As a child, I thought that making ice cream at home was the type of thing only early American pioneers did. Ice cream came from the store, or an ice cream shop, and it was packaged in a square container that opened up like an envelope from the front. (I cannot be the only person here who remembers ice cream being packaged in this manner, can I? The flimsy box, the tight corners that held onto the ice cream and resisted being nudged out by a rounded scoop? In terms of ice cream package technology, whoever thought to ditch the box with square corners and develop a more rounded package was a genius.) When, in the book Farmer Boy, Almanzo Wilder and his siblings were left to their own devices after their parents left town for a week and deemed the children to be in charge of the farm, what was the first thing the kids did? They made ice cream (and cake, and candy…and then more cake and ice cream). They made so much ice cream and sweet treats, in fact, that they almost completely emptied out the family’s sugar barrel.
Reading about this intense feat of sugar consumption practically gave me a contact high. Making ice cream at home? For dinner? You can imagine how compelling I found this idea (I was going to add in the words “as a child,” but, let’s face it, I sort of like that idea now as well). It seemed so rugged, and yet also so simple. I want some ice cream, so I’ll just make some. It was like reading about the secrets behind a magic trick.
Obviously, as I got older and became in charge of my own kitchen and what went on in it, I found out that making homemade ice cream was just about as simple as eating homemade ice cream. Once I was gifted an ice cream maker, it was like having a license to print money. Somehow, it seems almost sneaky to make your own ice cream , like you’re totally getting away with doing something that’s meant to be handled only by the likes of professionals. It is also, I have found, slightly addictive. Not just the ice cream itself, I mean, but making the ice cream. Every time I find myself in possession of some interesting chocolate or chilies (or both, because, man have you ever had spicy chocolate ice cream? SO GOOD), or a nice supply of super ripe fruit, my mind immediately turns to thoughts of transforming those goods into a creamy batch of ice cream.
Last week, when it was 95 degrees in Portland, we had just gotten back from our annual trip to San Francisco, where we ate ice cream nearly every single day. This year we rented an apartment across the street from a great gelato place, which meant that we ended up spending an inordinate amount of time there, filling our bellies with gelato. We also, as we do every year, spent a great deal of time getting ice cream form Bi-Rite Creamery, as any ice cream loving person should know to do. I am a huge fan of their brown sugar ice cream with a ginger caramel swirl, so, once we got home to Portland and the heat left me no other choice but to make ice cream, I decided to test drive their brown sugar concept with some fresh nectarines. It’s usually my habit to plump up the flavor of fresh fruit with a bit of lemon juice, but, in the interest of trying something new, I subbed in some lime juice instead. What emerged after my tinkering was a creamy, bright, delightful ice cream with the strong flavor of nectarines balanced by a gentle undertone of sweetness. It was wonderful. It is wonderful. And I suggest you grab yourself an ice cream maker and find out for yourself.
Ice cream, previously: Fresh Ginger Ice Cream, Six Threes Ice Cream, Coconut Lime Frozen Yogurt and Chewy Ginger Cookie Sandwiches
Brown Sugar Nectarine Ice Cream Recipe
1 ¼ pounds pitted, diced ripe nectarines (about 3 large)
1/4 cup water
½ cup light brown sugar
3 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup milk
juice of ½ a lime
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, combine nectarines and water. Bring to a boil, cover, then allow to simmer over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, until the nectarines have broken down and released a great deal of their juices. Set aside to cool.
While the nectarines are cooking, combine brown sugar, egg yolks, and heavy cream in a medium saucepan. Whisk to combine, then heat mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and reaches a temperature of around 170 degrees F. The mixture should coat the back of a spoon, leaving a clean trail when swiped with a finger. Remove from heat, whisk in milk, then place in the refrigerator to cool.
When both mixtures have cooled, combine them in a blender or food processor and blend on high speed until completely smooth and combined. Stir in lime juice and vanilla, then refrigerate until complete cooled, about 2 hours. Alternately, if you don’t want to wait, you can place the nectarine custard mixture in a thin, nonreactive metal bowl, place the metal bowl in larger bowl filled with mostly ice with a bit of water, and stir the mixture as the metal bowl rests in its ice bath. After about 10-15 minutes of careful stirring (being careful not to tip the custard bowl over into the ice water), the mixture will become quite cold.
Freeze mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.
Makes just under 1 quart of ice cream.