Put the brakes on running after the ice cream truck. Freeze your own pops for a cooling, good-for-you treat.
Most of us have childhood memories of hot summer afternoons spent licking sweet, icy popsicles for a bit of cool, delicious relief. The frozen treats have been a warm-weather staple at least since the ready-made kind became widely available in the 1920s. (Fun fact: The two-stick variety many of us grew up with dates back to the Great Depression, when it was introduced so you could share it with a friend. Not-so-fun fact that may make you feel old: Those double-stickers were discontinued in 1986.)
And it’s no wonder they’re popular. For a surefire way to cool off quickly, with something that’s tasty to boot, nothing beats a popsicle. (“Popsicle” is actually a trademark, though in the United States we use the name generically.) But if you’re being conscious about what you’re putting in your mouth, the store-bought frozen treats—made with sugar, corn syrup, artificial flavors, food dyes, and stabilizers—may not be the best choice.
When you make your own, you choose exactly what goes into the frozen treats that go into your body. The combinations are really endless: Puree leftover, just-past-its-peak fruit. Add a bit of yogurt for creaminess. Want a jolt? Brew a pot of coffee, let it cool, add a touch of milk and sugar, and freeze away. Make it simple with a mix of juice and tea, or go truly grown-up and splash a little booze into the mix. (Bourbon, vodka, and Campari work well, but because of alcohol’s lower freezing point, using it can make for relatively slushy pops; a cautious hand is key here.)
Part of the fun is in selecting and using the molds. You can go old- school and use ice-cube trays and toothpicks, but there’s a whole world of ice-mold options out there, including those for pops. Some look exactly like the mass- produced kinds (even those bygone two-stick ones), and others are modeled after stars, dinosaurs, rocket ships, or soft-serve ice cream cones. Pick whatever sort floats your boat—they all do the job equally well.
No matter your recipe or your mold, the process is similar, and pretty simple: Stir all the ingredients together in a bowl or pitcher, pour into the molds, insert sticks, and place in the freezer. If you’re feeling more ambitious, you can use an ice cream maker first. Once the liquid comes together with an ice-cream-soup-like consistency, spoon it into your molds. The air you’ve worked into the mix will give your pops a smoothness that’ll remind you of the factory-made kinds. But however you do it, you’ll come out ahead—and with a cooler head on a hot summer day.