With a Turn of the Can Opener, Make Sorbet

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For a quick, satisfying summer refreshment, all you need is a can of fruit, a food processor and a freezer.

This method was the brainchild of Melanie Bernard, a columnist for Bon Appétit magazine who in 1996 was commissioned by the Steel Packaging Council, a trade group, to find some new uses for canned food. She came up with the idea of freezing cans of fruit and whirling the contents in a food processor to make sorbet. After much testing, she found that fruits in heavy syrup yielded the best results, with figs and apricots her favorites.

You may ask, “Why not use fresh fruit?” You could, but then you’re faced with adjusting the sweetening or making sugar syrup. And you’d need to wait for it to be in season. Opening a can is much easier.

The fruits must be pitted and seedless. They could come from a jar, in which case you should pack them in a plastic bag or container for freezing. Add a liqueur or other spirit for a happy hour sorbet. You can process frozen jarred grapefruit segments with Campari, for example, or oranges with tequila and lime juice. Including alcohol will give the sorbet a somewhat softer texture so don’t overdo it.

Remember that you need time to freeze the fruit before you put it in the food processor, and that the sorbet is best returned to the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up after it has been churned.

Credit…Winnie Au for The New York Times

Basic Canned Fruit Sorbet

Time 10 minutes plus 12 hours or overnight freezing and 2 hours optional refreezing

Yield About 1 pint

Ingredient A 16-ounce can of fruit, preferably in heavy syrup

1. Place can of fruit in freezer for about 12 hours or longer.

2. Remove can from freezer, briefly dip in hot water, then remove the top. Pour any juices into a food processor. Remove the bottom of the can, slide out the block of fruit and chop it in 1-inch pieces. Add to food processor. Using the regular blade process until uniformly puréed.

3. Serve at once or transfer to a container and freeze for about 2 hours to firm up.


Apricot and Amaretto Sorbet Freeze 16 ounces canned apricots. Process with 2 tablespoons Amaretto. Yield: 1 pint.

Piña Colada Sorbet Freeze 20 ounces of crushed pineapple. Process with 3 tablespoons rum and 6 tablespoons chilled cream of coconut. Yield: 1 ½ pints

Black Forest Sundae Freeze 16 ounces pitted Bing cherries and process to make sorbet. Place in the freezer to firm up. Scoop into individual dishes, drizzle with chilled bittersweet chocolate sauce and top with whipped cream. Yield: 4 servings.

Peach Frozen Yogurt Freeze an individual container of peach yogurt, around six ounces, and 8 to 10 ounces canned peaches. Process both together. Yield: About 1 pint.

Tomato Sorbet Freeze a 16-ounce can whole or chopped San Marzano tomatoes. Process with the juice of 1 lime and salt and ground black pepper to taste. Garnish each serving with a sprig of fresh basil. Yield: 1 pint.