Strawberry Picking Ice Cream

Berry picking in Ipswich.

This past Sunday, I went strawberry picking with my friend Denise. Our trip to Russell Orchards in Ipswich was not very fruitful (pun most certainly intended). The place was pretty much picked over (I meant that one, too). After hours of backbreaking manual labor we’d each managed to collect barely a quart of tiny, sort-of ripe, slightly shriveled berries that had already started molding the next day.

Strawberries picked at Russell Orchards. “Slim pickin’s.”

But Denise was not about to settle for such substandard strawberries, and tried again yesterday at Verrill Farms in Concord. This time, she hit the jackpot: shiny, sweet, deep red, flavor-packed gems. Armed with this luscious new supply of fruit, I was ready to try out my brand-new ice cream maker, the Cuisinart ICE-21.

Strawberries picked at Verrill Farms. “Super berries.”

Besides the poor quality and scarce quantity of berries, the oppressive heat this past week deterred me from making ice cream, since all of the recipes I found called for cooking a custard base. As soon as I saw the words “double boiler,” I was put off. But then I spotted this beautifully simple GourmetPerfect No-Cook Strawberry Ice Cream” recipe and regained interest in the Strawberry Ice Cream project. My only modifications were to sub whole milk for half of the cream (sometimes I find ice creams made only with heavy cream a bit greasy) and to add a bit of vodka to keep the ice cream from getting too rock-hard in the freezer. This was my first go with the Cuisinart, but clearly the yield of this recipe was a bit much for it, since it started overflowing within the first five minutes. Next time, I’ll either halve the recipe or freeze it in two batches. If you have an ice cream maker with a larger capacity (the ICE-21 allegedly holds up to 1-1/2 quarts, but couldn’t contain this recipe, which supposedly yields exactly 1-1/2 quarts), then go for it all at once. As I frantically spooned the excess into a bowl, the ice cream stopped rotating around the blade at one point, and I couldn’t tell if this was because my machine was malfunctioning (hope not) or because I’d poked at it with a spatula, and it was annoyed. We’ll see how the next batch goes.

As for the ice cream itself, it was fantastic: rich and smooth, and a stunning deep pink color. Actually, though completely natural, it was kind of a crazy pink color — it could easily have been described as either “shocking pink” (my mother’s favorite color) or “Pepto-Bismol-y.” Since it was uncooked, it had retained the tang of fresh berries and wasn’t overly sweet. Ice cream success!

Homemade shocking-pink strawberry ice cream.

No-Cook Strawberry Ice Cream
Makes 1-1/2 quarts

1 lb strawberries, washed and trimmed
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
pinch salt
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vodka (I used Smirnoff 100 proof)

Partially mash the strawberries with the sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a large bowl, using a potato masher. Let sit for 10 minutes. Transfer half to another bowl and puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Mix the two halves back together, stir in the cream and vodka until well combined, and chill in a metal bowl in the refrigerator for about 3 hours, then freeze in an ice cream maker. Transfer to an airtight container (tightly covering the surface with a piece of plastic wrap before putting on the lid) and freeze until firm (another few hours).

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