Last weekend I desperately needed to get my two year old out of the house for a little while. Kellan needed to burn some energy and Mom’s belly needed a break from being his drum set, landing pad, and pillow. Trust me I usually love having his attention and affection in whatever form it comes, but baby Allie needed some quiet time in utero. 🙂
On Saturday morning I did some research to find out what was going on in South Orange County and I ran across a U-Pick Strawberry Field a mere four miles from our house! Perfect! It looked super quaint and off the beaten path…much better that the strawberry field we pass from time to time that is flanked by freeways on both sides. This little local strawberry field is at South Coast Farms and boasts a backdrop of picturesque rolling hills. Not only does it have u-pick strawberries on weekends during strawberry season, it’s an organic farm and farm stand offering on site fruits and vegetables for purchase seven days a week. There’s even a CSA program (Community Supported Agriculture) where locals can subscribe to receive bountiful baskets of seasonal produce grown in the community. I’m really excited to give it a go after the baby comes as I imagine it will be the perfect inspiration for the healthy eating plan I’ll need to get back into pre-baby shape.
I was so excited for BJ to take Kellan to pick strawberries! Of course I so wish I would have been able to go with them, but it’s really all about the experience for Kellan and he always has the best time with his daddy! I sent them out the door with two empty baskets and anxiously awaited their return. Two hours later a very proud little boy marched through the door carrying a basket full of beautiful strawberries and sporting a huge smile.
“Look what I brought for you!” he beamed.
BJ followed behind with the second basket of bright red berries. I could smell their sweet scent from the couch! We quickly washed up a few and tasted the treasure. They were so juicy, sweet, and soft enough to easily bite right into, but not mushy. I doubt there’s a more simple pleasure than the taste of freshly plucked strawberries. I knew right away what we needed to do with them. It was an unseasonably warm weekend so homemade strawberry ice cream seemed like it would be a winner…and it was!
From my seemingly permanent perch on the couch, I coached BJ through the homemade ice cream making process. We started out with an ice cream base made of half and half, sugar, a vanilla bean, egg yolks and finished with heavy cream. I’ll admit, I jumped up off the couch and tackled the yolk-whisking part as I was less than confident that BJ’s effort was getting them to the fluffy state they needed to be in. (Whew! That was a work out for a girl who has been sedentary for two months!)
Once the base chilled, we stirred in about a pound of pureed berries and then let the ice cream maker do its thing. After only a half hour of churning it was ready to go into the freezer. This is the KEY to good homemade ice cream. Sure, you can go for it right out of the maker. That’s what most people do. But that’s also why most people’s homemade ice cream is really soupy and never makes it to the creamy, firm texture you expect from ice cream. We let ours freeze overnight but if you can’t wait that long, I would suggest at least 3 to 4 hours for better results.
This was some seriously good ice cream. I enjoyed a small bowl every night until it finally ran out, and even shared bowls with our Life Group. It got rave reviews…especially the texture. They couldn’t believe it was homemade!
You may or may not have a strawberry field from which to pick your berries, but I bet your grocery store is starting to stock some good looking berries. Give those a shot or use this same ice cream base with a fresh fruit that does grow in your neck of the woods. I promise it won’t disappoint!
3 cups half-and-half
2 cups sugar
1 whole vanilla bean
9 whole large egg yolks
3 cups heavy cream
1 lb. strawberries, hulled
2 tablespoons sugar
- Stir half-and-half and 2 cups sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Split the vanilla bean, scrape out goodness inside, and add it in. Heat the mixture until it’s hot but not simmering or boiling.
- In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks vigorously with a whisk until they start to lighten in color and get fluffy. You can use an electric mixer but be careful not to overdo it.
- Using a ladle, slowly drizzle a bit of the half-and-half mixture into the egg yolks, whisking continuously. This is called “tempering” the egg yolks and will bring them up to a warm enough temperature so that when you add them to the hot half and half the eggs don’t scramble. You can do this again for good measure if you’d like.
- Pour the tempered yolks into the saucepan with the rest of the half and half mixture and stir gently with a wooden spoon for 2 to 4 minutes, cooking it slowly until it’s thick enough to coat the spoon.
- Pour the entire mixture into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer. This will get rid of any eggs that might have accidentally scrambled. Nothing is worse than ice cream with bits of scrambled egg mixed in!
- Add the heavy cream to the bowl and stir gently to combine. Refrigerate this mixture for 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, combine the strawberries and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a blender. Puree until smooth. Pour the pureed strawberries into the chilled custard mixture and stir to combine.
- Now pour this mixture into your ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer it to a freezer-safe container and freeze it for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
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