Mexican iced lollies now come hygienically wrapped and sealed, stored in a freezer cabinet and mass produced on an industrial scale. But when I was a child, paleteros roamed the streets, pushing a little insulated container cart which was packed with ice and delectable, wonderfully fresh paletas. The aromas and colours were so natural, deep and bright, because they were made by hand on a daily basis, most likely by someone in his family, from pure, unprocessed ingredients: unadulterated chocolate, the native vanilla, raw ripe fruit. Our local lollipop man rang a little bell as he went, making sure that the inhabitants of the houses knew he was around; it was usually very soon after lunch, and we would rush out with our pocket money at the ready, eager to sample the flavour of the day or old favourites.
The apricot is thought to have originated in China and to have travelled along the legendary Silk Route into Europe. It has therefore only been an inhabitant of the Mexican fruit orchard for about five hundred years but once settled in Mexican soil, its roots took strong hold and it quickly became as popular as the native species. While the Spaniards call it albaricoque, in Mexico it is known as chabacano and a chabacano iced lolly is very hard to beat!
Paletas are easy, and rewarding, to make as no icecream machine, whisking or churning are required; all you need is iced lollipop moulds, which are readily available. The fruit purée is poured straight into them and then frozen until hard. The texture is difficult to describe, as it is neither hard nor soft, or even crunchy; fudgy is perhaps the best word.
Be sure to use very ripe apricots for a fabulously intense, sweet and sharp, fresh flavour.
Iced apricot lollies – Paletas de chabacano
Makes about 500 ml/2 cups/16 fl oz, enough for 4 to 6 lollies
450 g/1 lb fresh apricots, halved and stoned
125 ml/1/2 cup/4 fl oz water
150 g/5 oz caster/superfine sugar or to taste
Fresh lemon juice
Place the apricot halves in a saucepan, pour in the water and stir in the sugar. Cook, covered, over low heat until they have totally broken down. Cool for ten minutes then blend in a blender or food processor until totally smooth. Add a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice and set aside until completely cold.
Stir well. Taste and adjust the flavour, adding more sugar or lemon juice if needed. It should be sweet and sharp at the same time, aromatic and intense, with a bit of a tang but no hint of mouth-puckering acidity.
Pour into lollipop moulds and freeze until firm, then enjoy the paletas fairly soon as they tend to lose their freshness and sparkle if they are left languishing in the freezer for weeks on end.
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