Adventures in low-sugar cooking: Nectarine Sorbet

The cooler summer weather means we’re getting stone fruit far later in the season than usual. The peaches are more tart than sweet, but the nectarines have been perfect! It was time to show them some love.

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I had an abundance of nectarines, and with Witchlets in the Woods coming up (where I help cook), it was the perfect time to begin experimenting with sorbet and ice cream recipes for this year.  This recipe calls for cooking the fruit briefly, which activates the pectin and makes the result surprisingly creamy.

Nectarine Sorbet

(Adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop)

Yield: About 1 quart


  • 1 1/2 pounds Nectarines (white, yellow, or some of both)
  • 1/2 C sugar or just under 1/2C Agave Nectar
  • 1/2t-1t lemon juice
  • Pinch ceylon cinnamon (optional)


  1. Cut up the fruit into small pieces, leaving the skin on. (Omit the pits.) Combine fruit and about 2/3C water in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the fruit is soft, about 10 minutes.
  2. Take fruit off the heat, add sugar or agave nectar. Let cool, add lemon juice (and cinnamon, if using) and puree. Chill thoroughly before freezing.
  3. Freeze in an ice cream maker as usual. If your ice cream freezer isn’t especially cold, stir in about 2T water at the start of freezing.

There are a couple of unusual things about this recipe: One is the use of agave nectar: this is a fabulous low glycemic index sweetener (which means it won’t affect your blood sugar as strongly as refined sugar.) I find the result to be a bit cloying, so I increased the lemon juice a bit and added some ceylon cinnamon to offset the sweetness. This is a mild, sweet cinnamon and used sparingly enough that it doesn’t call attention to itself but makes the nectarines stand out more.

The other unusual aspect is this has relatively little water, which makes it much more difficult to freeze properly. Many sorbets begin with a 50/50 mixture of simple syrup and fruit puree. In those, there’s plenty of water available throughout the freezing cycle. In this sorbet, you run the risk of most of the water freezing into tiny ice crystals at the start and pushing the freezing point so low that it won’t set up fully. Adding a bit more water early on can prevent this and/or you can freeze this to the consistency of soft-serve ice cream then pack it into a shallow pan and stick into an especially cold freezer to finish hardening

(I served this, soft and creamy, right from the machine last night and it was a big hit.)