This homemade version of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia, one of my most favorite flavors, is the result of lots and lots of testing – and tasting. (Here’s my post about those experiments.)
Use the most full-flavored cherries you can find. And while you could use bittersweet for the chocolate, I found I preferred milk chocolate – the softer flavors better married with the creamy qualities of the ice cream.
Makes about 1 quart
- 1/2 pound cherries, pitted and roughly chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 9 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 3/8 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, divided
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 1/2 ounces good quality milk chocolate, finely chopped
In a medium bowl, combine the cherries, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt. Set aside at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Transfer the cherry mixture to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture becomes thick and jammy, 10 to 20 minutes, depending on your cherries and your saucepan. (Towards the end, you’ll need to stir relatively often to keep it from sticking/burning on the bottom of the saucepan.) Set aside to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
While the cherry mixture is cooling, in another medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the milk, cream, and vanilla bean (seeds and pod) and heat until the mixture is just beginning to bubble at the edges. Remove from the heat and set aside to steep 30 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks and remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar until smooth. Whisk about 1/3 cup of the warm milk mixture into the egg mixture, then pour the whole egg mixture into the milk mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring nearly constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of the spoon (about 170°F), about 5 minutes. Immediately strain through a medium mesh strainer (discard the solids). Stir in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and thoroughly chill.
Place the chopped chocolate in the freezer. Gently stir the custard and the cherry mixture together. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s manufacturer’s instructions. Stir in the chocolate. Place the finished ice cream in the freezer until firm, 2 hours to overnight, depending on your ice cream maker.