August 06, 2006

Ice Cream, Or Something Like It

I've been playing around with ice cream making lately. I was motivated to do this on a particularly hot day when I remembered making homemade ice cream many moons ago, (around 4380 moons if you want a number, our ice cream machine hasn’t been used in at least a decade and I’m gauging even more than that). I remember it tasting completely different from anything I'd ever had from the store. It was creamier, richer and it had depth. We used to keep fresh made ice cream (while it lasted) in an old margarine container and I would sneak spoonfuls of it from the freezer when no one else was around. Unfortunately, the ice cream maker seemed to be a novelty item that quickly fell into disuse in my house. The freezing tub took up too much space in the freezer and the whole thing was eventually packed into its box, not to be opened again until years later. It was never thrown out though and survived the move to a new house.

Up until a couple weeks ago it remained in its first landing spot- the basement, gathering dust on a shelf with a variety of other items, (extra kitchen tiles, pieces of a water bed that never got reassembled after the move, a foot spa, a coleman lantern, some old ski boots...). After having picked a flat of strawberries and being unsure of what to turn them into, I resurrected the ice cream maker for some good old fashioned strawberry ice cream. I was delighted to find that all of the pieces were in the box and even more delighted that the machine could still turn out a damn good spot of ice cream, just like when I was a kid. It was good, but not perfect. I didn’t churn the ice cream enough so it wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked it to be, but the flavour of the fresh strawberries more than made up for any inconsistencies in texture.

After getting off to such a great start, I was eager to make more ice cream. I decided to stick to the basics and make chocolate. I had bought some Mexican chocolate, but it turned out not to be the kind that I had been looking for (with cinnamon in it) and I made the ill-fated decision to use it in my ice cream. Not only was this chocolate not what I was looking for, but it was grainy, not really chocolately at all, and basically tasted like granulated sugar mixed with a little cocoa powder for colour. I don’t know why I thought this sub-par chocolate could be improved by turning it into ice cream. It could not. The ice cream turned out just like the chocolate from whence it came, grainy and decidedly lacking in chocolate flavour. This didn’t mean the end of my ice cream making though, I was learning valuable lessons: churn more often, don’t use inferior ingredients.

My third and most recent foray into ice cream making has been the most successful. At the Farmer’s Market last week Dad and I bought some white peaches. They seem to be a trend lately as we’d been hearing about them on quite a few cooking shows. August’s issue of Bon Appetit is also full of peach recipes so I had no shortage of ideas on what to do with them. I ended up not using any of the recipes I had already seen and instead invented some gelato. We were all out of cream and I had no intentions of going anywhere to buy some, (in my battle against making superfluous trips to town, I think I’m finally starting to win) so gelato was an easy choice as we had plenty of milk in the fridge. The peaches became quite ripe before I had gotten around to doing anything with them and I realized that if I didn’t use them almost immediately I would lose my chance. Into the blender went the peaches (pitted and peeled), with some milk, sugar, fresh picked raspberries, (I had gone berry picking with Mom) and grated ginger for a nice kick. From the blender the mixture went into the ice cream machine and then the freezer. I remembered to churn this one often and the results were great. The gelato is a rich raspberry colour and each of the flavours are easily distinguishable while at the same time complementary. Forget the normal flavours, experimenting with new flavours is where it’s at. I’m coming up with all sorts of ideas for future flavours, (and am open to suggestions) but my next ice cream will have to be cherry because it will be for Mom’s birthday. After that, all bets are off.

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