Growing up in sunny Southern California, I am no stranger to the Mexican border, where I have traveled back and forth throughout my life. Each time my family would pack up the car to travel south into Tijuana, Rosarito, Puerto Nuevo, Ensenada, or Mexicali, I would begin to take inventory of the snacks and treats I would ultimately indulge in once my feet hit Mexican soil. At the top of that list: paletas. Always.
There was something about the natural fruit popsicles that made a lasting impression on me. Was it the meaty bite of the paleta de coco (coconut), or the tangy sweetness of the lime paleta, or both?
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As I got older, I started to see more authentic paletas seep their way into my city of Los Angeles. Soon I was presented with a mixture of flavors and a variety so wide it made it hard to choose. Not too long ago, I started to dabble with paleta-making myself. I wanted to create flavors my son would love, and control the ingredients.
Here is my guide to great paleta-making:
Step 1: Ingredients & making your flavor. First decide on what fruit you are craving. I typically use fruits that are in season. Seasonal fruits are the sweetest and can be bought in bulk at a lower price. I also like to use fruit that is over-ripe to make sure it is super sweet, that way you don't need to use that much sugar.
Once you have decided on your fruit or fruits, it's time to elect either milk base or water base for your paletas. If using dairy, you have the option of half and half, milk, whipping cream, yogurt, sour cream, evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk.
You will combine the dairy of your choice with cooked fruit and sweetener in a sauce pan for 15 minutes over a low flame. Allow mixture to cool, then blend. I typically will sweeten my paleta with either sugar, brown sugar or honey. Keep in mind that the paleta will taste a little less sweet than your liquid mixture.
For water based paletas, make a syrup with water and sweetener by dissolving sweetener in water over a low flame. Allow syrup to cool, then add fruit and blend in a blender.
Step 2: Pour it in a mold. You could use standard popsicle molds, ice trays, plastic cups or paper cups. Using a pitcher or spout, pour your paleta flavor into your mold then stick a wooden stick into your pops, unless the molds come with the sticks. Make sure to leave a half an inch room from the top. If sticks are not staying centered, wrap a piece of plastic wrap on top of mold and poke a hole in the center and insert stick. The plastic wrap will keep it in place.
Step 3: Freeze it. Place paletas at the back of your freezer where it is super cold to ensure freezing. I suggest leaving in the freezer overnight or a minimum of 8 hours.
Step 4: Unmold & store. Place molds in a container (the same height of the mold) of warm water and let sit for 20 seconds. Once you feel the paleta loosen, pull up toward the sky for the best paleta. Once you unmold paletas, place them in a zip lock bag or resealable airtight bag and place back in freezer for at least 1 hour. Store in freezer for up to a month.
This post was originally published on June 12, 2013.
Image via Nicole Presley