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Lemon Buttermilk Sorbet

March 11, 2012

There is one part of me that feels a sorbet post is a bit premature–spring has not officially arrived yet, after all.  Early morning and evening breezes still have a crispness to them, not quite eliminating the need to carry a scarf everywhere I go.  My car is littered with them for daytime temperatures have me shedding them by midday.  Some days it feels like spring has arrived.

In my kitchen at least, spring has sprung.  My Meyer lemon tree is bedecked with fruits but I have to compete against the deer to to enjoy them.  My tree is not tall–it dwells in a sunny spot against the back of my house and the low eave limits its height, also limiting its yield.  There is a walkway lining that part of my home and it’s prime stomping grounds for the resident deer.  It is not uncommon for me to be roused from sleep by rustling leaves outside only to see a mature buck with its huge antlers staring at me.  It parades across my bedroom window as if this were the most normal thing in the world.  In these parts, I suppose it is.  So I grudgingly share my lemons with the deer.

Inspiration to make this simple sorbet arose out of a need to prepare something easy and with ingredients I already had available.  I had leftover buttermilk, the Meyer lemons and a great desire to experiment with buttermilk sorbet.

I had no idea the two would pair so well together in a frozen treat.  Buttermilk has a very distinctive flavor, one my husband is not particularly fond but he loved this sorbet.  The recipe does not require a lot of lemon juice but the lemon zest stirred into the sorbet brightens this frozen treat in a big way.  I also noticed that after 24 hours in the freezer, the buttermilk flavor mellowed some, allowing the lemon zest to truly shine.  The former helped produce a creamy and smooth sorbet and my addition of Cointreau kept it from getting rock hard in the freezer.  Not only was this scoopable, it was delightfully refreshing.  I can see using this recipe as a base for other flavors in place of the lemon next time.  Definitely a keeper.

* I spotted these Weck jars online a few months ago, fell in love with them and promptly ordered 12 in different sizes.  Since they are freezer-safe I couldn’t resist using them for the sorbet.  I’m still not brave enough to try canning (their original purpose) but I have used them for so many other things already. Canning…one day!

**  This is the last post you will see here until I move to  I have been talking about it for almost as long as I’ve had this blog.  No big changes, just a different address.  I hope you will follow me there when I move in.  🙂

Lemon Buttermilk Sorbet

* Recipe from Bon Appetit 2001 via Epicurious here

** The link above is for the original recipe.  Based on recommendations I reduced the sugar by 1/2 cup but I had to adjust the amounts for the 3 cups of buttermilk I had available.  I also used proportionately less lemon zest and added Cointreau (vodka would work, too).  This amount fit in my ice cream maker perfectly.

*** I also took different steps to prepare this but this worked very well for me.

  • 1 1/8 cup sugar
  • 3/8 cup lemon juice (about 3 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon packed lemon zest (I recommend using a microplane grater to avoid the pith)
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Cointreau
  1. Stir together the lemon juice and sugar in a bowl.  I warmed mine in the microwave for about a minute to help dissolve the sugar.
  2. Add the buttermilk and stir until combined.
  3. Chill the mixture for a few hours (4 hours works)
  4. After the mixture has chilled, stir in the Cointreau before churning in your ice cream maker.
  5. Process in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  6. Stir in the lemon zest before serving. I like my sorbet to be a bit firmer so I transferred in jars and froze for a few hours before serving.  Makes a little over 3 cups.

51 Comments leave one →
  1. March 11, 2012 11:45 AM

    Great job! I love anything with buttermilk. At my job, one of our desserts are a Meyer lemon pound cake with a thin lemon glaze topped off with candied lemon peel…this is served with a buttermilk ice cream that’s topped off with a tiny sprinkle of coarse sea salt and thyme. So yes, buttermilk and lemon are like a marriage made in heaven.

    Forever inspiring are your posts! ;o) ;o)

    • March 15, 2012 8:49 AM

      I love the sound of the dessert you just described–right up my alley! 🙂

      Thanks so much–you’re too sweet! 🙂

  2. March 11, 2012 1:43 PM

    This looks amazing and perfect for spring! I love it!!

  3. March 11, 2012 2:12 PM

    Exquisite photography once more! Looks fresh and elegant!

  4. March 11, 2012 3:42 PM

    Well, we never stopped eating ice cream even at the peak of winter here, with the snow outside. Ice cream that is reminiscent of spring & summer is always good to have. We don’t have seasons for them at home. I love the post and I will be there in your new blog home when you move in.

    • March 15, 2012 8:51 AM

      Sorbets never disappear from the menus here in SF either but at home they fall of the rotation in winter. Had to succumb to a major craving and made these and the recipe was a great find. 🙂

      Thanks, Rowena! 🙂

  5. March 11, 2012 4:53 PM

    That looks really beautiful! I love the composition of your pictures!

  6. March 11, 2012 4:56 PM

    I am so jealous you have a Meyer lemon tree. I have wanted one for forever. I keep waiting till we buy a house. Great recipe! For me, ice cream, gelato and sorbet are good any time of year.

    • March 15, 2012 8:52 AM

      Emily, I highly recommend a Meyer lemon tree when you can have one. They are low maintenance and produce such great lemons. 🙂

  7. March 11, 2012 5:11 PM

    Oh, I love sorbet! I have never made it myself, looks like a gorgeous recipe 🙂
    And congrats on the move!

  8. March 11, 2012 6:36 PM

    I will definitely follow you..look at your recipes and photos..who wouldn’t follow you!:) Now let’s get back to that gorgeous sorbet that I wish to have next to me in Pounds or gallons right now!:)) Just stunning and so tasty looking!!! Wonderful post sweetie!!!

  9. March 11, 2012 9:12 PM

    This sounds and looks amazing. Perfect for the weather we have been having

  10. March 11, 2012 11:15 PM

    Oh I can taste it, I love lemon so I know this would be a nice treat for me. Your photos are gorgeous. Good luck with the move I did move from wordpress about 15 mo. ago and I love the freedom you have with a self hosted site.

  11. March 12, 2012 12:41 AM

    Beeeeautiful, Jean! I need to bookmark and try. This weekend was really nice weather and perfect to eat this sorbet. Looking forward to the warm days and trying this recipe. I can’t wait to visit you on your new site. I’m really excited for you!

  12. March 12, 2012 2:10 AM

    Loved the recipe and the photograph!! You are so talented!

  13. March 12, 2012 5:05 AM

    Such gorgeous photos!!! This sorbet looks très délicieux!

  14. March 12, 2012 5:41 AM

    I love buttermilk and lemon together so this is a winner for me all the way!

    • March 15, 2012 8:55 AM

      I am now a convert to buttermilk in frozen treats. I can’t take credit for the recipe but I’m so glad I found it. Can’t wait to experiment with other flavors. 🙂

  15. March 12, 2012 7:13 AM

    This looks gorgeous! Nicely done!

  16. March 12, 2012 7:31 AM

    Beautiful photos and sorbet with some of my favorite ingredients! So Springy and cheerful;-)

  17. Cristina permalink
    March 12, 2012 7:39 AM

    I love this post, Jean. It’s light, bright, happy and definitely not premature for Spring. Lovely garnishes and presentation for this buttermilk-lemon sorbet with a Cointreau surprise. I’ve got to give this a try with my lemons too! I know it may not seem as fun to you, but how neat to have deer 🙂 We, instead, have tons of rabbits so I don’t know which is the better or not.

    Has your tree slowed down production of lemons? Mine has finally slowed down. It had been years since we had fruit on it and so I can’t remember if we’ll enjoy lemons throughout the year (like other varieties).

    Congratulations on your “.com” I will update my links! Have a great week…

    • March 15, 2012 8:57 AM

      Hi, Cristina. We have rabbits, too! At night, if you take a flashlight and point down the hill behind our house, you see so many sets of eyes looking back at you. So many creatures! 🙂

      Our tree is still producing just fine but the deer eat some of the branches that would normally allow for more fruit. Can’t seem to stop them.

  18. March 12, 2012 7:41 AM

    It sure feels like spring with these beautiful photos.

    I really do need to get me a lemon tree. And an ice cream maker!

  19. March 12, 2012 7:50 AM

    Definitely feels like spring has arrived here! This sorbet sounds amazing!!
    I posted about meyer lemons today too 🙂

  20. March 12, 2012 8:45 AM

    Nature has been teasing us with hints of spring too. I’m beginning to get antsy. Your sorbet is a great way of celebrating the upcoming official start of spring. The combinations of lemon and buttermilk sounds really good. Congrats on your .com :)!

  21. March 12, 2012 9:25 AM

    Found you via Twitter. Lovely! 🙂

  22. March 12, 2012 2:52 PM

    Love this! Gorgeous photos. I can’t wait for spring either…this week certainly is promising warmer weather. This would be perfect on a hot afternoon.

  23. March 12, 2012 4:21 PM

    Beautiful, I love your jars! I must confess that I often reach over my back fence for Meyers – the house is empty, and I can’t stand the thought of those lovely lemons going to waste. Looking forward to your new online “home.”

    • March 15, 2012 8:59 AM

      Laura, I would do the same! There is a lone Meyer lemon tree on a field near my house. The owners never pick the fruits and each time I drive by it, I imagine all that loveliness going to waste. 😦

  24. March 12, 2012 5:39 PM

    I keep thinking my Meyers are ripe, but they all have a lingering green spot. Its driving me crazy. I bet buttermilk sorbet would be great with strawberries too.

    • March 15, 2012 9:00 AM

      Deanna, I agree. 🙂 I am looking forward to experimenting with other flavors using this as a base recipe. 🙂

  25. March 13, 2012 6:29 AM

    Your photos are gorgeous, and I can just imagine how this sorbet melts in your mouth!

  26. March 13, 2012 8:36 AM

    Congratulations for making Top 9 on Foodbuzz 🙂 Your lemon buttermilk sorbet looks and sounds amazing ~ so creamy yet tangy all at the same time! Thanks for sharing!

  27. March 13, 2012 9:02 AM

    This looks so darn refreshing! I can practically feel the sand in my toes just by looking at your stunning photos. Summer needs to hurry up already!

  28. March 13, 2012 3:50 PM

    Your photos are so bright and beautiful! I love anything with Meyer lemons and this buttermilk sorbet looks so refreshing. I keep going back to gaze at how you’ve captured spring – I feel like I’m in the Unbearable Lightness of Being 🙂 I was eyeing Weck jars online, too. Congrats on moving to your own url!

    • March 15, 2012 9:02 AM

      Priscilla, thanks so much. 🙂

      Aren’t the Weck jars great? I am in love with them now. Always looking for a reason to use them. 🙂

  29. March 14, 2012 5:01 AM

    Beautiful sorbet!!!! What a delicious idea! Good luck with your move 🙂

  30. March 14, 2012 3:23 PM

    Love the flavor combo! I love lemon .. i love buttermilk. Just want the weather to feel warm once again 🙂

  31. March 14, 2012 10:57 PM

    When I first saw this, I thought, How did she know? Feeling under the weather, I specifically craved a lemon sorbet. This would have been perfect!

  32. March 15, 2012 6:59 AM

    I bet the flavors of buttermilk and lemon pair so nicely! Days have been getting warmer here too and this would be perfect. Love the jars and it’s a complete bonus that they’re freezer safe — I’m off to check them out!

  33. March 15, 2012 10:07 AM

    What a perfect sorbet… Buttermilk, now thats what I need to try in my sorbet for sure…
    Amazingly gorgeous photography…Love it.

  34. March 15, 2012 12:15 PM

    Delicious sorbet and I can imagine how creamy and wonderful the flavor is with the rich buttermilk. The photos are so pretty and remind me of summer. I could just see the sweet deer enjoying your Meyer lemons (smart deer!):)Hope he left enough for you to make more desserts with the lemons. 🙂

  35. March 16, 2012 8:13 AM

    My Meyer has gone crazy too. But I don’t use it nearly as beautifully as you do! GREG

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