Monday, August 11, 2008
CSA - longan sorbet
Following the tilapia I cooked Saturday, the next item up from this week's CSA is a two pound box of longans. If you're not familiar (and even if you are), longans are a fruit closely related to lychees. They're generally considered to be lychee's poor cousin. It's been a long time since I've had a fresh lychee so I can't make a detailed comparison of the flavors. They're pretty close if memory serves although longan isn't quite as sweet and I noticed honeysuckle notes that I don't recall lychee having. Longan also has a distinctive musky finish that's not to everyone's taste, but personally I like the added complexity.
On the other hand, I really didn't care for the gelatinous texture. So even though I liked the flavor I wasn't going to eat them out of hand. On the plus side, that texture is something I've noticed works well in frozen deserts, so Plan B goes into effect. OK, I'll admit frozen deserts are Plan A; I need the blog fodder. I considered using the longans in another variation on my colada sherbet recipe, but I don't think the longan's flavor is a great match with some of the other ingredients and I do like that flavor enough to want to be able to taste it unadulterated. So sorbet.
That means I'll need three cups of longan flesh and these things are pretty small. Each fruit has a hard outer shell and a large seed so we're talking about over an hour of cutting open each fruit and peeling the somewhat clingy flesh off of the seed. It's a fine thing to do with one's hands while listening to podcasts so I didn't really mind.
It took the full two pounds to produce three cups of longan, but two and a half would be fine if you go scant on the other ingredients. Those other ingredients are 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water simmered into a simple syrup and two Tablespoons each of lime juice and light rum. All of that goes into the blender for a quick spin and then the refrigerator for a cool down. At this point I'm a little concerned that the extra sweetness and the lime are masking the subtleties of the longan's flavor but I won't know for sure how it will taste until it's ripened.
And now it's tomorrow and I can tell you that the subtleties of the flavor don't survive the process. And with the added sweetness it's hard to distinguish from lychee. Better for people who don't much like longan, but I'm a bit disappointed. The texture turned out quite well--smooth and creamy without noticeable fruit bits or ice crystals--and it melts away to nothing on the tongue. I'm curious to compare it with a lychee sorbet. Have I missed the Florida growing season?