Hand-churned Strawberry Ice Cream

22 Jul

For years, I’ve been thinking back to the strawberry ice cream of my youth– made from strawberries picked down the road that day and painstaking hand-cranked by kids and adults on the front porch in a wood bucket leaking salty ice.

I finally had a chance to try to recreate it, at a 4th of July BBQ we threw for a few dozen friends and their kids, and it was all I remembered and more:

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If I’m going to make strawberry ice cream, the ingredients had better be good– so we took a day trip down to the U-Pick at Swanton Berry Farm to fill a flat with about 9 pounds of berries:

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I wanted to let the strawberries shine, so after some poking around online to see what others have done I decided to stick with a simple Philadelphia-style ice cream base (cream, milk, and sugar– no eggs). Since the strawberries will bring along a lot of water on their own (I pureed them and passed them through a coarse strainer to take out some of the thicker pulp and some of the seeds), I left out the milk and went with pure half-and-half.

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I also took a hint from the Serious Eats recipe and swapped in a little corn syrup (non-HFCS) for sugar, to reduce the sweetness and add a sugar that wouldn’t easily crystallize.

My final recipe, for 3 quarts of ice cream base (which churned up into a nearly-full 6-quart container of ice cream), was:

  • 4.5 lbs of picked-just-the-day-before strawberries, hulled, pureed, and strained (producing about 5 cups of strawberry juice)
  • 3 pints of Strauss half-and-half
  • 2 1/4 cups of white sugar
  • 1 cup of Karo light corn syrup
  • about 1 tsp of salt

I whisked these together, let them chill in the fridge overnight, then churned them surrounded by ice and many cups of salt*… and the end result was magical. Creamy, not too sweet, no ice crystals, and just the pure cold essence of a summer strawberry.

 

* Technical sidebar: The salt is there to lower the freezing temperature of the ice and help it melt (it’s really the phase change from solid ice to water that matters). Briefly: salt reduces the freezing temperature of water -> more ice melts -> large amounts of energy (heat) are sucked out of the surrounding environment during the phase change from ice to water. This cools the ice cream far more rapidly than just a cold bath of for example antifreeze (or pebbles, or anything without a phase change) at the same temperature would.

It also took me a while to find a good-quality hand-cranked ice cream maker– most of the ones for sale these days have plastic gears or are small KitchenAid-accessory ice cream makers that require you to pre-freeze a special container first (and I don’t currently own a KitchenAid). I wanted a solid, metal-geared (ideally, stainless steel) machine, both for the nostalgia factory, and to make 6+ quarts of ice cream in for a party in one go. I looked at used ice cream makers on craigslist and ebay, but finally found what I wanted through Lehman’s, an Amish supply company.

It took more elbow grease than I remembered (even with me expecting that to be the case)– perhaps 30-40 minutes of solid churning between three adults and three enthusiastic kids. But the result was worth it, 100%.

Fish tacos in Tulum

15 Jul

My Platonic ideal of a fish taco is fresh fish, simply grilled (not breaded or fried), with some salad and lime juice and maybe salsa, but no crema or other dairy-based sauce.

When visiting Tulum (a few times 10 years ago, and again in 2017), my favorite fish tacos were at the cheap beach hotel Los Arrecifes:

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The setting is decidedly low-key– it often feels almost abandoned, without much signage and with one employee (if you’re lucky) working in a kitchen, and a patch of sand covered in campers’ tents… but the tacos were fresh and simple– very different from any number of bars along the Tulum beach that advertise “Tulum’s best fish taco” (but whose focuses are just as much the bar, music, and a place to hang out).

 

Chamico’s (ceviche on the beach, Yucatan peninsula)

9 Jul

One highlight of a spring trip to the Yucatan peninsula was spending a post-cenote-snorkeling afternoon at Chamico’s, a small restaurant on a beach about a 25-minute drive from Tulum:

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They had great ceviche doused in lime juice and served with vinegar and hot peppers. We sat around a table and ate fish and drank beer and talked… and when at one point I moved to a nearby hammock to doze for a bit, a passing waiter moved a plastic chair next to the hammock to put my michelada within arm’s reach.

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Grilled Pizza

28 Mar

Still working on getting a pizza stone hot enough and where exactly in the grill it and the fire should go, but these were good…

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Using my father’s some-whole-wheat-flour high-moisture-content long-rising dough recipe:

IMG_20170327_200102Butternut squash, red onion, buffalo mozzarella, gremolata:

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Tomato sauce, anchovies, bitter greens, salted olives, chili flakes:

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Pesto, ricotta, asparagus:IMG_20170327_205546

Radicchio-Kale-Bacon Omelet

12 Mar

From the back yard garden, kale and radicchio that’s finally forming heads (planted last fall).

With fermented Jimmy Nardello pepper paste…

Fast Fajita Friday

5 Mar

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A excellent, relatively quick dinner– Grilled steak, onions, and peppers. A fiery, fruity salsa made from grilled/blistered rocoto peppers, olive oil, lime juice, and salt. And tortillas also cooked on the grill as an experiment….

Starting each tortilla on a cast iron skillet for a minute gave it a skin on the bottom that prevented the soft masa from drooping down through the grating– then I transferred each tortilla to the grill, making it easy to quickly cook 4-6 in parallel.

Preserving Citrus & Hot Peppers

4 Mar

Another winter weekend, another bout of citrus preserving.

First, citrus peels rubbed in sugar to extract oils and make an oleo saccharum, my favorite way to get flavor out of citrus. I tried both bergamot from Monterey Market and a mystery pomelo/citron hybrid(?) citrus from someone in our neighborhood. I was lazy about my usual careful cutting out of all pith inside the rind of the pomelo/citron since it didn’t taste especially bitter.

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I also wanted to try making black lemons / black limes— both whole meyer lemons and bearss limes from the back yard trees, boiled in very salty water for 10 minutes, then put in a dehydrator whole for 3 days (rather than sun-drying them over a month as would be more traditional– our rainy Oakland winter wasn’t cooperating).img_20170205_182004

The result, surprisingly, was very dry (almost brittle) limes and lemons with glossy black interiors and a slightly funky taste– it will be interesting to see if they are dry enough to truly keep without spoiling and add flavor to stews and cous cous…img_20170208_211200

Someone else gifted me some red and yellow rocoto peppers (capsicum pubescens), which were extremely hot but with a bit of fruitiness like a habanero. I dehydrated a few trays of them to grind into chili powder and filled another jar with them and a 4% sea salt solution, garlic, and mustard seed to see how they ferment:

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The end result (including some whole limes packed in salt to make preserved limes, and a bergamot-rice vinegar shrub made from the oleo saccharum)– img_20170209_195354

Not shown, a “pomelocello” made with the pomelo/citron oleo saccharum, the juice, and cheap vodka.

Not bad for a weekend’s work. The dried rocoto pepper powder has already become a good go-to for chili, beans, and stew, and the bergamot-rice vinegar shrub makes a great non-alcoholic cocktail diluted about 1:6 with sparkling water.