As I sit down to write this article, I am enjoying a popsicle my son made by pouring cranberry juice into a silicone mold. It’s 84 degrees out, a little humid and this homemade popsicle tastes just right. I’m not at all bothered by the juice dripping down my fingers as I delight in its refreshing coolness and that soothing feeling the frozen pieces bring as they pass over my tongue and slide down my throat. My insides feel cooler, and I must admit after a hot walk with the dog, I’m feeling a little “reborn.”
I ordered a new silicone popsicle mold this June and when it arrived, I washed it and placed it on the counter to make some juice filled pops later. When I returned the mold was already filled and placed in the freezer. Apparently, when my boys saw it, it was a signal that summer had begun, and they didn’t want to waste any time getting right to it.
Popsicles are a joyful food, a comfort food, and a real lifesaver on sweaty summer days. They also, as unwitting as they seem, have the ability to transport us to another place and time, to connect us in a way to the past that not many other things can. They link us to memories of past summers sitting on a dock, watching a little league game, big backyard BBQs, and Fourth of July fireworks. And while many of these activities will elude us this summer, we can still make memories with popsicles. Whether it be a quaint backyard picnic, a long-distance chat with a neighbor over the fence, or sitting and watching a popsicle red sunset, this frozen tasty treat is here to calm and soothe on a hot summer day.
Another beautiful thing about popsicles is their common familiarity among many different people from many different cultures. In South Africa they enjoy wine popsicles, in Mexico they are called Paletas and are made with lots of fresh local fruit. In Jamaica, they may be made from hibiscus flowers, and in New Zealand they are called ice blocks. People all over the world enjoy their cultural version of these icy diversions and accept its ability to invite messes as those enjoying these amusing icy delights oft seem perfectly happy becoming sticky while doing so. Popsicles can even account for strategic wardrobe changes: bathing suits and tie dye shirts are popsicle friendly.
Did you know that Frank Epperson, an 11-year-old boy, was the inventor of the popsicle? As the story goes, young Frank, at the end of a long day, had left his cup of soda with the stirring stick still in it out on his porch. The next morning, he discovered his drink had frozen with the stick in it. What a happy accident. In 1923, when he became an adult, he patented the “Eppsicle.” His children later changed the name to “Popsicles,” according to Smithsonian magazine. The frozen treat was an immediate success. In the early 1920s, an estimated 8,000 Popsicles were sold in one day at Brooklyn’s Coney Island amusement park. History.com reports that the first Popsicles sold for just five cents and came in seven flavors, including cherry.
Here are some more fun facts from the Popsicle Brand website…The most popular Popsicle ice pop flavor is cherry. The Fudgesicle was introduced in 1946 and remains super popular today. The ‘Twin Popsicle” was invented during the Great Depression so that two children could share an ice pop for just a nickel. Popsicle sticks are made out of birch wood.
I don’t believe I have ever made it through a hot Eastern Shore summer without a Popsicle. Sure, there’s ice cream and ice cream deserves its own article, but popsicles bring just as many smiles and fond memories, and they’re much easier to make at home than ice cream. Portable as far as the backyard, they don’t travel well which makes them a perfect make and enjoy at home pandemic treat. They can be held in one hand while running through the sprinkler, kicking a soccer ball, chasing the dog or petting a cat.
From soothing sore throats to making tears disappear, popsicles are super kid friendly. Even the youngest children can make them (sometimes a funnel helps) and they can even invent their own flavors. If you don’t own molds, a solo cup will do. The warmth of your hand and a little squeeze makes the frozen block pop right up in a solo cup. We used solo cups growing up and called them “frozens.” I’m super jazzed about popsicle possibilities and have tried more than a few concoctions so far. Here are just a few popsicle suggestions that will make your summer smile worthy:
- All juices make great popsicles – get tropical with passionfruit or papaya
- Kool Aid
- Whole fruit and juice combos, like white peach raspberry lemonade, or fresh whole strawberries and lemonade
- Sweet tea popsicles = YES!
- Sodas like coca cola, root beer, birch beer, orange and grape Fanta
- Creamsicles – can be made dairy free with almond milk. Mix 1 tsp sugar per 4 oz. unflavored almond mix. Freeze OJ in half of mold, then pour milk in second half and freeze.
- Banana-sicles with chocolate chips – mashed bananas and chocolate chips frozen together
- Watermelon, limeade and mint (puree the watermelon and add lime-aid in a 1 to 1 ratio plus 1 teaspoon of fine diced fresh mint leaves per cup
- The Five O’clock somewhere popsicle – OJ (3/4), Triple Sec (1/4), dash of fresh lemon lime thyme
- The Wine popsicle – red, white or rose
Even if you just make a simple apple juice popsicle, make it with someone and enjoy it with someone. Popsicles, like the twin pop of the Depression, are meant to be shared.
Cathy Schmidt writes from Trappe where she and her husband Chef Brian Schmidt own Garden and Garnish Catering. A food explorer, Cathy loves to garden and cook from scratch.