Explore summer popsicle possibilities with tips from an ice pop pro | Summer Survival Guide | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Explore summer popsicle possibilities with tips from an ice pop pro

click to enlarge Popsicle favor experiments: watermelon, lime, and honey; coconut milk, mango, chili, clementine, lime, and agave; blueberry and lemonade - CP ILLUSTRATION: ABBIE ADAMS
CP illustration: Abbie Adams
Popsicle favor experiments: watermelon, lime, and honey; coconut milk, mango, chili, clementine, lime, and agave; blueberry and lemonade
Let’s be honest: This is not the summer we were expecting. I’ve been trying to find things to keep myself in the spirit of the season and discovered the answer a few weeks ago when I saw popsicle molds online. I immediately ordered them and have been brainstorming, concocting, and eating popsicles on a daily basis ever since. As my husband said, “Popsicle molds are one of those things you buy and then immediately realize you need two of.” The world of popsicles is expansive with plenty of possibilities, suddenly turning everything into a frozen treat experiment. Blueberry lemonade? Absolutely. That Thai iced tea you just got from Nicky’s? Would probably be delicious. Salsa pops? Sure, why not?

CP ILLUSTRATION: ABBIE ADAMS
CP illustration: Abbie Adams
I spoke with Sara Voelker, owner of Stickler’s, a local small-batch ice pop company, for tips on how to make popsicles in order to live your best summer life.

Find your form: You can buy molds — there are tons of fun shapes to choose from. You can also DIY with whatever you have on hand: mini muffin tins, paper or plastic cups, shot glasses, ice cube trays, or mini pudding cups all work. Just cover your mold with tinfoil to prop up a popsicle stick in the middle after the mixture is partially frozen. You can pour everything into a loaf pan and then slice it up once it’s frozen. When you’re ready to eat, run the mold under hot water and jiggle them out.


Get creative: The possibilities for flavors are truly endless. Voelker recommends combining a fruit with an herb, such as pineapple and basil, or raspberry and mint. She also suggests taking inspiration from your favorite cocktail, though you should leave out the booze if you want it to actually freeze. Conduct lineup experiments by starting with a base that you know will work and then add an additional flavor to each consecutive popsicle to find your favorite combinations.

Be bold: “Flavor gets fairly diminished when freezing, so always add more flavors than you think you will need," says Voelker. "Use very ripe fruits and don’t skimp on whatever sweetener you are using because a lack of sweetness will mess with the balance of flavor from the fruit and they will taste bland." Popsicles without sugar will be more icy and grainy so she suggests experimenting with sugar in the raw, coconut sugar, honey, or agave. Another tip: adding citrus boosts the sweetness.

click to enlarge CP ILLUSTRATION: ABBIE ADAMS
CP illustration: Abbie Adams
Consistency is key: I made Earl Grey tea and honey popsicles which tasted great but was like sucking on a giant ice cube. My mistake? Popsicles with higher water content such as lemonade or tea freeze up harder but melt faster, explains Voelker. Milk, alternative milks, and yogurt add creaminess and result in a popsicle that is frozen but not rock solid. Voelker recommends using a high powered blender or immersion blender to get a smooth consistency, avoiding chunks of fruit which can get icy and result in an unappealing texture. If you’re slow like me, give the molds a little stir right before putting them in the freezer — that can help keep ingredients from separating and settling.

Additional tips for success:
A little goes a long way: My popsicle molds are only 5 oz. each, so you don’t need a lot volume-wise to fill them up quickly.


Be patient: Don’t pull the stick out before they are done or else you will be chipping it out with a spoon.

Make room for your freezer for the molds to stand up: Frozen drips and spills are harder to clean than normal ones.

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