Sweet frozen cucumber pops infused with sage and flecked with sumac. See the Notes at the bottom for more on cooking with sumac, and making a sweet treat from cucumbers.
Makes 10 spice pops (1/3 cup each)
1/4 pound cucumber (a little less than half a medium cucumber)
1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon sugar, divided
Pinch of salt
1-2 sprigs of fresh sage, (or about 10-12 large leaves)
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sumac
1. Prep the cucumber: Cut the cucumber in half. Cut one half into rough chunks. From the other half, cut 10 very thin rounds, preferably less than 1/8-inch thick. (You may not need all the cucumber.) Lay the rounds on a platter or plate. Measure out 1 Tablespoon of the sugar and sprinkle half of it evenly over all the rounds. Let them sit for about 15-20 minutes to allow the sugar to draw the liquids out of the cucumber, then flip them over and repeat with the rest of the sugar on the other side, letting them rest for another 15-20 minutes.
2. Make the Spice Pop mixture: Combine the rough chunks of cucumber in a small saucepan with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, pinch of salt and the sage sprigs. Stir in 1/2 cup cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat with the lid askew. Once simmering, stir and turn the heat to low and put the lid on. Simmer for 10 more minutes, then uncover and remove from heat. Strain out the solids from the saucepan and pour the cucumber syrup into a small pitcher. Stir in the lemon juice and 2 1/3 cups cold water.
3. Prep the molds: Sprinkle a pinch of sumac into each ice pop mold, so that it's evenly divided among all the molds. Reserving the accumulated liquid, drop one cucumber round into each ice pop mold, resting it against the side of the mold to help it keep its round shape. Stir the sugary liquid from the cucumber rounds into the Spice Pop mixture.
4. Finish and freeze: Stir the Spice Pop mixture and pour it into the molds, stirring briefly between pours to help make sure the lemon pulp is evenly distributed among the molds. Freeze until solid, about 4-6 hours.
These pops taste like dessert, and they also taste like cucumbers and sage and sumac - which I think is kinda cool! Sumac and sage is a great flavor combination. I like them so much together that I created this spice blend with them. For this recipe, we're not using that savory seasoning blend (because this is dessert!), but we're still enjoying the combination of those two flavors.
My ice pop molds hold 1/3 cup of fluid, so this recipe makes 10 of them. If your molds are a different size, then it might make more or less for you.
This is a great way to use the ends of cucumbers, or the few extra trimmings you have from another dish. No need to peel the cucumbers for this (though of course you can if you want to for some reason!). The skins add cucumber flavor while they’re simmered alongside the sage. And I like the way the green skins look on the cucumber rounds inside the pops.
But do be sure to cut those rounds quite thin. I aim for 1/16 inch, although anything under 1/8 inch will work. You can slice them in a mandoline or food processor, but I usually do it by hand. It’s only 10 slices, and then I have fewer dishes to wash later. But again, do whatever makes you happy!
You might be tempted to skip the step where we macerate the cucumber rounds with sugar, but don’t! The reason for this is to infuse the cucumber slices with the same sweet goodness that the rest of the pop has. Fun fact: when the sugar draws water out of the cucumber slices, it concentrates the cucumber flavor. Then it replaces the water with sugar, so the end result is sweet, sweet cucumber goodness. If you skip this step, you’ll find yourself biting into a bland salad inside your sweet spice pop, which can be a little disconcerting. On the other hand, if you just can’t bring yourself to mess with that step, then you can just eliminate the cucumber rounds and make the pops without them. The pops will still be sweet and delicious.
When I put the cucumber rounds into the molds, I use my fingers to sort of stick them against the inside wall of the mold to encourage them to stay roughly in that position. But then, in the process of pouring and freezing, they inevitably move around somewhat. (I choose to think of this as an endearing sign that the pops were handmade.)
Sumac is a dried, crushed red berry that adds a mild citrusy flavor and a pop of red color to anything it's sprinkled on. In these pops, the sumac is added toward the end, and it's added directly to the pop molds rather than to the cucumber mixture, in order to prevent it from changing the color of the pops too much. Sumac is really red, and tends to turn everything else red, too.
Crushed berry common in Middle Eastern, Persian and north African cuisines. Citrusy flavor is great sprinkled on meat, veggies, fish, salads, or anything you might add a squeeze of lemon to.
An irresistible blend of ancient wisdom with sumac and sage. A citrusy herbal blend that adds an adventurous, colorful pop of flavor to roast chicken, pork, or turkey. Great on roasted or grilled veggies!
1/2 cup -sized jar.