Sunday, August 19, 2018

Creamy Peach Ice Cream for Hot Summer Days

bowl of peach ice cream on a wooden table

 The flavors were either peach or strawberry.  Although everyone in our family and close friends know that Val's favorite flavor is chocolate chip.  Chocolate chip with real, thick hot fudge,  homemade whipped cream and topped with chopped walnuts.  I always felt special when she let me have the maraschino cherry with its dyed red stem and chewy candied fruit flesh that adorned the top of her sundae. But she never made chocolate chip ice cream.  It was always in July or August and always peach or strawberry.
  Fresh fruit in a custard base made rich and creamy with egg yolks, whole milk and heavy whipping cream.  It had to be a special occasion to haul out the old ice cream maker and buy the rock salt at Eastman's Hardware on Main Street and the bags of ice, already melting on the backseat floor of our green Oldsmobile by the time we made it back to East Falmouth.  The bright orange, heavy duty electrical cord ran from the socket in the kitchen by the phone just inside the back door, along the porch and ended at the machine under the oak tree that provided a bit of shade and extra insurance that the custard would chill enough on a wickedly humid, hot August afternoon.  The wooden bucket of the ice cream maker held the gray rock salt that cradled and cushioned the insulated metal canister attached to the paddle that was turned by the motor.  It let out a steady drone while it did its work, churning, incorporating air and slowly, oh so very slowly turning that magical mixture of dairy, egg yolks and sugar into ice cream.
  Typically, at that age, around seven to ten years old, I didn't really appreciate the uniquely delectable flavor of the rich, homemade ice cream. I much preferred more sweetly saccharin tastes and the slick mouth feel of a Dairy Queen soft serve covered in a hard candy shell- chocolate flavored liquid that froze moments after it was poured over the cold ice cream or the excitement of a trip to Friendly's, getting a scoop of bright pink watermelon sherbet covered in chocolate "Jimmies".  Homemade ice cream to me was just basic.  Like so many made from scratch food we ate during my childhood: homemade chocolate chip cookies made with real butter and Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels instead of Chips Ahoy, homemade bread for our lunchbox PB&J sandwiches instead of Wonder Bread, homemade pizza on Friday nights instead of take-out from the Greek place down the street.  I longed for the latest, store-bought food items that everyone else seemed to be eating instead of the meals and treats that my mother took the time and care to make at home, not yet realizing that many years later, I would crave the very recipes that I was pushing away.
  Now, I find myself looking to recreate those flavors today.  I am lucky to be able to send a quick text or make a phone call and just ask Val about the dishes she made, the recipe ingredients, to clarify the memories. And she, being so ridiculously organized, knows within minutes, exactly where each recipe can be found.  This one for Peach Ice Cream is located in volume #6 of the Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery published in 1966.  She still has the full edition of the "Encyclopedia" ready for reference on the bookshelves in the living room, for all the times I stop by to borrow a volume or two. 
  The instructions provided in these books are not always as precise as the recipes that are written today.  For instance, this ice cream calls for 2 cups sweetened crushed fresh peaches.  (Sweetened with sugar? How much? )  And there are no apologies for length of time spent in the kitchen, short cuts, hacks or dietary substitutions.  Just straight forward recipes describing what you want to make and how to do it.  I think of this as I begin to grow impatient while gently stirring the custard base over simmering water.  It's a slow process that one cannot speed up by increasing the heat or whirring the ingredients in a high powered blender.  To do it right, to attain the same flavor as I remember, there is only one method.  As I will myself to relax into my task, I realize that I don't want to change anything about it.  This stirring, and waiting and peeling fresh, ripe, juicy peaches is where I want to remain for the short time it takes while my memory of family, hot summer days and creamy, rich ice cream swirls around in my head.

old cook book featuring ice cream recipes and illustration

  Here is the Peach Ice Cream recipe with the same ingredients and basic method as the original.  I added more details to the directions to make it a bit more clear by today's standards in recipe writing and left out the information about cracked ice and rock salt....

Peach Ice Cream
(makes about 1 1/2 quarts)

6 egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups sweetened, crushed peaches (2 cups peaches plus 2-3 tablespoons sugar or more to taste), chilled 4-6 hours

  In the top part of a double boiler, beat egg yolks and milk with a wire whisk until well blended.  Add sugar and salt.  Cook, stirring constantly, over hot, not boiling water until the mixture is thick enough to coat a metal spoon.  Let cool for 10 minutes, then add cream and almond extract.  Refrigerate 4-6 hours before freezing in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer directions.  Add 2 cups sweetened peaches half way through the freezing process.  Store ice cream in airtight containers in freezer.  Allow to set for 2-3 hours before serving. 

  This is a super quick ice cream recipe, one that I made to go along with the Peach Ice Cream since Chocolate Chip is my mother's ultimate favorite.  It was deemed a success and a lot easier to pull off, if you have less time and patience.

Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
(makes 1 1/2 quarts)

1 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 oz. mini semi-sweet morsels

  In a bowl, whisk together the milk and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.  Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla and whisk to combine well.  
  Turn on ice cream maker and pour the mixture in, following the manufacturer directions.  Churn ice cream for about 25-30 minutes until frozen.  During the last five minutes, add the mini morsels and allow the paddle to incorporate them into the ice cream.  Scoop out ice cream into air tight containers and store in freezer.  Allow ice cream to firm up for 1-2 hours before serving.