My grandfather, Kent Walker (or Pops), was famous for two things he made every year: peanut brittle, and peach ice cream. I remember the first time I was at my grandparents’ house and realized all the kitchen hubbub was because they were making ice cream, when I was about seven. Making ice cream! In this strange wooden contraption that made a lot of noise, and for some reason required a bunch of salt. You’ve never seen a kid’s eyes grow wider. I mean, in my mind, ice cream was magically deposited in ice cream parlors and grocery stores by the angels. I had no idea that mere mortals could produce something so wonderful just by mixing some cream and sugar together. My life was changed.
These days, we are so completely spoiled by our newfangled ice cream makers, with no need for ice, salt, elbow grease, or earplugs. I’ve had a Cuisinart machine for several years, and I hardly ever use it. I think if Pops were here and he ever opened the freezer to see the Cuisinart bowl sitting in there, perfectly chilled and ready to go, he would scold me for not making ice cream every chance I could. So this week, I got old-fashioned, and did something that I hardly ever do: I made ice cream. Not some simplified version with condensed milk, either, but the real deal, eggs and all. The strawberries are so beautiful right now, I just couldn’t think of anything I wanted more than a cold, creamy, berry-filled treat.
Even so, I did want to make something that wouldn’t bust the buttons off my jeans, if you know what I mean. So I used mostly milk, a tiny bit of cream, and a lot less sugar than I normally would. You know what? I love it. It’s not super sweet, and it doesn’t taste like anything you get in a carton at the store, which is usually super-ooper sweet and fake pink. If you like a simple bowl of strawberries and cream in the spring, you’ll like this. I would applaud anyone who chooses to crumble some shortbread cookies into the mix as well.
In the summer, when the heat is deadening and peaches are big and bruising, we’ll make it Pops’ way.
- 2 cups milk (I used whole)
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 3 egg yolks
- ½ cup minus 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 pints strawberries, rinsed and hulled
- In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk and cream until hot but not boiling.
- Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl. When the milk is hot, slowly pour about half of it into the egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly, to temper the eggs.
- Return the pan to the stove, and slowly pour the egg mixture into the saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring, about 7 to 10 minutes, until slightly thickened (it will coat the back of a spoon thinly). Do not boil. Turn off heat and stir in vanilla and salt.
- Pour mixture through a fine sieve into a medium bowl to strain out any cooked egg bits. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to overnight.
- While the custard chills, chop ten strawberries into ¼" pieces. Place the remaining strawberries in a food processor or blender, and pulse until pureed. Set aside.
- When the custard is cold, pour it into the bowl of an ice cream maker, and process according to manufacturer's directions--I churn the plain custard for 20 minutes. When the custard is soft-serve consistency, pour in the strawberry bits and puree, and churn another 5 minutes or so, until well-mixed.
- Pack ice cream into a freezer-safe container with a tight-fitting lid, and let firm in the freezer for a couple of hours. Once it's frozen solid, you'll want to let it sit out at room temperature for about 15 minutes before scooping it.