Macerating Cherries for Ice Cream /

Homemade ice cream, part two: Fruit ice cream

In my last post, we talked about how easy it is to make ice cream, and how much better it tastes than store-bought. We talked about how most flavors are a variation of your basic vanilla, and how you can use that basic ice cream recipe to make all kinds of other flavors – like mint, Earl Grey, basil, cinnamon, lavender, you name it.

So far, so good, right? Have you made ice cream yet? Please, please do. It’s easy. You’ll enjoy it.

Okay – so today we’re going to talk about fruit ice cream. As I said in that last post, fruit ice cream is one step more complicated – but only that.

You might think that you could simply add cut up fruit to your vanilla ice cream base – and you could. But because fruit has a lot of water, you’ll end up with icy chunks of fruit disrupting your otherwise-smooth-and-creamy ice cream experience.

So instead, you simply cook the water out of the fruit.

How do you do that? First mix your cut-into-bite-sized fruit with sugar and lemon juice, then set it aside for an hour or two, stirring occasionally, until the fruit releases some of its juice and the mixture becomes syrupy. (FYI, this is called macerating the fruit, and it’s what’s pictured in this post, with cherries.) Now transfer the whole thing to a saucepan, bring it to a boil, reduce it to a simmer, and cook it slowly, stirring occasionally, until it’s thick and jammy. This could take 10 to 30 minutes depending on how much fruit you’re cooking, how moist it is, and the size of your saucepan. Towards the end, you’ll need to stir relatively often to keep it from sticking/burning on the bottom of the saucepan. The idea is to go as long as you can, because you want to cook out as much water as you can. It’s done when near-constant stirring is required to avoid sticking.

Meanwhile, make your vanilla base. Chill both thoroughly, probably overnight. The next day, mix them together, then process in your ice cream maker.

Ta da.

(You can find my basic fruit ice cream recipe here.)

But here’s what’s really cool. Between this post and the last one, we’ve established two things: 1) a basic ice cream base can be infused with vanilla bean to make vanilla ice cream – but also with just about anything to make any “base” flavor you want, and 2) to make a fruit flavor, you simply cook the fruit down to a jam and add it to your base.

With those two bits of info, you can make Strawberry Cinnamon Ice Cream, infusing your base with cinnamon sticks and adding strawberries cooked to a jam. You can make Blackberry Peppercorn Ice Cream, infusing with peppercorns and adding cooked blackberries. You can make Chamomile Ice Cream, infusing with chamomile tea. Gingered Peach Ice Cream. Lemon Verbena. The possibilities are almost endless.

And we haven’t event talked about mixing in things – things without a high water content otherwise they’ll get icy – like chocolate shavings, chopped nuts, and marshmallows. You can also get a ripple effect by mixing in your fruit jam – or caramel or fudge or whatever – during the last few seconds of processing your ice cream.

Nice, right?

Speaking of chocolate shavings, in the last post I promised to tell you about my experiments with homemade Cherry Garcia ice cream, one of my most favorite flavors which involves all of the above – a vanilla-infused base, fruit cooked to a jam, and mix-ins.

But this post is getting kind of long, so I’ll save it until next time.

Meanwhile, make some ice cream, okay? You’ll be happy. I promise.

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