Wednesday June 26, 2013 | 06:00 AM

The notion of homemade strawberry ice cream is high on my list of summer foods to prepare now that local berries are out in full force.

More than any other, fresh strawberry ice cream, made from local Maine berries, signifies summer food at its best; shown here is the Simple Strawberry Iice Cream (see recipe) made only with milk, cream, sugar and a touch of liqueur

If you’ve never made ice cream, consider doing so.  It's really pretty easy.  You need  milk, cream and sugar  or an egg-custard base into which a puree of fresh strawberries will be added and churned in your ice cream maker.  (Cuisinart makes one of the best machines and costs under $60.)

This is the base of the simple strawberry ice cream ready to be chilled overnight before churning

Milk and cream-based strawberry ice cream can be somewhat grainy if you don’t take certain precautions. To prevent this fill your ice cream maker only two-thirds to three-quarters full so that the mixture has plenty of room to expand as it churns, creating less air bubbles, which ultimately turn into ice crystals when frozen, making the texture grainy.  Another trick is to add a splash of liquor, about 2 tablespoons of either vodka or orange liqueur like Grand Marnier.  The alcohol helps to prevent ice crystals from forming. 

This is the churned ice cream that was given a little extra time in the ice cream maker to firm up; but don't overdo it otherwise the ice cream can become grainy

If you prepare a custard base it produces a creamier ice cream.  Either way  you’ll get great results if you follow the recipes for both carefully.  Be sure, however, to chill your base overnight or up to 24 hours before churning.  The colder the base, the creamier the ice cream.

Here the custard-based ice cream is churned to a soft-serve stage--just a bit underdone to serve and it will need several hours in the freezer to firm up nicely

For the dairy component, use whole milk and heavy cream that is pasteurized, not ultrapasteurized, which has an off, boiled taste.  Better yet, raw milk and cream have the best, purest flavor, the way it is meant to taste.   Raw milk is readily available at the Rosemont Market or at farmer’s markets everywhere.  Raw cream is hard to get, but Bisson’s, the butcher in Topsham, sells it made from their herd of dairy cows that graze on their farm in front of their country butcher shop.  It has one of the highest butterfat contents of any cream  in Maine.  Otherwise, Smiling Hill sells their pasteurized heavy cream at many stores and it’s a good heavy cream.  Another good  cream  is from Harris Farm in Dayton, an excellent pasteurized cream sold at their farm store or at theSaco Farmer’s Market.

Simple Strawberry Ice Cream
This is adapted from Desserts by the Yard, by Sherry Yard, the noted
pastry chef on the West Coast. It’s an intense ice cream with a deep-pink color

Servings: 2 pints

I quart ripe strawberries, hulled and halved
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons orange liqueur, kirsch or vodka
1 l/2 cups heavy cream, raw or pasteurized
1 cup whole milk, raw or pasteurized
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt

Mix together the strawberries, sugar, water and liquor in a medium-size saucepan and bring it to the simmer, stirring at first until the sugar begins to dissolve.  Continue to cook, stirring often, until the strawberries are soft, about 7 to 8 minutes. 

Transfer the strawberry mixture to a food processor fitted with the steel blade and puree.
Add the cream and milk and pulse until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl, stir in the lemon juice and salt and chill the ice cream base overnight, tightly covered with plastic wrap.  Transfer to the freezer container of an ice cream maker, filling it only about three-quarters full.  Churn according to the manufacturer's instructions, transfer to storage containers (I use pint size deli containers) and freeze until firm, about 3 hours.  Before serving, temper the ice cream.

Rich Strawberry Ice Cream
When making custard it’s helpful to use a candy thermometer to judge when the custard is done.  It should reach 170 to 175 degrees or when the mixture thickens enough to coat the back ofa spoon and  a streak is  left when you run your finger across the spoon.

Servings about 1 pint

1 ½ pints strawberries (about 1 1/4 pounds), hulled and cut in half
1/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup half and half (see Note)
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

Prepare the strawberries and put them into a bowl with the ¼ cup sugar.  Let macerate for about 20 minutes.  Transfer to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and puree.  Put into a clean bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile put the egg yolks into a medium size mixing bowl and beat lightly with a whisk until mixed.  Set aside

Put the half and half into a medium saucepan with the 1/2 cup sugar and cook gently over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and steam rises up from the mixture.  Do not allow it to boil or even bubble along the sides.  Remove from the heat

Whisk in a small amount of the heated milk mixture into the egg yolks to temper them, and then pour that into the pan with the remaining sugar and half and half.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it starts to thicken.  If using a candy thermometer, cook until it reaches about 170 to 175 degrees or when it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  It should have the consistency of a thin custard.

Pour this through a very fine-meshed strainer into a clean bowl and add the cream.  Add the vanilla and   salt.  Stir well.  Add the chilled berry mixture to the custard and combine.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight or up to 24 hours.  Then process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.  Be sure to fill the canister only about three-quarters full.  Transfer to a storage container to firm up.  Let temper for a few minutes before serving.

Note: Make your own half and half instead of buying it in the store because it’s generally sold as ultrapasteurized.  Whole Foods, however, has pasteurized half and half.  Otherwise measure equal amounts heavy cream and mix to measure three-quarters cup.

For any leftover ice cream make your own ice cream sandwiches using chocolate chip, oatmeal, ginger snap or shortbread cookies, sandwiching the ice cream between two cookies.  Serve right away or wrap in plastic and freeze until needed.

A coupe of  the Rich Strawberry Ice Cream



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John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

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