On hot summer days, the queue at La Original Paleteria y Neveria grows in the late afternoon, when kids, parents, suits – everyone – in the Guadalupe Washington neighborhood of San Jose crave a cold treat to brave the heat.
Some come for trendy mangonadas that shine with taijin-sprinkled mango, others for a single scoop of creamy, homemade guava ice cream. But it’s the humble paleta, an ice cube made from fresh fruit or dairy products, that has the greatest variety and the best price: $ 2.25 per pop.
“We have around 40 flavors, more when things like pitaya are in season,” says Andres Sepulveda, who runs the shop his parents Elsa and Manuel opened in 2014.
Like other Latino-owned paleterias, including Guanatos in the East Bay and Pepitos Paleteria based in San Francisco, La Original’s freezer is a rainbow of nostalgia, from classics like strawberry and coconut to more unusual flavors like pine nuts and mamey. They even make a pop out of gansita, the snack cake.
“We are particularly proud of that,” he says. “We mix in vanilla ice cream and cut pieces of the cake into the shape. People tell us that it reminds them of Mexico. “
Paletas reflect time and place, which is why they might pop up everywhere, from fine-dining restaurants and DoorDash menus to luxury hotels with paleta carts popping up by the pool. And that ability to create new flavor combinations, like Mexico City-born pastry chef Fany Gerson does with hibiscus and raspberry palettes, or to freeze a cultural drink – like Mariana Velasquez’s cinnamon and oat pales, made from a horchata-like That drink is inspired in Colombia – explains its timeless appeal.
After finishing his career in real estate, Oscar Salazar opened Guanatos Ice Cream 20 years ago, following in the footsteps of his grandmother, who ran paleterias in his family’s hometown, Guadalajara. The recipes are the same, he says, and the fruit is even better, if possible in organic quality. In addition to premium bars such as Chongos Zamoranos, Mexico’s sweet cheese pudding in ice pop form, they produce 16 fruit pops from pineapple and soursop to watermelon and nance or golden cherry.
“We buy about $ 6,000 to $ 7,000 in fruit a month,” says Salazar, who owns ice cream parlors in Oakley and Bay Point and also supplies Las Montañas Markets in Concord and San Pablo.
One of his favorite pastimes is guessing a customer’s # 1 flavor based on what part of Latin America they are from. “When I discover a Peruvian accent, I know it will be Lucuma, it’s her vanilla,” says Salazar. “If you’re from Argentina, I’ll give you a dulce de leche. It makes you happy immediately. “
Nancy Rosales founded Pepitos Paletas in 2007 out of a longing for the flavors of home – Zacatecas, Mexico – such as arroz con leche, tamarindo and caramelized sweetcorn. “I missed my culture in a lot of ways,” says Rosales. “I wanted to have the experience of making paletas like my parents did, only with fruit, water and agave.”
Today, the female-only cooperative has weathered a recession and pandemic, evolving from a San Francisco storefront to a catering company and online Paläta shop. Rosales offers more than 35 paletas, from vegan options like honey kiwi to Mexican abuelita mocha with sea salt. The paletas are all natural, so the lime is clear with mint flecks, not neon green, and the kiwi pop is rich in pureed and sliced fruit.
For delivery across the Bay Area, she developed a biodegradable box that keeps Pops cool for eight hours. Bars are $ 3 to $ 4 each, with a minimum order of 10. And stay tuned: In January, Rosales is bringing back Pepitos World Tour, a menu of paletas inspired by global flavors like Vegan Acai (Brazil) dipped in coconut flakes and muesli, tiramisu (Italy) and Thai iced tea.
Mike Taylor’s Japanese and black heritage shapes some of the flavors of Bliss Pops, his online ice pop shop in Redwood City, where you can find matcha green tea pops alongside southern-flavored sweet tea. But it was the years he spent in Guadalajara that inspired him to start the company that develops bespoke ice cubes for Google and Facebook and delivers them through CloudKitchens in Oakland, Hayward, San Jose and San Francisco.
“When I was growing up, popsicles were pretty much colored sugar water,” says Taylor. “But when I saw these paleta guys with their wheelbarrows that used dairy and natural ingredients, I was overwhelmed and found myself eating them every day.”
Taylor sources its ingredients through Cheetah and farmers markets in the Bay Area. And the Bliss Pops commercial kitchen has a pop bath with a temperature of 30 degrees below zero to snap-freeze the pops in small quantities. But he does give a few tips for anyone who wants to make ice cream pops at home.
To get started, use the ripe fruit you can find. Natural sweetness is better than sugar. “They want the fruits that no longer look beautiful,” he says. “The more mature and beaten up, the better.” And use metal molds, not plastic. Metal tends to freeze faster.
What about that icy layer that often covers a homemade ice cube that has just been pulled out of the mold?
“This is water in the atmosphere that is being incorporated,” he explains. “It also dilutes the taste.”
One way to avoid this is dry ice. “Press it against the molds,” advises Taylor. “Just be sure you handle it safely. Wear gloves. “
Another tip? Don’t be afraid to experiment with ingredients. Bliss Pop’s newest flavor – Taylor comes out with a new flavor every year – is a creamy sea salt caramel coffee made from silken tofu. And it’s a direct hit.
“The home delivery showed me that paletas aren’t just a summer thing,” he says. “They are all year round and people are really interested in vegan options.”