mint ice cream

Local Mint to the Rescue!

Five years ago, I received an ice cream maker as a gift. A simple affair, with a removable drum that you place in your freezer until you are ready to churn a fresh batch. It languished in the closet for a few months, until the following June, when a bumper crop of mint inspired me to dust it off and create my favorite ice cream flavor. It was an instant hit and far superior to any store-bought versions. I was soon making it on repeat, and vanilla and chocolate and cherry too. The possibilities were endless! I have since learned that mass produced ice cream is among the worst of the ultra-processed foods that we consume. Most well-known brands contain ingredients far more suited to a chemistry lab than to human consumption. For a delicious and gut friendly treat, all you need are a few fresh ingredients and minimal prep time. To ensure a constant supply of fresh picked mint, plant up a few pots (it is too invasive if grown in the ground) annually. It has many culinary uses, and it smells marvelous. 


The Ice Cream

The variety of mint you use is the key to success. Choose the sweeter, thin-leaved varieties such as Kentucky Colonel, Julep and Mojito, and use in abundance. The early crop has the sweetest flavor, but you can harvest the new growth all summer long. For the custard base I used pasture-raised eggs from 8 Hands Farm in Cutchogue and organic heavy cream. Good quality chocolate chips are essential. Callebaut is my favorite, and if I cannot find it, I purchase the Ghirardelli brand from the supermarket. The chocolate chips are melted, then drizzled in during the final stages of mixing, solidifying on contact with the cold mixture. My ice cream maker is from Cuisinart, an inexpensive model, which you can purchase online for around $75. It is by no means top of the line, but does a fine job. My trusty machine has been churning away in my kitchen for years and is still going strong.

Ingredients

1 large bunch spearmint leaves
5 organic egg yolks
2 cups organic cream
1 cup whole organic milk
2/3 cups sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt

Method

Strip the leaves from the stalks and wash and dry thoroughly. Place the leaves, milk, one cup of the cream and the sugar in a small, heavy saucepan. Warm over low heat, while stirring and pressing gently on the mint to extract maximum flavor. Heat until just hot, but not boiling. Remove from the stove and cool. Place in the fridge for at least eight hours and preferably overnight.


Treiber Farms Manager Brooke Parrett helped us select fresh spearmint on opening day at the Greenport Farmers Market (open in Mitchell Park Fridays from 3 to 6:30 p.m.)

When you are ready to make the custard base, place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and whisk until well blended. Strain the chilled mint cream through a fine mesh sieve, placed over a heavy saucepan. Discard the leaves. Heat the strained cream over medium until fine bubbles appear at the sides of the pan. The mixture should never boil. Add half of the warmed cream mixture to the bowl with the eggs and whisk together, before adding back to the pan with the rest. This is called tempering and helps to prevent curdling.  Stir the mixture continuously over low heat for about 4-5 minutes until it starts to thicken. The mixture should coat the back of the spoon and when you draw a knife across it will leave a clear trail. If you are using a confectionery thermometer, the temperature should be around 170 degrees, but not more than 180 degrees. Once your custard has started to thicken, remove it from the heat, and stir in a pinch of fine sea salt.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl and add the additional cup of heavy cream. Immediately set the bowl of custard into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and water. Stir from time to time until cold. Cover and place in the refrigerator to chill and thicken up for at least 6 hours and up to one day.


Assembling the Ice Cream

Ingredients

¾ cup dark chocolate chips
1 tsp. neutral oil, such as avocado or canola

Place the chocolate chips and oil in a small heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a small pan of simmering water (the bowl should not touch the surface of the water) and stir until the chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool slightly. Following the instructions on your ice cream maker, process the chilled custard until it is almost frozen. Using a small spoon, slowly drizzle the melted chocolate over the ice cream. The chocolate will harden on contact. Churn the mixture for a few more minutes until fully frozen and thickened. Place in a lidded plastic container and store in the freezer until ready to serve.

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