Never Eat Inferior Ice Cream

Never Eat Inferior Ice Cream. We’ve used this quote for years at my house, attributing to Walter Kerr, a New York drama critic of the late 20th century. With a relatively brief search online, I haven’t found it attributed to anyone.

Good advice, in my opinion, whether applied to ice cream or other foodstuffs. If you’re going to eat something, if you have the option, make it worthwhile. For routine nourishment, nutrition is important. Does it nourish you? Physically, of course, but emotionally as well. Are you better for having consumed this item?

And then for the “treat” category. Desserts and special occasion foods. I put ice cream firmly in this section, although I am aware that for many, ice cream, like chocolate, is considered a major food group.

I am a bit of a “foodie”. I like to eat, and I like to cook. And I definitely like my food to be flavorful and well-prepared. I’m not fond of food that feels excessive to me. What’s excessive? For me, that means enormous portions, too much stuff on the food, obscuring its nature. Examples might include covering something with lots of melted relatively tasteless cheese. I’d prefer a little bit of the good stuff. As far as ice cream is concerned, I prefer simple. One or two clean flavors, not ribbons of gooey stuff all through, so much sweet and goo that one can’t actually detect the underlying flavor.

Over the past several years, we’ve been going out to eat less and cooking more at home. There are a few reasons for this. One, as is common with age, it takes more effort to maintain a relatively healthy body weight. As I’ve been working fewer hours, I’ve had more time to cook. Also, there has been disappointment with some restaurant food–too much goo and not enough substance in many cases. I recognize that I can do better cooking that food myself. Indian and Thai food are exceptions. While I have learned to cook some dishes well, there are others that I have yet to master. Italian and Mexican entrees, I can usually do better at home.

The pandemic amplified this, with most restaurants closed. We were really eating at home full time, with only occasional carry out, mostly from a nearby excellent Thai restaurant. With so many restrictions now part of our routine, “treats” and pleasures became more important. I had been doing some cookie baking while Dad was ill, as he did enjoy cookies, and that did leave a small stash in our freezer. Back to ice cream, or frozen desserts. One of these started with some leftover buttermilk. I thought I’d read of buttermilk sorbet.

Online searching brought up some recipes. Comments revealed that it was much sweeter than it needed to be. Reading through it looked worth a try. Buttermilk, sugar, lemon juice, and freeze. It was delicious! Tart, creamy, very refreshing. A hit.

Over time, I’ve made a number of variations. Keeping the main 3 ingredients, and then tweaking to what was on hand, strawberry or mango puree, infused with basil or orange. All tasty. At first, I churned the sorbet in our ice cream maker (the kind where the drum freezes for 24 hours first). It worked fine. Then, in another experiment, I made bars, filling the molds and freezing them. Even better. A tasty, modestly portioned refreshing treat, satisfying without being excessive. This isn’t actually ice cream–no cream, just buttermilk.

If you’re interested, here’s the recipe I’ve ended up using. It started from one found on Epicurious, from Bon Appetit, June 2001. Multiple modifications later, I have this:

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

4 cups buttermilk (I use full fat, and have also used a mix of buttermilk and yogurt)

pinch of salt

I teaspoon vanilla extract

Grated zest of the lemons

Add ins: 1-2 cups of pureed fruit. I’ve use mango, strawberry and orange juice concentrate at different times

If you’re going to freeze in bars, or don’t have an ice cream freezer, I recommend adding 1-2 Tablespoons of light corn syrup (not high-fructose) to keep the ice crystals smaller.

To prepare: Mix the zest with the sugar. If I’m adding a herb (basil or tarragon is good), I macerate it with the sugar and zest as well and let stand for 15 minutes or so to infuse the sugar.

Stir in the lemon juice and salt. Add the buttermilk and stir well until the sugar is dissolved. Add vanilla if using, along with corn syrup and stir again. Chill well in refrigerator. If you have used a lot of zest or herbs, I strain the mixture before freezing. Freeze, either in an ice cream freezer, or in ice pop molds.

Enjoy! This is a big recipe, and works fine cut in half.

Written for the A to Z Blogging Challenge

16 thoughts on “Never Eat Inferior Ice Cream

  1. The area in which we live has very few decent restaurants and a couple of our favorites have closed and won’t reopen. When we lived in Boston, the choices were harder because there were a lot of good places to eat, especially seafood. Now, though between the pandemic, the closure of George’s reef — a huge fishery and mating area for all kind of fish and shell fish — the price of seafood is sky high and too much of it comes from “farms” and isn’t really fish. It’s something, but not real fish.

    We suffer from serious cases of food ennui. There’s not a lot of choices in the affordable food category. Even with creativity working hard, I get bored to death with some new version of chicken. Ditto chopped beef. I’ve learned to cook Chinese, some Indian, and a fair bit of West Indian. Some of these require a few more hours on my feet than I would like and I’m still underwhelmed by my attempts at Indian cuisine. We do, on the other hand, bake really well!

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  2. I like that recipe! For ice cream I wonder if I could even find my favorite as a kid (White House) and if it would be the same in real life as it is my memory. Cherry Garcia came close and I didn’t mind the chocolate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d never heard of White House, but as I look it up, I think its what I grew up with as Cherry Vanilla. I agree that Cherry Garcia is pretty close. Baskin Robbins Burgundy Cherry was good, too. There was a BR in the Table Mesa shopping center when I was a kid. That was a BIG treat.

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  3. There’s another dessert called Nice Cream that uses bananas as the sweetener — basically bananas and milk or nut milk, etc. Rather than me trying to satisfy everybody’s taste, if you google Nice Cream, there are lots of recipes, and you can flavor it with almost anything — peanut butter, cocoa powder, berries, etc. ad infinitum!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed this blog post! I have a fraught relationship with food, having come down with multiple allergies in recent years. But I really want to try this one…possibly with oat milk instead of buttermilk. I’ll have to check my substitutions list.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I found myself nodding in agreement right through this post. I’m apparently a “nightmare” to take out to dine because I so often feel disappointed and ripped off at the food served.
    Thank you for the recipe; I can’t wait to try it.

    Liked by 1 person

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