Labor Day Rule Cantaloupe Sorbet

Growing up, Labor Day always marked the unofficial end of summer when the “Labor Day Rule” went into effect. It was time to pack away white clothes and shoes (until the next Easter), and replace them with the earthy hues of autumn. While most Southerners observe the Labor Day rule out of a sense of antebellum tradition, some historians think the adage originated during the turn of the century when lightweight clothes were a symbol of the affluence. In rural Georgia, however, there was a very practical reason for observing the rule; white clothes turned an indelible rusty-orange when hurricane season brought its heavy autumnal rains.

Labor Day means the beginning of football season, toasted marshmallows over an outdoor fire, and wondering whether the hot apple cider needs more cinnamon. On the other hand, it signals the end of lazy afternoons slurping down freshly picked watermelon and listening to cool jazz classics like Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” or Michael Frank’s “Popsicle Toes,” and time to say goodbye to cucumbers and tomatoes eaten straight from the garden.

Taking advantage of a seasonal favorite, cantaloupe sorbet seems to be a perfect farewell to summer. Egyptians wrote about this sweet melon as far back as 2400 B.C. which was introduced to America when Christopher Columbus brought cantaloupe seeds with him to the New World on his second voyage. The fleshy, orange-yellow cantaloupe hailing from the muskmelon family is a harbinger of health in delectable flavor. This sorbet is simple to make and offers the same taste as biting into a fresh piece of melon, only colder.

  • Small ripe cantaloupe, pureed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons gin

Choose a ripe cantaloupe by looking for bruise-free skin, and smoothness at the stem-area which should have a slight indent, and a sweet, fruity smell.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a small saucepan and place over moderate heat.  Bring mixture to a boil and cook until the sugar dissolves (just a few minutes,) then remove from the heat.  Corn syrup is used in this recipe to improve texture (corn syrup has a higher viscosity than sugar so it freezes differently). Pour into a small container and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, clean and cube cantaloupe.  Place in a blender and puree until smooth.  Stir in cooled sugar syrup and lime juice and pulse to combine. Cover and place in refrigerator to fully chill, at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.

Once chilled, stir in gin and pour into an ice cream maker (we use a Krups "La Glaciere") and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  The gin (or any other type of alcohol) is the secret to a soft sorbet. Alcohol itself does not freeze and adding a little bit keeps the sorbet from freezing too hard giving the sorbet a smoother more creamy texture.

Once the sorbet is frozen, place a piece of plastic or parchment over sorbet (to prevent ice crystals from forming on the surface) and freeze at least 4 hours until firm.