If you have ever tried to make popsicles yourself, you will have probably felt the disappointment of having crappy blocks of ice instead of yummy ice pops. This unsavory phenomenon is because your wimpy -20°C freezer can’t congeal the water fast enough, causing chunky ice crystals. The addition of sugar and juice to water makes it freeze slower. This will result in the sugary liquid separating from the ice when you eat it. Eventually you will just be sucking on an ice cube.
Another reason that your homebrew popsicles will most likely suck, is that you don’t have access to the awesome chemicals they chuck into the factory made ones. Among these chemicals, the stabilizers are the most important for the texture. They allow the sugar and flavoring to blend in perfectly with the ice crystals and prevent the popsicle from dripping all over your hand while eating it.
No reason to fret however. I shall present a few pointers to help you achieve a tastier popsicle.
1) Low temperatures
Ideally you should flash freeze your popsicles in temperatures of maximum -40°C. One way you could achieve this is by dipping your popsicle molds in liquid nitrogen, cooling them to a whopping -196°C. However, if you are not a cattle brander, dermatologist, molecular chef, or if you don’t work in a lab, you won’t have easy access to this nifty liquid.
A poor man’s alternative to liquid nitrogen is to mix dry ice with denatured ethanol. Dipping your pops in this concoction will get you as low as -80°C.
An even easier way to get low temperatures is to make a highly saturated brine by dissolving as much kitchen salt in water as you can. This is a traditional household trick to make icecream and would get you to around -21°C. In industrial production of popsicles similar brine tanks are used in which the molds are submerged. Of course you can always by one of the many available commercial popsicle molds. The best ones have a liquid refrigerant inside to reach temperatures as low as your home freezer can take it.
When you just leave your popsicle mixture standing in the freezer, the water will freeze faster than the dissolved sugars. By stirring the freezing liquid, you will constantly mix the water and the dissolved stuff, causing them to freeze more harmoniously. Of course it would be a drag to stir it yourself, so just put your popsicle mix in an icecream maker before freezing it.
3) Your very own stabilizers
As mentioned before, stabilizers help to mix the flavors into the popsicle and prevent you from having to eat sludge on a stick. Some easy to find household items can be used as stabilizers in your homebrew ice pops. You can start by using syrup instead of sugar to sweeten your mixture. Syrups (like high fructose corn syrup) will provide cohesion to your mix, improving the viscosity and texture of your pops.
You can also add some gelatin or the vegetarian alternatives, agar and carrageenan (extracted from seaweeds). In the right concentrations, these substances will provide your popsicle batter with a nice gooey consistency. Add too much however and you get jello shots.
Even though I never bother to make them myself, I hope these pointers will help, should you ever intend to make your own popsicles.