From Jam to Ice Cream

How to soothe a party-ravaged breast? Ice cream, of course. Sunday night, after a long day of staring at leftovers and wishing I had more space in my fridge, I opted for supreme comfort food: grilled flank steak, an enormous vegtabular salad, and the creamiest of ice creams.

The flank steak recipe used Meyer lemons in the marinade, and when, at the store, my faulty memory recalled needing far more than was actually the case, I bought five. This, given that one of them was enormous and gave up the entirety of the juice necessary for the marinade (and more), left me with four expensive specimins of citrus crossbreeding, and, coincidentally, with no dessert planned.

Usually, when I have leftover citrus fruits, I make the marmalade-curd that I mentioned in an earlier post. I love this curd enough that jars usually don’t last for more than a few days, but this time I wanted something more substantial (and that was an actual part of a meal, as opposed to something to sneak off of a spoon while propping the refrigerator open with one foot).

A week earlier, when contemplating future ice cream experiments, Teacherman had suggested making a lemon ice cream, a lemon custard cream in particular. I had a pint of our favorite cream (from a comparatively local dairy that just barely pasteurizes their dairy products. The whole milk is comparable to other brands’ half-and-half, and the heavy cream so rich that it goes ‘thunk’ when you pour it [if, in fact, you can get it to pour out of the jug at all. On more than one occasion I have been forced to use a knife to coax it out of the solidly cream-plugged opening]), but no eggs.

My mind had only just turned from the contemplation of marmalade-curd, and I remembered how thick that curd gets in the refrigerator, because of the setting power of the included peel and pith: when made with regular lemons, the curd is so stiff that it could probably be used to caulk siding. Meyer lemons produce a looser, more silky product, but the thickening is still very much in evidence. What would happen, I wondered, if instead of blending in oil to emulsify the curd, I blended in heavy cream (which, after all, is just another kind of fat)? And what if I used a lot more cream?

Working, of course, purely in a state of scientific inquiry, I cut up and pulverized the Meyer lemons in the food processor, sweetening them as I saw fit, and then, with the processor running, poured in the cream. The mixture emulsified just as easily and quickly as with oil, even though the amount of cream added was more than three times as great. The cream whipped up just a tiny bit (food processors rarely beat much air into a product) and the lemon bits distributed themselves perfectly and evenly throughout.

I poured (or rather, spooned) the mixture into a 4-cup measure and put it into the fridge to chill for several hours. By dinner time (six hours later) the mixture was so thick that I could nearly turn the measuring cup upside down with nary a wavelet on the surface of the cream. Eggs? Ha! Who needs eggs? It wouldn’t be difficult to imagine serving the lemon cream just like that–scooped out at fridge temperature, as an accompaniment to berries or summer fruit. Nevertheless, I coaxed the mixture into the bowl of the ice cream maker, and Teacherman set to work churning. In a much shorter time than usual, the ice cream was fluffy and recalcitrant with the dasher, and into frozen bowls it went to wait for dessert. We tried not to lick our fingers and ignored the drips, rigorous in our anticipation.

We made quick work of the steak and salad (which were passable, but not exciting), and then dove into the freezer for the ice cream. I do believe that it is the creamiest homemade ice cream that we have ever made; the texture can only be compared to that of a fluffy, whipped chocolate mousse, but without any of the dryness the word ‘fluffy’ might imply. The amount of fat in the cream kept it from feeling as cold on the tongue as a sorbet would, but the mild acidity of the lemons cut the richness of the cream, keeping the fat from coating our spoons and tongues (often a problem with cream-rich homemade ice cream).

This was comforting. We mentally curled up around our bowls, smiling at each other, and ate until we had licked the china clean. And no matter how lovely that moment was, there was a greater one when, mirabile dictu, we remembered that there were four more servings in the freezer.

Published in: on April 16, 2007 at 8:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

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