Friday, July 9, 2010



This is one of several dishes I've learned to make here in this agricultural area that uses the local produce to its most beautiful potential.  I bought the berries at "Bright's Delights," a farm stand on US 17, just within the limits of Elizabeth City.  These days it is bursting with gorgeous stuff:  huge, sweet beefsteak tomatoes, just the right size to cover a slice of bread, at least 10 varieties of sweet corn (I bought bi-color this time, and next will be Silver King), blackberries the size of golf balls, blueberries, just-shelled baby limas for succotash with some of that corn...I could go on.  We are in vegetable heaven here.

First things first:  thank you to a former work colleague, Sharon Forrence, for giving me the idea for this decadent concoction via her Facebook newsfeed.  What she made was blueberry crème fraiche ice cream, and the very idea set my mouth watering.  I was determined to make it for myself.

I figured it would be a pretty tall order to find crème fraiche in these country-and-proud-of-it parts, and a survey of the grocery chains at my disposal--all two of them--proved my suspicion right.  So I figured I'd just make my own--there are recipes galore for crème fraiche on the internet, and they're all the same: inoculate warmed heavy cream with some buttermilk and let it ripen.  Couldn't be simpler.  The catch is that the cream should ideally be fresh from the cow (as it is in less squeamish countries such as France), or, if you don't have a willing cow nearby, the cream can be pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized, because that process just doesn't leave enough bacteria for the buttermilk culture to do its magic.  Wouldn't you know that the stores here sell only ultra-pasteurized dairy products.  What I found interesting, once I was made aware of this pasteurized/ultra-pasteurized distinction, is that the food manufacturers seem quite proud of the ultra-pasteurized state of their milks and creams.  It's written in huge print on the packages, obviously a major selling point.  The great, lowest-common-denominator American marketplace, with heavy influence from the paranoid FDA, rules.  So much for crème fraiche; ergo the sour cream.  Having said all that, I can't imagine how the end product could be any richer or more pleasingly tart than this, sour cream, crème fraiche, or whatever.

You'll note that this recipe is heavy on the cholesterol, with all its dairy fat and egg yolks.  And it involves a double boiler, the best thing to use if you don't want a scrambled-egg custard.  If it all seems like too much work, search out simpler basic vanilla ice cream recipes on your own.  They're certainly out there.  I just prefer this French custard style for its extreme richness, and figure we have it so seldom it qualifies as an occasional guilty pleasure.  

For the berries:

1 pint (2 cups) fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons sugar

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.  When simmering starts, cover and let cook about 10 minutes, until berries soften and begin to burst.  Remove from heat, mash berries with a potato masher so that some whole berries remain but the rest is a slurry.  Set aside to cool.

For the ice cream:

2 cups half-and-half
1 cup granulated sugar (divided)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground cinammon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups sour cream

In a heavy saucepan combine half-and-half and 3/4 cup of the sugar.  Cook to scalding (just when bubbles begin to appear around the edges of the milk in the pan) stirring to dissolve sugar.  Remove pan from heat.  In a large heat-proof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining sugar, then whisk in the hot half-and-half in a steady stream.  Place bowl over boiling water (so it does not touch the water) and stir yolk-cream mixture until it coats the back of the spoon and it reaches 170º F on an instant thermometer.  This will take 5 to 7 minutes.

Remove bowl from double boiler and whisk in the vanilla, the cinnamon, and the salt.  Mix in the sour cream and reserved blueberry slurry and stir all to combine.

Place blueberry cream in refrigerator for several hours until thoroughly chilled.  Process in ice cream maker until thickened, according to manufacturer's directions.  (I use a Cuisinart with a removable freezing tub kept in the freezer between uses.  It takes about 30 minutes.)  

At this stage the ice cream will still be runny, like very soft frozen custard.  If you can wait, remove ice cream to a container and freeze until it hardens.  (Or if you can't wait, eat it right out of the ice cream maker!)


Perovskia said...

It makes me sad you have ultra-pasteurized dairy :( Get to know a local farmer!! :)

Ralph said...

Perovskia, you echo my Facebook friends. They told me to get a share in a cow.

Anonymous said...

I read this and just poured myself a cold beer.

Perovskia said...

Oooh.. yes, do that.

Jeff said...

Hey Ralph:

That's some rich recipe you've got! Family got me a Cuisinart Ice Cream maker for Father's Day last year and I've been fattening them up since. A great resource is the David Lebovitz book, The Perfect Scoop.

This would be a French style ice cream since it has eggs in it. Egad - nothing like it exists in stores.

And congrats on the anniversary - love can last can't it? :)

- Jeff

Ralph said...

Hi, Jeff. Yeah, I figure if I'm going to the trouble of making a one-off kind of thing that would never be found in stores (why else have an ice cream maker?), and since we indulge like this maybe two or three times a year, I might as well go whole-cow, as it were. Give me French style custard any time.

Thanks for the good wishes.