While the Mason-Dixon line is often considered the dividing line between North and South, any real Southerner worth his grits will tell you that the real boundary is the Sweet Tea Line.
This line reportedly divides Virginia and runs through Tennessee and into Missouri. Needless to say, Los Angeles is on the wrong side of the line; however, a friend from Washington State swears she’s spotted Sweet Tea at her favorite diner.
And another thing, Sweet Tea, which Dolly Parton called the House Wine of the South in Steel Magnolias, is NOT the same thing as iced tea with sugar. If there is sugar sludge in the bottom of your glass, you’re not drinking real Sweet Tea.
Although September means autumn to those above the Sweet Tea Line, we South Carolinians know September is just another month of summer. We’re sweaty, tired and almost at the breaking point from the heat. A big pitcher of Sweet Tea is our savior when it seems like summer will last forever.
What could be more refreshing than a big, cold pitcher of Sweet Tea, tart with lemon and redolent of mint? Why, Sweet Tea Sorbet, of course!
Sweet! Cold! Refreshing! Everything you could possibly want on a hot, hot summer day. Perfect for dessert, or as a palate cleanser, or as a quirky version of a pre-dinner drink. It can be scooped into great big balls and served in a silver bowl, or spooned into shot glasses with a sip of bourbon. It’s a great refresher after a barbeque supper or an elegant addition to a “fine china” dinner party.
This sorbet will work with almost any sort of tea, so use your favorite. If lemon is not your thing, steep a handful of mint in the hot tea (strain) and then freeze as directed. Try vanilla tea for a dessert sorbet and serve with a few raspberries. Crystalized ginger is a favorite of mine; the bite of the ginger compliments the sweet lemony tea beautifully.
Naturally, the tea to sugar ratio depends on your personal taste. I’m certainly not going to tamper with your family Sweet Tea Recipe. But remember, cold foods tend to dull the taste buds a bit and need to be seasoned a little more aggressively. Simply put, make your tea a little sweeter and stronger than you would if you were drinking it.
I like the texture of freezing in a shallow dish and stirring with a fork. If you prefer a more creamy texture try putting the frozen sorbet in a blender and blend until it’s smooth; then re-freeze. For an ultra quick and easy sorbet, freeze in an ice-cream machine and “cure” the sorbet in the freezer until hard. This method results in an extra creamy sorbet.
If you are feeling especially precious, serve in teacups. I hope you enjoy this refreshing take on a southern classic and don’t hesitate to share this recipe with your friends north of the Sweet Tea Line!
Sweet Tea Sorbet
Yield: 1 quart frozen
3 cups water
4 regular tea bags, 1 family size tea bag or 2-3 tablespoons loose tea
1 to 2 cups sugar
Juice of 3 lemons (at least ½ cup of strained lemon juice)
1/3 cup crystallized ginger (optional)
Mint sprig for garnish
Bring water to a simmer, but don’t let it come to a rolling boil. Pour simmering water over tea in a 4 cup measuring cup, add the desired amount of sugar. Let the tea steep for at least 5 minutes, maybe longer. You need a nice, dark tea, a little stronger than you want for drinking.
When the tea has steeped to a deep amber color, remove the tea bags or strain if using loose tea. Stir in the lemon juice.
Set mixture aside to cool. When the “tea” is room temperature, move to the refrigerator to completely chill the mixture.
When the tea mixture is completely chilled, pour the mixture into a 13×9-inch baking dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for approximately 45 minutes, or until icy at the edge of the pan.
Remove the mixture from the freezer; whisk to distribute the ice crystals. Cover and freeze again for 45 minutes.
Repeat the freezing and whisking until the mixture becomes slushy and almost frozen solid. Now is the time to stir in the crystallized ginger if you are using it. Then, cover and return to the freezer for 3 hours (or overnight).
When ready to serve the sorbet, remove from the freezer. Use a fork to scrape the sorbet down the length of the pan, to form icy flakes. When the entire pan has been scraped, and you are left with a pile of icy Sweet Tea crystals, return the pan to the freezer for 1 hour.
Serve in chilled dishes.
Alternatively, you can use an electric ice cream maker to freeze the sorbet. Follow your manufactures instructions