Thursday, June 20, 2013

Homemade Sweet Cherry Ice Cream: First Freeze of Summer Fresh Fruit

 I know it isn't quite Summer yet, but it is here since I have made the first batch of homemade ice cream. It is cherry season, at least in those places where they grow cherries. Central Texas doesn't get cold enough and gets too hot for the quaint stone fruit, so this is something we must import from places like.... New Mexico*, which I think of as close enough to be almost local.  Anyway, whereever they come from, fresh cherries are abundant and relatively inexpensive right now.

I found a bargain on some that were past their prime, and had been drastically discounted. For ice cream, we want them cut into quarters rather than halves, plus they need to be fully ripe, so this is a good use for imperfect fruit that has reached full flavor. The necessity of tiny pieces of fully ripe fruit I discovered last year when I made the mistake of using commercially frozen peaches in large chunks. They froze so hard that they were not pleasant to eat.

My recipe is a custard-type. It uses egg yolks and is cooked. This makes a luscious, rich ice cream with just the right amount of body. Mema used flour to thicken hers, but I never liked that, I prefer the smoothness of the eggs. The fact that we can buy yard eggs with golden yolks from our neighbor's happy hens is a bonus.

It takes a little practice to learn how to make a custard. There isn't really any secret, just have to be whisking the eggs really fast while pouring a stream of the hot milk into the eggs to "temper" them, then whisk the hot milk really fast while you pour the tempered egg yolk back into the pot and finish cooking. Until you get the hang of it, pour the whole cooked batch through a strainer when it is cooked. That will remove any "scrambled eggs". Eventually you won't need that step any longer.

*(*THINK FOR YOURSELF TIP O' THE DAY: I won't go into the politics of the northwestern state fruit growers and the unreported twists in a lot of the mess our domestic food and immigration policies are in but it is something worth researching sometime. Hint: you will learn a lot if you read news from about 1995 through 2005 on sites sympathetic to Migrant Labor, Fruit Growers, etc. )

Now without further ado, on with the recipe!

Fresh Cherry Ice Cream
Makes about 1 1/2 Quarts

1 1/4 Cup Sugar
2 Cups Whole Milk or Half and Half
5 Egg Yolks (freeze the whites to use for meringue)
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Heavy Cream (Whipping Cream)
2 Cups Cherries, pitted and coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 pounds)

Pit and chop the cherries, stir in 1/4 cup of sugar and set aside until the end.

Scald the milk in a 2 quart saucepan ("scald" means heat to steaming but do not boil).

Whisk the egg yolks and 1 cup of sugar in a mixing bowl.  Temper the yolks by pouring about half the hot milk in a thin stream while whisking the egg yolks very fast. I like to use a pyrex measuring cup for this, just dip it out (careful not to burn yourself) and pour. Makes it easier to keep whisking if you don't have someone to help you.  A stand mixer is also a good helper for this task - it can be beating the eggs whilst you pour.

Then pour the tempered egg yolks back into the rest of the milk while whisking the milk. Cook and stir, to prevent boiling, for 3 or 4 minutes until the mixture has thickened some. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temp. It is at this stage that you can strain it if you wish. 

After the custard has cooled, add the heavy cream and the vanilla extract.

Freeze in your ice cream freezer, following manufacturer's directions. Pay special attention to the need for salt in the freezing process - it is the salt that lowers the temperature below that of ice alone to enable freezing.

When the custard is frozen, remove the dasher and fold in the cherries. At this stage, I transfer my ice cream to freezer containers and put them in the chest freezer. If you want to finish the freezing in your ice cream maker, leave the canister set in the ice, remove the lid and the dasher, stir in the cherries then replace the lid securely, fill the whole bucket with more ice and salt, cover with a towel and let it sit for an hour or two until you are ready to serve, adding more ice as necessary.

I used to use a hand-cranked freezer, but last year I bought an electric one - mainly because my little manual one was not large enough. The electric one seems to take longer to freeze, but since I am not powering it that doesn't hurt! :-)


About the photo:  Fresh Cherry Ice Cream gets pride of place for its picture in my great grandmother's Pink Cherry Blossom Depression Glass. Big Granddaddy gave this set to Big Grandmother for one of their anniversaries, and I inherited it from her.   Isn't that vintage spoon adorable? It says "Betty Lou" on the handle, and is Carlton Silverplate. I have a funny little collection of figural spoons. I'll take pictures and show them here sometime.

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