This summer has been absolutely beautiful. It’s been warm, with not too many muggy, hot days that make it too sticky to move. It’s been dry, which has been a blessing for people still struggling with flooding. And it’s been almost completely bug-free, which was a surprise considering the amount of standing water we had earlier in the year. All in all, gorgeous. My husband said that years from now, we’ll say things like, “Well, this summer has been nice, but it’s not as nice as the summer of ’11!”
As much as we’ve been able to get out on walks and bike rides, it is summer, and summer is never kind to my waistline. Summer means cookouts and burgers and steaks and grilled veggiles drizzled with oil. And it means ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream.
We’ve slowly been expanding our ice cream repertoire after perfecting the vanilla bean ice cream recipe last year. I’ve especially been interested in trying flavours that you just can’t get in ordinary, grocery-store ice cream. For example, an article that I read recently told the woeful tale of a small Chicago-area business who was just trying to make yummy ice cream, but is in danger of being shut down due to regulatory issues (I tweeted the article, comparing it to the plight of Winnipeg’s food truck businesses). In the photo that accompanied the article was a carton of their strawberry basil ice cream.
I was intrigued. I made it. We like it! It’s definitely a strawberry ice cream, but the taste of the basil hits you first, letting the strawberry follow behind. It’s different, and really refreshing.
Here’s what you need to make your own.
- 1 1/2 cup whole milk (3.25%)
- 1 1/2 cup whipping cream (35%)
- 1 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tsp
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pint strawberries (hulled and halved)
- 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
A note about the basil: If you’ve ever grown your own, you know that basil flowers readily. The flower spikes can also be used in this recipe. Get just shy of the 1/2 cup of basil, and then toss in two or three flower spikes. Don’t chop them with the leaves in the steps below, but leave them whole.
Mix the milk, cream, sugar and salt in a saucepan over low-ish heat. You want to be able to control what temperature the milk gets to, and if it heats too quickly it may scald.
Carefully heat the milk mixture to 170°F, stirring constantly. As soon as the milk mixture reaches 170°F, remove it from the heat.
Sprinkle 1 tsp of sugar over the basil leaves and chop. You don’t have to go totally crazy, but you want the pieces fairly small to release as much oil as possible.
Allow the milk mixture to cool a bit, then pour it into a container with a lid. Add the basil to the milk mixture. Store it in the fridge overnight to let the mixture chill completely and the flavours mature.
When you’re ready to make ice cream, remove the ice cream maker bowl from the freezer and assemble the appliance. Using a spoon, fish out as much of the basil as you can. You want to make sure to pull out the larger pieces, but if you leave in a few small pieces here or there it’s ok. (The basil will have turned brown, so it won’t be as pretty as you think it might be.) Discard the wilted basil.
In a tall glass, puree the strawberries using a hand blender. You can leave it slightly chunky if that’s to your taste, but you want the majority of the berries blended smooth. Pour the strawberry puree into the milk mixture and stir.
Turn the ice cream machine on and slowly pour the ice cream mix into the machine.
It usually takes about 20-25 minutes for the ice cream to reach soft-serve consistency. Using a spatula, pour the ice cream into a freezer container. Freeze the ice cream for a few more hours to give it a more firm texture.
Serve with a sprig of basil if desired as a garnish.