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Wild Berry Mint Ice Cream

August 3, 2011

Apart from raiding my grandmother’s backyard and the one time we went blueberry picking in Maine as kids, I had never gone out to the forest to pick wild berries.  On hikes or walks in the outdoors, I have seen older folks before going through the bushes in search of nettle, mushrooms or herbs for tea.  But do we have to wait for our heads to turn grey before we realize the significance of our connection with nature?  I’m not the type to preach ‘grow all you eat’, however, getting my black gems that later turned into luscious dark purple ice cream directly from its place of growth instead of the grocery store was a different experience.  First, don’t think I’m romanticizing the life of a farmer.  The idea of going wild berry picking was at first indeed very romantic.  However, as we advanced well into the blackberry bushes and were greeted by their tiny but numerous overprotective thorns, we realized that many of the berries were not yet fully developed, while others were either bad or had gone bad before they had time to grow.  I took a bite of one and it left me with a not so pleasant aftertaste.  Off we went to another path and stumbled upon a wide low meadow looking like a mini valley covered by a blanket of sunshine.  Fearless we delved into the middle of the bush community and the closer we got to it, the bigger the berries seemed to get!  The interesting thing was that after half an hour of blackberry picking, our eyes adjusted to spotting them better and I started exclaiming: “Look, there is more here ..and there..!”  The exhilaration of reaching the bounty before other animals was so high that the scratches of the berry bush thorns or a few nettle leaves scraping my legs here and there didn’t seem to bother me any more.  One huge and creepishly flat light green bug landed right in front of me, on the leaf covering the largest blackberry I had spotted and I did shriek, I’m not sure if it was because my instincts warned me of a “competitor” or the mere surprise of a rewarding blackberry or both…

Now let’s get to the ice cream.  Whether you purchase berries or pick them yourselves, there are several things you can make with them.  If you’re buying them from your store or market, chances are you will end up paying a fortune for one of those ridiculously small plastic boxes most likely containing a child’s portion of perfectly sized berries – a count of 10-15?  These you probably don’t want to touch with a cooking device or mix with anything else unless you’re planning to propose to the love of your life with a fancy dessert topped with a few for decoration {exaggerating}.  Basically, I recommend you eat them straight as they are.  If, however, you go on a berry picking spree and end up with two huge containers of berries like we did – I haven’t counted them but roughly guessing a volume of 10 cups:)?!  Now we’re talking business: Your choices immediately expand to berry pies, tarts, puddings or creams, smoothies, custards, purees (for your babies or great-grandparents;) and of course – ICE CREAM – ..for everyone!

“Enough about what you did and what I can do with them, give me the recipe!”  Ok, here it is.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups blackberries
  • 2 cups strawberries
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup blond sugar + 1/4 cup honey)
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 8-10 mint leaves
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

 

In a small saucepan, simmer blackberries with sugar on low heat until juice has come off.  Strain and reserve syrup.

 

In a bowl, beat egg yolks with a few spoonfuls of sugar until pale yellow.  In a non-stick pan, heat the milk right before it begins to boil.  Pour a few tablespoons of the hot milk into the yolks and stir.  Pour the rest of the milk stirring well and transfer back to the pan.  Simmer mixture with a wooden spoon until it thickens to a consistency to coat the back of the spoon.  Do not overcook.

 

Puree strawberries in a food processor to a homogenous mix.  (If using small strawberries, you don’t have to strain but if using big ones, you might want to strain through a sieve to get seeds out.)  Add mint leaves to strawberry puree and blend further.

 

Mix egg yolk custard with blackberry syrup and strawberry mint puree plus lemon juice.  Let cool in fridge or freezer until very cold.

 

In a separate bowl, whip heavy cream until soft peaks form.  Throw into the berry custard mixture and stir until blended.  Pour into an airtight container or a metal bowl covered and sealed with a plastic wrap.  Freeze for at least 6 hours.  Remove from freezer and let stand for 10-20 mins before scooping.  Serve garnished with mint.

Tip: If your freezer is super strong like mine, you can periodically remove mixture and stir or whisk with an electric mixer to prevent crystals from forming.  This can be done as often as every half an hour throughout the freezing process, if you have the time or patience, or once or twice in my case.  If using an ice cream maker, skip this altogether and follow manufacturer’s instructions.

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