I love seedless mandarins. They are often sold by trade names like “cuties,” and they are cuties. They are easy to peel and they are incredibly sweet. My kids will eat them by the handful and they are a good sweet treat to keep me from, say, losing it and heading for the ice cream shop. I do that often enough as it is.
We have been drinking a lot of frozen fruit drinks in our home. At least, I have. I’ve had a orange and vitamin C craving that I just can’t quite kick, and why would I want to? This treat grew out of the profusion of oranges and tangerines on the counter. I wanted a frozen orange treat that wasn’t quite as naughty (not quite) as the Orange Julius pops. So, this is what we did. We froze mandarin sections and we whirled them into a slush with orange juice and a little bit of simple syrup. The slush goes directly into the freezer for 30 minutes. Then it is stirred and scraped away from the edges of the bowl. And, finally, it gets another half hour in the freezer. The result is something like a sherbet or a sorbet. I think it is technically a granita because it is stirred up by hand and not frozen in an ice cream maker…but semantics aside, it is a wonderful after dinner treat. If you blend it right before you start your dinner prep, it is ready just in time for dessert.
Beyond this stage, it freezes up fairly solid and is still great, but without the silky texture. My kids still love it when it is hard as a rock, though. This remains slightly pulpy because it is full of actual fruit, so if you don’t like pulpy things, just make sure to blend it a little longer. Also, key to this is using as little liquid as possible to make it process. If your blender is hanging up on you, add orange juice a little splash at a time until it is happy again.
4 cups sectioned mandarins or tangerines, seedless (about 9 pieces of fruit)
1⅓ cup orange juice
4 tablespoons simple syrup (see comments below)
1. Place the sectioned fruit in a plastic bag and freeze it for at least 4 hours.
2. Ten minutes before making the granita puree, place a medium size bowl or dish in the freezer to chill thoroughly.
3. Place the frozen fruit in a blender with the orange juice and simple syrup. Process until smooth, adding more orange juice as needed to make the blender run smoothly. Taste the puree and add more simple syrup, if desired.
4. Scrape the puree into the chilled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and place it in the freezer immediately. Allow it to chill for 30 minutes and then take it out and stir the puree, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Return the bowl to the freezer for another 30 minutes. Stir the puree again, and serve immediately in chilled cups.
Simple Syrup: Simple syrup is merely a solution of sugar and water. It is the perfect way to sweeten drinks and treats without having to stir crunchy sugar into submission. Make a jar of simple syrup to have on hand in the refrigerator by placing 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Slowly bring it to a light simmer, allowing all of the sugar to dissolve, and allow it to simmer for two minutes. Cool the syrup completely and place it in a jar. It will keep in the refrigerator indefinitely.