Summer Desserts: Black Pepper Plum Sake Sorbet – What’s in Your Bowl?

by Pamela

plum sorbet, summer desserts, fruit sorbet

It’s time to break out the ice cream maker again (if you even put it away) to make something delicious to help cool you down. With this heat, who wants to do anything but lounge by the pool drinking fruity libations and staring at that hot and sexy pool boy? Clearly, I have fallen victim to heat stroke. I don’t have a pool, and neither do any of my neighbors, and the “pool boys” that I’ve seen all look like the stereotypical butt crack plumber. But hey, that’s why there are dreams and fantasies. And speaking of fantasies…this black pepper plum sake sorbet tastes like it should only be available in la la land, but lucky for all of us…it is quite the reality.

I recently had the opportunity to travel from my, then, very comfortable perch in Los Angeles to the, somewhat hot and slightly humid, mid-western city of Columbus, Ohio. I can laugh about the weather for two reasons. Reason number one is that I just spent two weeks in Asia melting (99 degrees with 84% humidity) and reason number 2…I’m from Ohio. So given both of these reasons coupled with the fact that this was for a culinary tour of Columbus, I was ready for it…or was I?

My little brother lived there for at least 5 years. In all that time that he was there, all I heard about was how great Columbus is. Of course what was going through my mind at the time was: little brothers are morons that don’t know anything. The other thing that was going through my mind was my last visit to Columbus.

My cousins went to Ohio State and lived right on High Street (the main drag for bars and restaurants). So my recollections of culinary greatness in the city were comprised of beer, gyros and pizza. To say that I had ‘recollections’ of any of my time spent there are massive swaths of stretched truth. I remember very little of my visits. So that must mean that they were good…right?

Fast forward a couple of years, because we all know I’m a recent college graduate. Just go with me on this, please. I’m now in Columbus and very quickly realize this isn’t the same place I visited. Things have changed in a very good way. Sure, there’s still the places for the college kids to hang out (although those have been improved A LOT) but now there are great bars and restaurants for adults with discerning tastes too.

Summer Desserts German Village

Columbus has always had little enclaves within the bigger city with names like German Village (originally settled by German immigrants), the Short North, Easton, OSU, Polaris and many others. But discovering what’s in those areas was what this trip was all about.

From morning to night we were on the move, and by on the move I mean eating and drinking. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never eaten that much food in such a short time ever. Between the North Market, Thurn’s Meats (check out what they gave me to give my puppy to make her forget I was gone), The Skillet, Basi Italia, Watershed (for gin) and lots of other grown up places to indulge your taste buds; my belly was happy and full.

Plum Sorbet - A fruit sorbet from jeni's ice cream

But after a while, we were done being grown ups. We had had enough tasting, savoring, asking questions and writing things down. We were hot, tired, really full and just wanted to relax. So where did we go? Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. You may have heard of this ice cream since it’s received high praise from Time Magazine and the New York Times. I totally get why. This stuff is rock your world good!

As with lots of the restaurants and distilleries that we visited, Jeni’s takes the ‘local thing’ to a whole new level. Her milk and cream come from a nearby farm, the mint (for the mint ice cream) comes from another local farm (one that we had visited earlier in the day and picked the mint that they had ordered) and stone fruits and blueberries which also come from local producers (all of whom she knows personally).

The people behind the counter never show an ounce of disdain for the lines of customers who all seem to want to sample every flavor before committing to one, or three. And if you want to sample every flavor in the case, you are more than welcome to do so. Just try doing that at one of those corporate places.

I wasn’t up for the ice cream, but the sorbet was calling my name loudly. They had quite a selection of fruit sorbet to choose from and since I couldn’t decide, I had two different flavors – one scoop of a tart cherry sorbet and one scoop of plum sorbet. I’m still not sure which one I liked better, but I was intrigued by the plum sorbet which was actually a plum sake sorbet. I was determined to make it when I got home.

I’m convinced that the best summer desserts are those that use the fruit of the season, and is there a better showcase dessert than a fruit sorbet? The sweet and tangy flavors instantly make you feel cooler and lighter. And the addition of sake with the plums is a brilliant idea. Since sake tends to be a lighter spirit, it doesn’t drown out the flavors of the plums. As soon as I tasted this plum sorbet, I knew I’d be re-creating it at home.

A fruit sorbet is perfect for summer desserts

Once home, I noticed that Experience Columbus (one of our gracious hosts) had given us a copy of Jeni’s ice cream cookbook. I quickly paged through it looking for the plum sorbet recipe. I was saddened to see that it wasn’t in there (apparently this flavor is one of their limited edition summer desserts). However the cherry lambic sorbet recipe is in there. Working off of that, I was able to create my version of Jeni’s plum sake sorbet.

One of the really cool things about this fruit sorbet recipe is how the flavor will change depending on the types of plums you use. Mine was a bit sweeter than hers, but if I had used a tart plum it would have been closer. I actually used a combination of sweet, and not as sweet, plums in mine. Feel free to use whatever your favorite plum is. The juicier the plum, the better. I slipped in the black pepper to give the plum flavors a little bit of a boost.  The original does not have the pepper in it. Also, the sake you’ll want to use in this would be a better sake, one that can be served cold. Did you know that the warm sake you drink has been warmed so that it tastes better? The best sake’s are consumed cold.

Oh I almost forgot, and I can’t believe I’m putting this in writing…my little brother was right, about Columbus. It’s a fascinating city with lots of great people (Midwesterners rock), food, drink and experiences like you wouldn’t believe. And now, as I sit here wearing my 100 year old Ohio State sweatshirt, I can honestly say that I had a great weekend in Columbus, Ohio!


Recipe: Black Pepper Plum Sake Sorbet

Summary: Makes 1 Quart


  • 2 Pounds Fresh Plums (I used 1 pound of sweet black plums and 1 pound of Santa Rosa plums)
  • 16 Whole Black Peppercorns
  • 3/4 Cup Sake (good quality)
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup Light Corn Syrup


  1. Pit one pound, all the same kind, of the plums and cut into sixths (you can leave the skin on).
  2. Toss them into a medium sized bowl, along with the peppercorns and top with the sake.
  3. Stir to combine and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid.
  4. Let sit for several hours or overnight (which is the best).
  5. Pit and roughly chop the remaining pound of plums and drop into a food processor.
  6. Puree them until smooth.
  7. Pour the pureed fruit, sugar and corn syrup into a medium sized sauce pan and bring to a simmer.
  8. While the fruit mixture is heating up, make sure you stir it to keep it from sticking and burning.
  9. As soon as it comes to a simmer and all of the sugar has melted, remove from heat.
  10. Set aside to let it cool.
  11. Pour the sake soaked fruit and peppercorns into the food processor and puree it until it is smooth.
  12. Pour this into a container and set in the refrigerator to cool for at least 2 hours.
  13. Once the heated plum mixture has cooled down, pour it into a container and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. (You want these mixtures cold when you pour them into the ice cream maker.)
  14. After the mixtures have chilled, pour them through a strainer to pull out any large pieces of plum and peels.
  15. Because this mixture is thick, you’ll need to stir/scrape the inside of your strainer to help the process along. At this point, both mixtures can be brought together in the same bowl.
  16. Pour the fruit mixture into the bowl of your ice cream maker and proceed according to the directions on your machine.
  17. Scoop the mixture into a sealable container and make sure that it is evenly spread.
  18. Cover and freeze for at least 4 hours.
  19. Serve.

Quick notes

As Jeni says, sorbets need lots of sugar to keep from freezing into fruit ice blocks, so they have a tendency to get real sweet, real fast. So if you use all sweet plums in this recipe, taste test the batch after adding 1/2 cup of sugar and add more as you like.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 10 minute(s)

Diet type: Vegetarian

Diet tags: Gluten free

Number of servings (yield): 1

Culinary tradition: USA (General)


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