This is the best time to make your own strawberry ice cream using Maine’s terrific local berries
If you love strawberries, now is the time to make strawberry ice cream with local berries in high season now. Ice cream is not difficult to make. It’s basically an egg custard or a milk and cream base without eggs (Philadelphia style) to which you add either crushed or pureed berries to the chilled ice cream base.
If you don’t have an ice cream machine, consider buying the moderately priced Cuisinart machine, which does an excellent job; even the less expensive Donniver brand will produce good ice cream.
But there are certain tricks of the trade to produce the creamiest base.
Either an egg custard or a milk and cream base benefits by being chilled overnight before churning in the ice cream machine. The usual formula is half milk and half cream; but I’ve taken to using all cream in most of my ice cream recipes. And beyond that you have another choice of whether to make it with raw cream or pasteurized; but never use ultra-pasteurized because it has a “boiled” taste.
My preference is for raw cream and milk. Unpasteurized milk is easy to get at farmer’s markets and stores like Rosemont. Raw cream is harder to find since most dairy producers use the whole milk for cheese-making and other more profitable products.
Still, the best raw cream is from Bisson’s Meat Market in Topsham or from Misty Brook Farm, which is available locally at Rosemont Market. Around the state, however, look for dairy producers at various farmer’s markets, some of whom do sell raw cream.
Two local sources for good quality pasteurized cream are Smiling Hill and Harris Farm. The latter has a farm store in Dayton and also sells at the Saco Farmer’s Market. Their cream in particular is pasteurized at a slightly lower temperature, resulting in a more distinct taste.
Whenever I’ve made strawberry ice cream I’ve usually crushed the berries. But this time I pureed the berries in the food processor and I liked the texture better. When crushed, the frozen bits of berries in the ice cream are a little off-putting whereas pure puree gives a more intense flavor.
With this batch I also used all cream and Araucana eggs (blue shelled) for my custard base, and it was the creamiest ice cream yet. The berries were from Alewive’s Brook Farm, who sells sparkle berries, a very sweet, deep red variety.
The Best Strawberry Ice Cream
Servings: makes 1 quart
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups, divided, heavy cream (preferably raw)
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups strawberries (measured after hulling, about 1 1/2 pints)
1/4 additional cup sugar, to macerate berries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a small mixing bowl beat the eggs with a whisk just to break up. Meanwhile Pour 3/4 cup heavy cream into a saucepan and stir in the sugar. Heat this over medium high heat, stirring constantly, just until the steam starts to rise (do not let it bubble).
Pour a small amount of the cream mixture into the yolks, whisking, to temper the eggs. Add the tempered egg mixture to the saucepan. Over medium-low heat cook the cream-egg mixture, stirring constantly, until it thickens and nicely coats the back of a spoon. You can use a candy thermometer to help gauge the right temperature, which should be about 165 to 175 degrees. But do not let it simmer because the eggs will curdle.
Pour this through a very fine-meshed strainer into a mixing bowl. Add the additional 3/4 cup cream and vanilla extract. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Meanwhile crush the strawberries with a potato masher and add the sugar. Stir to combine and let the berries macerate for about 15 minutes. Then put in the food processor and puree. Add this to the cooled custard mixture, stirring well and continue to refrigerate overnight.
Freeze the ice-cream according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for several hours until firm. Or serve the soft version immediately.
When ready to serve the frozen ice cream let it temper at room temperature for about 5 to 10 minutes to soften. Optionally serve with extra macerated berries cut in quarters over each serving for very intense strawberry flavor.