Popsicles: Buy It vs. Make It
All right: you may or may not want to deal with the hassle of making your own ice cream. But popsicles? Those are easier, and crazy fun — especially with kids.
I have really fond memories of my older sisters (The Teenagers! It was like living with rock stars!) pouring deep-purple grape juice into ice-cube trays, then busting them out the next afternoon when the air seemed to buzz, not just with the sound of the cicadas but with the sizzle of the sun against our skin. My friend Heather’s mom stuck toothpicks in hers, but we didn’t bother; we just held ours in paper towels, and I can still feel the cool, delicious strangeness of sucking the juice through the paper (a peculiar habit of my own invention, I’m sure).
As with everything else, popsicles have come a long way since the mumble-mumbles. (Fine. It was the ’70s. I’m old.) These days you can get a set of four pop molds for as little as $5, or as much as $35 for a fancy doohickey that’s stored in the freezer and freezes four at a time in 8 minutes flat. (Why yes, I did get talked into that model, and you know what? It’s hilarious and awesome.) (Well, and Recipe.com paid for it, so don’t scold me, Mom.)
But is it worth it? Well. I guess it depends on how many popsicles you go though, and how picky you are. Once again, I have to refer to the food-obsessed burg I reside in: San Francisco, which is home to several artisan popsicle makers. I’m thinking in particular of Lick Pops, where they make amazing flavors like cucumber mint, Mexican chocolate and peach mojito. (Yes, it packs a rummy punch. No, I’m not eating one right now. Only because I’m working.)
Making your own popsicles — beyond just “putting juice in mold” — requires a few helpful hints, and maybe a recipe or two (I tried out the root beer float and cucumber lime pops with gin, and they were terrific. I also froze juice and chocolate soy milk, also tremendously tasty.). Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be off and running. Or off to the supermarket! It’s up to you.
Popsicles can be as difficult or as easy as you want them to be. If you have a favorite fruit juice (like one of those fancy strawberry-banana-orange mixes), you just freeze it — there’s no trick, and it comes out great. If you like ones with layers, that’s easy to figure out, too. Or you can be like me and go to the effort of letting some root beer go flat (so the carbonation doesn’t interfere with the freezing process), timing things perfectly so you can suck out the inner, unfrozen layer of a popsicle in time to make an under-layer of a second flavor, or standing at the stove creating a simple syrup to combine with nontraditional ingredients. (Yes, I probably have issues.)
It’s a little difficult to figure out the cost per ounce for products like this. However, the fanciest artisan pops I could find were $2 each (Bar Gelato’s Saint George Single Malt Whiskey — drooooool). The fanciest supermarket brand I could find topped out at $3.33 for 6, or 56 cents per pop, and got a lot cheaper (my beloved Fudgesicles are 8 for $2.50, or 32 cents each). If you have a lot of kids, you’ll go through them at a frightening rate — which will add up. Meanwhile, Tropicana is 13 cents an ounce; a gallon will make something like 21 pops, at 21 cents each. Hawaiian Punch is 2 cents an ounce; you do the math. Making your own, whether fancy or not, is cheaper.
There is such a range of pops, and an even bigger range of preferences. Personally, I think a sweet-tea popsicle sounds like the greatest thing in the entire world. You might run screaming to the Spongebob Squarepants Pop-ups. I can’t make the decision for you. For me? I like homemade better — especially since I can use ingredients like soy chocolate milk, organic juice, and … okay, GIN.
This one works out to a nice little equation of sorts. No matter whether you’re looking to simulate super-cheap fruit pops at home or the fancy kind, the ones you make will be cheaper than the ones you buy, and the effort is commensurate as well, so … make it!
What’s the verdict? Check out all our Buy It vs. Make It comparisons!