Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Luxury basics: Home-made ice cream

One weekend late last year I found myself at the freezer eating ice cream straight from the container. This was a surprise to me as I've never really been into ice cream. But this was different, I had made it myself.  I got over my surprise and ate the whole batch that I'd made for my birthday lunch last year and had to whip up another. I figured that the extra practice would do me good.

You can make ice cream without any special equipment but anticipating many happy ice cream experiences I bought an ice cream attachment for my KitchenAid mixer. It's a bowl that that you freeze for 24 hours before you start. A special paddle churns the mixture against the frozen sides and after about 20 minutes it's the consistency of soft whip. You can put it in the freezer to harden more if it lasts that long.

If you are trying to eat sustainable, healthy and humane food, making your own ice cream is something to consider. I was reminded of this recently when I bought some Maggie Beer (a treasured Australian food icon) Quince and Bitter Almond ice cream. When I checked out the additives (in my guide The Chemical Maze) I found this information about the three vegetable gums used as thickeners in the product:

-407 Carrageenan (Irish Moss). Often contains MSG. Possible links to: asthma, cancer, ulcerative colitis, skin rashes, colon ulcers (do not give to babies or young children).
-410 Locust Bean Gum. Possible links to: abdominal pain, diarrhea, cough in children.
-412 Guar gum (Galactomannan). Possible links to nausea, flatulence, abdominal cramp.

Which leads me onto the fraught subject of cream. Call me old-fashioned but I believe that cream should be just that. Cream.  Most cream you see in the supermarket shelves in Australia has been interfered with with additives like gelatin. You have look carefully for the product marked 'pure cream'.  For my ice cream I used milk and cream from Elgaar Farm in Tasmania. As well as the organic and sustainable angle, what I really like is that I know the products come from one traceable herd and that the farming practices are humane. At Elgaar Farm they do not remove calves at a young age from their mothers and they do not send older cows off to be killed as soon as they stop producing.

If you are interested in making your own ice cream here is a good basic recipe for french vanilla from a favorite food blogger of mine, David Lebowitz (his entertaining blog is well worth a read). I like french vanilla because of the making-your-own-custard component. This leads me to my one ice cream making success tip:   When you are heating up the custard mixture to thicken it before adding it to the cream DO NOT PAUSE THE WHOLE PROCEEDING WHILE IN RAPTUROUS DELIGHT TASTING YOUR CUSTARD FROM THE BACK OF THE SPOON. If it gets too hot the egg starts to cook and go hard and this is, well, not pleasant. You will find yourself at the sink with a sieve trying to get rid of eggy bits. I did this and mine still turned out nicely though.

After the birthday ice cream success, I decided to make a flavoured batch using blackberries from the garden. I cooked up the blackberries with some sugar and made a syrup. Which I stirred through once the ice cream had been churned. It was great. Next time I'm trying David's Mint Chip Ice Cream.

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