Normally the Kwanzan Flowering Cherry Tree in my garden blooms in late April to early May. This year, though, it's at peak bloom now--in early April. Despite the early bloom, I was prompted to bring the old ice cream maker up from the basement. It's somewhat of a tradition that our ice cream season begins when the cherry tree blooms. I should upgrade to a sleek, modern, bells-and-whistles ice cream maker, but homemade ice cream, for me, wouldn't be the same without ice and rock salt. I am an absolute ice-cream snob. I almost never eat ice cream unless it's homemade.
Growing up, my brother, my sister and I were spoiled by our father's homemade vanilla-egg-custard ice cream. Actually, we weren't that spoiled. We were assigned to take turns cranking the handle of the ice cream maker. The aluminum cylinder, filled with the precious liquid custard, was a chore to spin against layers of stubborn, chipped block ice and rock salt.
After what seemed like hours, we enjoyed sweet, cold vanilla custard ice cream--but our arms trembled with fatigued with every spoonful. Other than gaining a life-long appreciation for freshly made ice cream, I developed an early and complete understanding of "pain before pleasure" and "work ethic." Cranking that handle on the ice cream maker was just one of my dad's 1001 chores that brought that point home.
|These blossoms, like a canopy of cotton candy, begged to be photographed.|
Despite the earliness of my self-imposed ice cream season, I was excited about making a cold, rich treat. It's been, at times, pretty warm here in the Washington, D.C. area over the past few weeks.
|Main ingredients: whole milk with cream, more cream, and Half & Half|
|I added fresh vanilla bean to the main ingredients|
For this recipe, I didn't want to fool with eggs, and I didn't want to make this sweet brew richer than it already was. So, I adapted Mark Bittman's recipe for vanilla ice cream that uses corn starch as a binder and an ingredient that works to make the ice cream like custard. If you decide to make this delicious ice cream, do so for the once-in-a-blue-moon special occasion since the ingredients are so rich. You can also substitute the whole milk for skim, omit the whipping cream, and add 3 cups of Half & Half.
Organic Vanilla Ice Cream (Makes 1 Generous Gallon)
(Adapted from Mark Bittman's Cornstarch Ice Cream Recipe)
2 organic vanilla beans
1/2 gallon organic creamline* whole milk (or whole milk)
1/2 pint organic heavy whipping cream
1 cup organic Half & Half
1 cup organic sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 cup cold milk or water
*In creamline whole milk, the cream is retained and separates from the milk, which appears as a line between the cream and the milk.
- Place vanilla beans on clean cutting board and split with a sharp paring knife. Using the side of the knife, scrape out the vanilla tiny, oily seeds inside. (See this demonstration of the technique on YouTube.) Put the seeds in a small bowl as they are scraped from the pod.
- In a large, heavy bottomed pot, pour in the milk, cream, half and half and add the sugar and salt.
- Turn heat on medium-low; watch and stir frequently as the milk comes to a simmer, but not a rolling boil. (I don't recommend using unpasteurized ingredients, but if you do, cook the mixture to 155 degrees for 30 minutes.)
- Watch for bubbling of the milk mixture to begin against the sides of the pot. When that happens, it's time to add the vanilla seeds.
- After adding the vanilla seeds, toss the pods into the pot as well. Stir well to distribute the vanilla seeds throughout the mixture. Adding the pods will help to make the vanilla flavor more intense (if that's what you like). You will take the pods out of the pot before churning the milk-and-cream mixture.
- Stir the cornstarch into a small bowl of 1/2 cup cold milk or water and stir with a fork or small whisk until dissolved.
- Add cornstarch mixture to the pot and stir.
- Transfer the mixture to a heatproof plastic container with lid or place the pot in the refrigerator until mixture cools 4-6 hours or (better) overnight.
Directions for Ice Cream Maker
What you'll need:
4-quart Electric Ice Cream Maker
15 pounds ice
5 pound bag rock salt
- Remove vanilla pods from the ice cream mixture.
- Pour ice cream mixture into the canister. Follow manufacturer's directions for your ice cream maker to avoid overfilling the canister.
- Place filled canister in the center of the ice-cream-maker bucket.
- Add 1 to 2 inches of ice around the canister and add 1/2 cup of rock salt. Continue in layers until the ice and salt reach within two inches of the top of the canister.
- Assemble the motor and other parts per manufacturer's directions for your ice cream maker.
- Place the ice cream maker in the sink or do the churning outside.
- Churn the ice cream for 20-40 minutes. You will have to add more ice and rock salt as the ice melts. (If the canister resists turning, remove some of the ice until it begins to move.) Churn until the unit slows down, labors, or stops.
- Spoon the ice cream from the canister into bowl and enjoy!
- Freeze the leftover ice cream, which will last up to two weeks.