Cold Things Desserts

pina colada sorbet

winter favorite ::::

Along with our friends Fashionista and Trauma Dude, we are planning  family trip to Hawaii in May. We expect a long flight, time  seeming longer with a busy-body 18-month-old Grub and a somewhat patient but understandably ansty four-and-a-half-year-old Peach. This trip marks a return for me, a return to a place a called a home for a few months when I was a teenager.

When I was 15 years old, my father’s job allowed him to take a sabbatical to The University of Hawaii at Manoa, miles and degrees away from his home base Midwestern university. We lived right in the midst of the tourist-ridden Honolulu, in Hawaii Kai. Waikiki Beach was cigarette-ridden, Hanauma Bay was accessible to snorkelers (and coral severely damaged), and Mariner’s Ridge a lookout to Molokai on a clear, cloudless day.

It was a huge emotional shift for me, a dorky teenager already feeling like a fish out of water, a pasty-skinned blonde swimming in a sea of tanned, beach-loving teens, some waltzing around at school in bathing suits and bare feet in anticipation of after school beach time. I eventually found friends, some Mainland transplants like me and others born in Hawaii. We visited the beach on weekends, they tanning but wisely slathering on the sunblock if needed, me returning home with a blazing sunburn despite the sunblock.

One of my friends lived just down the street from me, from the house we rented from another sabbatical family, off in California, our connecting streets lined with other modest homes and blooming hibiscus, roses, and white ginger. The scent of white ginger flowers still lingers in my olfactory memory, it being the archetypal odor of my Hawaiian teen years. It brings back memories of that flaming sunburn, time spent on a few sandy beaches and realizing how much I hated sand, walking late night in the neighborhood, barefoot, the air quiet and stagnant with floral fragrances, learning a little Hawaiian pidgin (as much as a haole girl can), and the unusual foods I tried.



Our yard was also blessed with a koi pond and an abundant papaya tree. Daily, I would cut up a papaya and mix in a blender with ice and milk. It was my favorite after-school snack. I have yet to find papaya so sweet and pure as those homegrown fruits.  I had not tried papaya until my time in Hawaii, it didn’t seem all that odd. The Samen noodles at McDonald’s seemed a little out of place. I confirmed that poi was inedible. But the fresh pineapple, that was accessible to everyone. I remember driving past the pineapple farms with friends, the spiked pineapple tops like tiny Christmas trees on a sunny vacation from the snow sitting in banks of rusted red dirt. While I didn’t partake of pina coladas at that time in my life (I honestly don’t remember when my first one was), I remember the fresh pineapple rivaling anything I ever had from a can. And the fresh coconut was a creamy treat, the flesh deceptively chalky looking but much more satisfying to eat. The combination of the creamy coconut meat and the almost tart, acidic pineapple is perfect. Often considered a summery drink, anything creamy reminds me of winter, and thus explains my craving for the flavors this time of year.

And so here it is, the essence of Hawaii or your favorite tropical island captured in a sorbet. And with very little work! You do not need an ice cream machine to make it; the condensed milk helps with the soft freeze of this concoction without needing the ice cream machine. In fact, I tried to use a machine, and it didn’t work. I have not tried it with canned pineapple, only fresh. If you do, it might change the achievable firmness of the final product, so be open to something that may be a softer consistency. Enjoy a little of the tropics this winter-spring season. Summer is just around the corner.


pina colada sorbet
Recipe type: dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 4 cups fresh ripe pineapple, cubed (core removed also)
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (NOT cream of coconut)
  • ½ cup sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ cup simple syrup (see recipe below in Notes section)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. Blend pineapple, coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, syrup, and vanilla until smooth. Pour into medium pot and heat to boiling. Cool completely in refrigerator.
  2. Place in freezer-safe container and freeze until firm (~4-5 hours, at least). No need for an ice cream machine. Serve with crystallized ginger.
Simple Syrup ½ cup water ½ cup sugar 1. Heat water and sugar to boiling. Stir to dissolve sugar completely. 2. Cool completely to room temperature before using.


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