Icy Summa-time Treat: Water

Growing up, my best friend’s family owned a road stand market. This was decades before it was in vogue for a town to have a farmer’s market – little did we know that Flying Feather Farm would be such a trend setter! (Check out their fan page on Facebook.) I spent what must have amounted to years running through the pumpkin fields and ducking through the rows of seedlings in the greenhouse. But that’s not the point of this story. The point is Water Ice – or “wuder ice” which is how you’d say it if you were a local.

First of all, let me set the stage for all you fair-weather-loving-Seattleites. It gets hot in New Jersey in the summer. Like really hot. It’s quite typical for temps to hover in the upper 80’s to low 90’s, and the humidity makes you want to just melt. We need a nice, light, refreshing cool treat, and a 7-11 Slurpie just won’t cut it.

Enter: Water Ice. It’s somewhere in between an italian ice and a sorbet, and often has small chunks of fruit in it. I know what you’re thinking: Shaved ice? Wrong. Sno cone? Nope. This is no carnival-fare. You eat it up with a spoon, usually out of a dixie cup, and it’s available in dozens of flavors on practically every corner of small town Jersey. If you want to get really fancy, you can have them stick a dollop of vanilla frozen custard on top of your water ice for “gelati”, which I suppose is New Jersey’s version of gelato? Though it really is nothing like gelato. (Sorry, Jersey.)

Flying Feather was really the first spot I can remember tasting this wonderfully brain-freeze-inducing, drippy, syrupy-sweet summer treat. We’d all wait (sort of) patiently until the day in late-spring when Flying Feather would clear the clutter out of the water ice corner and transform it into the hottest spot in all of Moorestown. Being Flying Feather’s Water Ice Girl was a gig more coveted than being Prom Queen, and really was all I wanted to be when I grew up for far longer than I care to admit.

As I’m sure you can imagine, I was aghast to move to the NW only to find that no one here has even heard of water ice. And during this week’s heat wave, I literally felt defenseless to the elements with out a big dixie cup full of the frozen goodness. A summer picnic just isn’t the same without some fruity water ice with a shot of vodka or Cruzan poured over it. (Disclaimer: adult version of the treat. Well, maybe in Dirty Jersey the kids get a shot of vodka, too, but not here.)

Lucky for me, the editors of Gourmet magazine must have seen this coming. This recipe isn’t quite the same as the real deal, but it’s close enough. Sadly, I think the missing special ingredient may be the murky Delaware River water… Enjoy!

Lemon Water Ice
Click here to print this recipe.
From Gourmet Magazine, August 2009
Makes about 1 quart
Active time: 10 min, Start to finish: 3 3/4 hr (includes chilling and freezing)
Equipment: an ice cream maker

2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup lemon juice (fresh please)
2 1/2 cups water

Heat water, zest, sugar, and a pinch of salt in a 2- to 3-qt saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Transfer to a large glass measure and stir in lemon juice. Chill, uncovered, until very cold, 3 to 6 hours. Freeze in ice cream maker.

Keeps, frozen, 1 week. Let soften at room temperature 10 minutes before serving.

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