The sun is relentless, merciless, heartless. The air hangs heavy. Your shirt sticks to your back.
Air conditioning won’t help, and neither will a dip in a pool. Those cool you from the outside in, and you are so overheated you can find sweet relief only from the inside out.
You need a Popsicle.
You can buy them at the store — that’s Popsicle with a capital P — and they are perfectly fine, and you know exactly what you are getting. Or you can make a frozen pop (no trademark involved) and have something really interesting.
They are easy to make. And when you make them yourself, you can add some yogurt or milk to give them an extra flavor boost and perhaps a little nutritional boost.
Homemade are also inexpensive, although that depends on the kind of mold you use for the freezing process. You can get them from a dollar store or you can pick them up at one of those fancy specialty places for more.
Either way, your results will be every bit as good if you simply use paper cups as a mold, which are practically free.
Of those I tested, the most beautiful version was the Orange Strawberry Sunrise, which looked like a Tequila Sunrise cocktail: bright orange on top slowly deepening to a rich red on the bottom. The taste is pure, too, with orange juice turning satisfyingly into a wonderful strawberry.
Strawberry, as it turns out, is a terrific flavor for frozen pops. I used it in three of my varieties, including Roasted Strawberries and Cream. Roasting the strawberries draws out depths of flavor. Of course, nothing goes better with strawberries than cream, and you can certainly use cream with this recipe if you like, or coconut milk if you want to make it vegan. The result made me very happy, especially the way you can make a gorgeous swirl out of the cream and the roasted strawberries.
The Chocolate-Covered Strawberry pops were equally flavorful. These could not be easier to make; you simply blend a lot of strawberries with a little water. Once they are frozen, you dip them into a chocolate sauce that hardens when it touches ice cream or, as it turns out, a frozen pop.
That Magic Shell type of topping is also simple to make. You melt together some chocolate and a bit of refined coconut oil, which you can find in the baking aisle of any large supermarket. The only thing to remember is that, because it hardens when it gets cold, the sauce cannot be stored in the refrigerator, although it keeps at room temperature in an airtight container for a few days.
I also used the topping with a mint-flavored frozen pop made with chocolate chips and Greek yogurt. The mint flavor came from mint extract, and the lovely green color from food coloring. The recipe says the chocolate topping is optional, but chocolate is such a natural accompaniment to mint you’ll want to do it.
The most refreshing variety I made was the Minty Watermelon. The very thought of watermelon juice is refreshing, especially when you add fresh mint leaves to the purée.
Those two ingredients alone would make a fine frozen pop, but this version goes all out with coconut water, lime juice and a bit of honey for sweetening. If you are sweltering in the heat, this is definitely the frozen treat you want.
Similarly, cantaloupe pops are a frozen version of a spectacularly refreshing drink I have been making for decades, ever since discovering it in the desert on a day when the temperature was more than 115 degrees. I love to make a smoothie out of just cantaloupe, a sprinkling of sugar and milk. It’s divine. Now freeze it, and you have a cantaloupe frozen pop.
And while we are contemplating perfection, here is an idea that is also as great as it can be: root beer floats.
Incredible, right? So try them frozen on a stick. They taste exactly like a root beer float, only colder.
Perhaps the fruitiest version I made was pineapple-orange-banana, based on the classic fruit salad combination. They take only a few minutes to make, although, like all of these frozen treats, require several hours to freeze.
Finally, I am including a recipe for a generic fruit-and-yogurt frozen pop. You can swirl the fruit part and the yogurt part, as I did with the Roasted Strawberries and Cream, or you can blend the two together, which is what I did with a blueberry yogurt frozen pop. I used frozen blueberries and vanilla yogurt, which turned out a bit more purple than I had expected. But the flavor was grand, with a strong taste of blueberry.
On a hot summer day, could anything be better?