Wednesday, January 09, 2008

did I mention the ice cream maker?

I got one for Christmas from Emi & Kevin. A bright red one with not one but TWO mixing bowls (which I am told made the sales lady at the kitchen shop green with envy). For those of you who know me, then you know: this just might revolutionize my life.

For those of you who don't know me that well, would you believe I used to work on a dairy farm and make ice cream for a living? Well, it was just a summer job after college, and it wasn't just ice cream, but it was WORK. I was living with Em & Kev down in Simsbury, Connecticut. We were all working and living at Town Farm Dairy—a small jersey farm where we bottled the milk in glass bottles and shipped it off with the milk man to be delivered to the neighborhood families before sunrise.

After we bottled the milk, there'd still be tons of it remaining in the holding tank. So we'd make yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, butter, cream fraiche—anything dairy to use up the leftover golden cream. (It really was golden too—those jersey gals make the best milk around, especially when they're eating all that fresh green grass in the summer months.)

On special occasions, we would make ice cream. The flavor would depend on what was growing in the garden patch (Rhubarb in spring, Strawberries in June) or on the fruit tree (Peaches in August). And in between we'd make chocolate, mint chip, and coffee chip. Making ice cream in large batches requires cracking A LOT of eggs and cutting up A LOT of strawberries. Then when the ice cream was finished churning, we would package it all by hand and race it one by one into the freezer. There was just Agnes and me, and when it was hot, we'd have to work FAST. Customers came from far and wide to get their hands on our limited edition flavors. Our cows produced a slightly higher fat milk, making the ice cream that much creamier, dense and smooth.

I learned a few things about ice cream making that summer. Then in the fall, I moved to Provence, France and learned even more. In France, it was less about the production and more about experimenting with flavor. We made a lavender vanilla ice cream that was out of this world. We also made some pretty unusual sorbets like ripe peach with lavender honey.

Ever since, I've been dying for the machine. You can always make it without the machine of course, with patience and a fork. But the machine makes you legit.

It's winter, so the first recipe I tried was this Cranberry Ice Cream (no milk at all mind you, just cream—a heart-attack waiting to happen). I wanted to follow the recipe to a T, but couldn't bear the thought of cranberry dessert without any kind of orange, or the idea of homemade ice cream without chocolate chips. So instead of cinnamon, I added Grand Marnier. And at the end I tossed in some chopped up dark chocolate bits. It came out pretty well for a first try.

Now I just gotta get my hands on David Lebowitz's ice cream book, The Perfect Scoop. That outta keep me busy.

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