Paletas are authentic Mexican ice pops, derived from the Spanish word palo, meaning “stick.” The most popular kind, paletas de agua, consist of fresh fruit, water, and sweetener; frequently with a Mexican flourish such a spice or flowers. Although generally a smooth consistency, paletas “often include chunks of some sort to provide texture and trap different flavors,” explains Fany Gerson, paletas cookbook author and owner of La Newyorkina.
I came across Fany’s paletas on the highline this past Saturday. Craving something cool and sweet in the hot sun, I was immediately intrigued by the array of interesting flavors: mango-chile, coconut-lime, avocado, tamarind, hibiscus, and Cucumber-Lime; which this recipe is derived from.
Immensely satisfying on any warm summer day, the pop’s bold and extremely fresh flavors produce the most refreshing treat. Flecks of lime rind and diced cucumber- providing the texture contrast Fany described in her book- only enhanced the robust freshness. Clearly, fresh is the key word here: emulating the family-owned artisan preparation one would find in Mexico, La Newyorkina hand makes all of their products in small batches using the highest quality seasonal ingredients. While mostly local, some ingredients and purees not found in the US are imported by local artisans in Mexico.
I invested in popsicle molds last year, but you can easily make these frozen little treats in ice cube trays too. Alcohol such as tequila or mezcal makes a great addition to the ingredient combinations, but remember: alcohol does not freeze, so if you add too much you’ll end up with a cocktail instead of a paleta!
Cucumber-Lime Paletas (adapted from Paletas de Limón)
Yield: 8-10 ice pops
2 cups water
2/3 cup sugar
3 (1-inch) strips of lime zest
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 8 small limes)
2 large cucumbers, divided
Optional: cayenne pepper, diced jalapeno, tequila, mezcal
Combine the water, sugar, and lime zest in a small nonreactive saucepan. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil and the sugar has dissolved. Let cool to room temperature. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve (optional, I skipped this step and just removed the lime zest), then stir in the lime juice.
While sugar mixture is cooling, chop 1 whole cucumber + half of the second (do not remove the skins.) Puree cucumber until smooth in a food processor or blender. Strain into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer, pushing out the juice and pulp mixture with a spoon. Dice the remaining half cucumber and set aside.
Add strained cucumber juice/pulp to sugar mixture.
If using conventional molds, divide the mixture among the molds, distributing the diced cucumber pieces evenly amongst the molds after pouring in the mixture. Snap on the lid and freeze until solid, about 5 hours. If using glasses or other unconventional molds, freeze until the pops are beginning to set (1½ to 2 hours), then insert the sticks and freeze until solid, 4 to 5 hours. If using an instant ice-pop maker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
To loosen frozen plastic molds, you may have to run the under warm water for a bit before pulling out.
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