The Butter Bitch and I received an ice cream maker last year as a wedding gift, and we put the gift to good use during the warm summer of 2005. This prompts a belated shout out to Erik and Holly in Oakland, the givers of our much-used ice cream maker. For some reason, I did not start to use the ice cream maker until late July of this year. Temperatures were 15-20 degrees above average for most of the month, and I suppose I was too busy dealing with zucchinis and getting doned.
My experiments with frozen delights began with a sorbet, and ended with the delicious huckleberry ice cream pictured to the right. In most cases, I made the concoctions using local ingredients including honey for sweetener, although the huckleberry ice cream does have sugar (I'll explain why in a bit).
The device we have is Cuisinart's ICE-20 series, and it is fairly simple to use as long as you remember to put the freezing bowl into your freezer a few hours before you make ice cream. Kitchen-Aid mixers (we have one of those too) have a variety of attachments including an ice cream maker. We discovered this fact during the last Ethicurean conference call, when we decided what the Dairy Queen Mother should buy the Dairy Queen for Christmas. (The Dairy Queen has neither an ice cream maker nor, more importantly, a Kitchen Aid.)
The purpose of an ice cream maker is to blend ingredients thoroughly, as well as to freeze them. Cuisinart's ice cream maker comes with a book of recipes that serves as a good baseline for making one's own ice creams and sorbets. We followed the recipes last year and were pleased with the results. This year, I decided to experiment in part because I didn't want to use sugar in all of the recipes and in part because I had ingredients that didn't appear in their booklet.
When I bought my chocolate mint plants a couple of months ago, one of the employees at the garden shop told me that the mint was perfect for ice cream. We had half a pint of raspberries from our CSA box, so I decided to make sorbet as my first frozen dish of the summer. I was determined to use as many local ingredients as possible, so I eliminated sugar and turned to local honey from our farmers' market. Lemons don't grow in Washington, that I know of, so my one exception to "local only" was to use lemon juice from an organic lemon bought at PCC.
Raspberry Mint Sorbet
1 loose cup of fresh mint leaves
1/2 pint of raspberries, washed
1 cup of wildflower honey
1 cup of water
juice from half a lemon (about 2 T)
I puréed the raspberries and mint leaves in a small food processor while the water and honey heated on the stove. If you don't have a food processor, chop the mint finely and crush the mint together with the raspberries.
My intent was to warm the honey enough to mix everything by hand, let the mixture cool, and then freeze and mix using the ice cream maker. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to put the freezing bowl into the freezer. I wound up mixing the ingredients and rationalizing that the lemon juice and honey coupled with refrigeration would preserve the other ingredients over night. The next day, I warmed the mixture slightly to loosen the honey from the pan and poured the mixture into the freezing bowl. The mixer mixes and freezes in less than 30 minutes, more than enough time to wash up the dishes dirtied while preparing the ingredients. I covered the freezing bowl with tin foil and set it in the freezer so the sorbet would solidify completely overnight.
The combination of raspberries and mint is very good, and we discovered that honey lends a creamy texture when frozen. Also, honey does not cause as sudden a sugar rush as granulated sugar (sucrose), which made it that much easier to eat big bowls of the stuff and give ourselves ice cream headaches.
Honey Basil Ice Cream
The following week, we got a bunch of basil with our CSA box. Some of the basil went into a green bean salad, and about half was destined for pesto. I decided to use the rest to make ice cream. You might wonder why I would make ice cream, since I have trouble digesting lactose, and you might be surprised that I used raw organic milk to make the ice cream. I have been experimenting with raw milk, which surprisingly is easy for me to digest, but I'll write about that another time. For now, I'll recommend that you use whole milk or cream unless you have a trusted source of raw milk.
Raw milk contains 4-6% milk fat depending on the type of cow used. Our raw milk sources use Guernsey and Jersey cows, which give milk higher in fat than Holsteins. Holstein milk, the kind used in industrial milk operations, tops out at roughly 3.8% milk fat. Most recipes call for whole milk and cream, but a high-fat raw milk works very well.
3 cups raw organic milk, or 1 cup whole milk and 2 cups heavy cream
1 loose cup of basil leaves
1 cup wildflower honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
I hand chopped the basil leaves and mixed them with the honey and the milk. I didn't heat the honey, partly to avoid damaging the milk, and relied on the mixer to blend everything. Scraping the honey from the mixing bowl required a little extra effort. I debated whether or not to use the vanilla extract and decided to toss
some in at the last minute. The ice cream would have been fine without the extract, and the next time I make this recipe I won't include vanilla.
The honey flavor was too strong in the ice cream, possibly because of the combination of honey and vanilla. While the sorbet turned out sweet, the raspberry and mint masked the honey. The best description for the honey basil ice cream is cloying, which would have been disappointing except for a fortuitous experiment by the Butter Bitch.
With dinner one night, we had a bottle of Adelsheim's Rosé of Pinot Noir that I had brought back from Oregon. The wine lasted through dinner to dessert, which for me was the last of the raspberry mint sorbet. The Butter Bitch decided to try the honey basil ice cream with the Rosé, and it was an excellent combination. The mild tartness and acidity of the Rosé tempered the sweetness of the honey and worked very well with the basil. I liked the combination so much that I was compelled to confirm the experiment with extra bites from her dish. The wine went nicely with the sorbet, too.
Huckleberry ice cream
Unfortunately, we didn't discover the magic combination of honey basil ice cream and rosé until after I made huckleberry ice cream. Because of the strong honey taste in the first ice cream, I opted to use sugar in the huckleberry ice cream. The huckleberries came from the forager's stand at Ballard Farmers' Market. Huckleberries aren't often found in stores because they grow high in the mountains and are harvested by foraging. Usually, they wind up at expensive restaurants, so we were pleased to discover that the foragers had brought down several pounds. They aren't cheap at the farmers' market--we paid $7.50 for a quart that weighed between 1-2 pounds. We stretched the fruit a long way, adding the berries to pancakes, gins and tonic, and of course ice cream.
Huckleberries are mildly tart compared to blueberries and have an intense flavor.
3 cups raw organic milk or 1 cup of whole milk and 2 cups of heavy cream
2 cups huckleberries, rinsed and cleaned of stems
1 cup of organic sugar
juice from half a lemon (about 2 T)
1 tablespoon of chopped lemon zest
Stir the sugar, milk and lemon thoroughly to dissolve the sugar. Mix the liquids in the ice cream maker for 25 minutes, then add the huckleberries and continue to mix for another 5 minutes.
Of all three mixtures, the huckleberry ice cream has been my favorite. The tartness of the berry and the creamy sweetness of the milk combine to make a true frozen delight.