fresh mint ice cream: yes, please, even 5 quarts of it. ::::
Eat and I first experienced fresh mint ice cream at our favorite restaurant bacaro in Champaign, Illinois, only realizing later that it was Ciao Bella brand ice cream and not homemade. That didn’t stop us from savoring it any time we found it, inexcusably infrequently. I loved the Blackberry Cabernet. And the Mango. But the Fresh Mint — gah! — it surpassed them all.
We went so far as to hunt it down in Chicago when living there. We searched the internet and found a place. It didn’t have a fancy name, it wasn’t an ice cream parlor, but it promised us our booty. The online map took us to a distribution center for grocery stores and restaurants. We walked among large pallets of tomatoes and celery, forklifts shuffling boxes of navel oranges from one end of the high-ceiling warehouse to the other. Eat and I were obviously not of this crowd, missing the scruffy, weathered look of warehouse folk and blue collar work.
After being led to the manager, and after some curt discussion on what we were doing there, we found that there was no actual “personal” ice cream container available. The only way we could purchase our beloved Fresh Mint Ice Cream was to buy a 5 quart container. I considered it. Hard. We would have to resort to eating most of it in one sitting, however, as our freezer was not equipped to house a 5-quart ice cream container. I was up to challenge, or at least I really, really wanted to be. Pushed ahead by my pragmatism, I balked.
I balked again in 2008 when I first remember seeing this recipe, not having an ice cream maker and too busy with work and an infant Peach to make this fresh mint ice cream that sounded so much like our first experience. I revisited my clutter of Food and Wine magazines recently, reprising each mag like it is new, those recipes long forgotten and pages still dog-eared for my cue to make this.
And so I did, make this, NOW, finally, and it brings back the memories of that first fresh mint ice cream. I love my previous ice cream creations, the raspberries and cream ice cream (one of my faves, still) and oatmeal raisin ice cream (aMAzing!), custardy and supple, but wanted to try something different with this eggless version.
And no April Fool’s Day joke, my mint from last summer has survived the cool, mild Northern California winter, looking a little ruffled from the cold but flourishing in my outdoor pot. While I first made this ice cream last summer, fully expecting to wait until upcoming warm summertime to start again, I can start earlier this year. And mojito season is definitely coming earlier.
One year ago: whole-wheat sandwich bread
Two years ago: perfect popovers
Three years ago: fennel + apple + gouda
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1½ ounces cream cheese, softened (3 tablespoons)
- 1¼ cups heavy cream
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 1½ tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- fresh mint leaves to garnish, if desired
- In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch. In another large bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth. If wanting to make the ice cream today, fill another large bowl full of ice. If waiting until tomorrow, skip the ice bowl.
- In a large saucepan, combine the remaining milk with the heavy cream, sugar and corn syrup. Bring the milk mixture to a boil and cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes. Watch carefully! You don't want the milk to boil over.
- Off the heat, gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
- Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the chopped mint and salt. If making ice cream for today, set the bowl in the ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 20 minutes. Otherwise, allow the ice cream base to cool to warm, cover bowl with plastic wrap and place overnight in the fridge.
- Strain the ice cream base into an ice cream maker, pressing the mint leaves with the back of a spoon to extract all of the flavor, and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions (mine took 15 minutes). Pack the ice cream into a glass container.
- Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream and close with an airtight lid. Freeze the mint ice cream until firm, about 4 hours. Even though I did this and even waited overnight, every time I scooped the ice cream, it melted fast. I recommend you serve the ice cream in cold bowls if you have a warm kitchen. Garnish with fresh mint, if desired.
- Makes just less than a quart.