Pop Culture: Freeze Your Own Icy Treats

August 30, 2011

Pleasant Pops co-owners Brian Sykora, left, and Roger Horowitz, right, stand with their pops truck.

It’s counterintuitive, but Popsicles started out as a winter surprise.

Around 1900, 11-year-old San Franciscan Frank Epperson left a fruity soda outside during atypical subzero temperatures. The next day, he discovered the ice pop formula now mass-marketed as the Popsicle. Since then, countless kids have licked and liked pops.

Though Epperson trademarked the name (hence why you risk a lawsuit if you don’t call your homemade ones just pops), the icy desserts have matured from syrupy and sugar-infused to sophisticated. Think combos such as spicy pineapple or Carolina sweet tea.

“The key to a good pop is fresh ingredients,” says Brian Sykora, co-owner of D.C.’s Pleasant Pops food truck. “We buy our fruit and dairy locally and rotate through ingredients based on season. Now we’re using peaches and cantaloupe.”

Sykora and business partner Roger Horowitz started Pleasant Pops in 2010, selling versions of the traditional Mexican paleta, a bar on a stick formed of fresh frozen fruit. The duo hawk theirs from a food truck that travels daily from McPherson Square to Mount Pleasant to Georgetown, spreading savory pops such as cucumber-chile and sweet ones like chongos, which mesh cream and cinnamon.

DIYing ‘sicles is easy. Simply puree fruit, veggies and flavorings in a blender, keeping in mind that softer, riper produce works best. If you’re using harder fruits or veggies — say, apples — cook them before blending. Then, add sugar (for a richer flavor, saute fruit with sugar first). Then, pour the liquid into molds and freeze for four to five hours.

Fany Gerson, author of “Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas Frescas” ($17, Ten Speed Press), recommends adjusting the temperature of your freezer to the coldest setting possible to achieve the prettiest pops. “And the easiest way to get a paleta out of a mold is to dip the mold in hot water,” she says.

Pops also take well to liquor. Potenza (1430 H St. NW; 202-638-4444) served cocktail pops all summer, such as the Orvieto, a mix of strawberry, balsamic syrup and Italian vodka. “Just remember alcohol doesn’t freeze, so don’t put too much in,” says Gerson, who thinks that pops, whether boozy or tame, appeal to your inner kid. “They’re natural and delicious,” she says.

Katherine Boyle reports on arts, museums and culture for the Style section.
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express · August 29, 2011