Those bells in the distance are the bells of summer, my friends. Hot, sticky, ice cream-requiring summer. And their ringing is getting nearer and nearer each time a warm, beach breeze blows in. I have always been a summer girl. This may have something to do with the fact that I was born part fish and that we had a pool at my house and a big ol’ great lake Up North at Gramma and Grampa’s. Living in the city may have tempered my desire for super sweltering days, just a bit, but there’s one thing that is hard to argue with: Ice cream is readily available and even more desirable than usual in the sweaty months.
Despite some fabulous options in Philly (I’m looking at you, Little Baby’s, Franklin Fountain and Capogiro) I do like to make my own. My number one choice is relatively whole foodsy and healthy. Basically I whip frozen bananas in my food processor and eat the resulting mix topped with fresh, summer berries or cherries. The more decadent option in my house is one made with an ingredient that can be tricky to find in the stores: homemade sour cream or creme fraiche. If you haven’t made your own yet, it is truly worth it. The flavor of store-bought CAN NOT compare. Ever. It keeps for a long time, it’s exceedingly simple to make and for a fermenter, it’s a quick trick. Just one day from cream to thick, tongue-enshrouding heaven on a spoon. And it’s just two ingredients: quality cream and kefir or kefir grains, depending on the texture you’re shooting for.
Speaking of that texture: as you might have noticed from the tagline of this blog, I’m kinda lazy. Given that, I tend to prefer the easier version, which is to say the version that just requires a few spoonfuls of kefir rather than the grains. The other version, the one with grains, does give a thicker consistency, more like sour cream than creme fraiche, but you also have to stir for longer than I like to get the grains out again. For this recipe, it doesn’t matter which you do, so I default to the “crème fraîche” variety.*
I chose strawberry here for obvious reasons. It’s almost time for local strawberries on the east coast and strawberry ice cream is always a winner in my book. You can easily substitute other ingredients including fruits, herbs or chocolate, or leave out the sctuf altogether for a pretty unforgettable, sophisticated treat.
HAPPY ALMOST SUMMER!!
STRAWBERRY SOUR CREAM ICE CREAM
Homemade ice cream isn’t always as delicious on days 2 and 3 as it is fresh from the machine. Commercial ice creams have lots of tricks and frankly, lots of less desirable ingredients, to help keep their ice cream creamy in the freezer. The optional vodka here can help keep things soft in the freezer (vodka doesn’t freeze). You can also pack your ice cream into a relatively flat container, like a pyrex lasagna pan for a nicer frozen product.
There’s one other option: eat it all! No, I’m not recommending a binge. I’m recommending a party. An old boss of mine had a great trick: Have your machine and your mix ready to go. When guests are finishing up dinner, pour in the mix and start the machine. By the time plates are cleared and palates are cleansed, the ice cream will be ready to eat. And believe me, with this stuff, you will not need to worry about packing up the leftovers unless it’s a romantic dinner party for two!
My ice cream maker requires 24 hours in the freezer before it’s ready for use. Make sure to read the instructions for your ice cream maker before you start this process.
Ice cream maker
For Sour Cream:
- 1/4 cup finished milk kefir
- 3 cups of the best cream you can afford, not ulta-pasteurized
For Ice Cream:
- 4 cups whole strawberries, washed and thoroughly patted dry
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons vodka (optional)
- the juice of half a small lemon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- Pour cream and milk kefir into a quart jar. Stir or shake thoroughly. Cover with a thick weave cloth and secure the cloth with a rubber band. Place the jar in a warm, room temperature (68-78F) spot for about 24 hours. If your house is warmer than 75 degrees, start carefully checking the consistency at 12 hours. Once the cream is set, cover the jar with its lid and refrigerate.
- Once the cream is set and chilling, it’s time to macerate! Chop the strawberries into 4-8 pieces, depending on their size. Mix them thoroughly with the sugar and mix in the vodka, if using. (If using herbs or other additives, this is when to mix them in). Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least an hour, while the cream is chilling.
- Blend your strawbs in a blender or food processor with the lemon juice and vanilla until it’s the consistency of a slushy. Put the blended mixture in the fridge for at least an hour.
- Once everything is chilled, you’ll need to work relatively fast. Get your ice cream maker ready, then pour in the sour cream and top it with the strawberry slurry. Process according to your machine’s instructions.
*quotes are there because technically creme fraiche is cultured with cultured buttermilk or just made from the bacteria already in raw cream. This version tastes very similar and just as delightful, so I call it even.