
They melt quickly, so keep a napkin handy as you slurp.
Keep in mind, too, that once you have made one or two basic kinds, you'll probably want to experiment with blends of fruits…or layers of different fruits/colors…the addition of herbs…and so on.
And stay hydrated!