The ice pop was invented, accidentally, by an eleven-year-old boy named Frank Epperson.
The year was 1905, the place San Francisco: On a freezing cold night, Epperson stirred himself a glass of water and soda powder. He went outside, and forgot all about it. Kids, right?
The next morning, Epperson woke up to something even better than soda: a frozen treat, on a stick. He called it the "Epsicle," a portmanteau of icicle and his surname, and started selling the treats around his neighborhood. This was the birth of the Popsicle brand.
But if you've outgrown current Popsicle "flavors" like "Hello Kitty," "Disney Frozen," and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and don't want to be covered in Red No. 40 (or Blue No. 1, or high fructose corn syrup, or locust bean gum) by the pool, follow Frank's lead and take ice pop-making into your own hands.
These recipes are Southern-inspired and utterly foolproof—for breezy beach days, cookout afternoons, firefly-illuminated nights. If you don't have a set of ice pop molds, plastic cups work, too. The molds I used here hold three ounces. Happy freezing!
The original? Colder than ice, sweeter than sorghum, in a mason jar on a porch, or in a big plastic cup at a fast food drive-thru. The ice pop? Ginger-spiked, sugar-laden, pitch-black tea, with suspended peach slices that resemble moths in amber.
2 cups water
2 black tea bags
1/4 cup sugar
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and smashed
16 peach slices, fresh or frozen
Bring water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add the tea bags, sugar, and ginger, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Let the tea steep for ten minutes. Remove the ginger and tea bags. Refrigerate the sweet tea until completely chilled.
Put two peach slices in each ice pop mold and top with sweet tea. Freeze for about five hours, adding the wooden sticks after about twenty minutes. To unmold, dip in warm water for a few seconds, then pull upward. If you want to dip the ice pops in a glass of bourbon, no one will stop you. Yield: 8 ice pops
The original? Vanilla pudding, layered with banana slices and vanilla wafers, then topped with whipped cream or toasted meringue. The ice pop? Malted milk pudding, studded with banana slices and somersaulted through vanilla wafer crumbs.
2 1/3 cups whole milk
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon malted milk powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 2/3 cups crushed vanilla wafers
Warm the milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring so the bottom doesn't brown or burn. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and malted milk powder in a small bowl.
Once the milk is warm, add a splash to the egg yolk mixture. Stir. Add another splash. Stir. Repeat this tempering process until all the milk is incorporated. Pour back into the saucepan and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid thickens into pudding—about nine minutes. Push through a fine-mesh sieve into container, removing any lumps, and press plastic film against the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until completely chilled.
When the pudding is cold, thickly slice the bananas. Add a spoonful of pudding to an ice pop mold, then a couple of banana slices. Repeat until nearly full. Freeze for about five hours, adding the wooden sticks after about twenty minutes. To unmold, dip in warm water for a few seconds, then pull upward. Roll in vanilla wafer crumbs. Encourage double-dipping.
Yield: 9 ice pops
The original? A cold, citrus curd pie with a saltine cracker crust and whipped cream or toasted meringue crown. The ice pop? A creamy, lemon one-piece with a saltine cover-up.
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
Juice of 8 lemons
Zest of 2 lemons
2 1/3 cups crushed saltine crackers
Stir all ingredients except crumbs in a bowl. Divide the mixture between the ice pop molds. Freeze for about five hours, adding the wooden sticks after about twenty minutes. To unmold, dip in warm water for a few seconds, then pull upward. Roll in cracker crumbs. Encourage double-dipping. Yield: 8 ice pops
The original? A sugary, flaky biscuit, split in half and stuffed with young-summer strawberries and soft cream. The ice pop? Two-ingredient, no-churn ice cream, bejeweled with red berry slices and covered in shortbread crumbs.
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (about 2/3 cup)
2 3/4 cups sliced strawberries
3 cups crushed shortbread cookies
Using either a hand mixer or a whisk (balloon whisks work best), whip the cream until a stiff peak forms. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a bowl. Fold in the whipped cream—gently, so as not to deflate the mixture. Stir in the strawberries.
Divide the mixture between the ice pop molds. Freeze for about five hours, adding the wooden sticks after about twenty minutes. To unmold, dip in warm water for a few seconds, then pull upward. Roll in shortbread crumbs. Encourage double-dipping. Yield: 10 ice pops
This article appeared in print with the headline "A Summer Stickup"