Early Harvest

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I can’t remember ever having strawberries in May, but Skyla picked these from our raised beds at the farm last week. At our house in the woods, I’ve grown accustomed to “June-bearing” strawberries ripening in July, but the wide-open space (no shade) at the farm seems to make a huge difference. Although we’ve had record rainfall this spring, we’ve also had a lot of sunny days, which may have contributed to the early ripening. Whatever the reason, we’ll take ’em.

This batch went into our traditional first-harvest “light” ice cream, made with equal parts half-and-half, 2% milk and non-fat yogurt. A pinch of salt, a dash of vanilla, a little sugar and two-plus cups of fresh berries all go into our little ice cream maker and the result is a luscious, bright, frozen version of strawberries and cream. I could probably eat a gallon of the stuff in one sitting.

And the berries are just starting to come on strong, so we’ve also been eating plenty straight from the basket, and blending them into smoothies with the kale that’s also growing like crazy now. Fresh, healthy, energy food disguised as dessert. What could be better?

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Ice Cream Time

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What a treat! Skyla and I made this blueberry ice cream the other day, and sadly, it’s already nearly gone. Our ice creams are generally based on Mary Goodbody’s excellent recipes in the Williams-Sonoma ice cream book, but we tend to evolve them to suit our tastes. Here’s our latest version for blueberries:

3 cups blueberries, 3/4 cup water, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 cup cream, 1/2 cup lowfat plain yogurt, 1 tsp lemon juice.

Bring blueberries, water and sugar to a boil, then simmer for a couple minutes. Cool, then run through a food processor until smooth. Push mixture through a sieve or screen, using a rubber spatula to help push it through the mesh. Refrigerate filtered mixture, overnight if you can wait that long.

Stir in cream, yogurt and lemon juice until mixture is evenly colored. Pour into the pre-frozen ice cream maker bowl (we use one made by Cuisinart, but any of the modern, freeze-ahead-of-time machines work great) and hit the “on” button. Done in about 20 minutes, and if it isn’t all eaten up while soft, put it into the freezer for a firmer texture.

While we’re on the subject of ice cream, I recently received a request for the strawberry ice cream recipe in Closer to the Ground. Again, we tweak it all the time according to our current tastes, so feel free to improvise. One nice thing about the strawberry version is that it’s a lot faster and easier to make than blueberry ice cream. Mostly because it doesn’t require cooking/straining the fruit. Anyway, here’s our basic strawberry recipe:

2 cups strawberries, 1.5 cups cream, 1 cup lowfat plain yogurt, 1/2 cup milk, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract, pinch of salt.

Chop, slice or mash (depending on how you like ’em) the berries in a bowl with 1/4 cup of the sugar. We like to leave some of the berries in quarters or halves to have some chunks in the ice cream. Refrigerate.

Mix cream, yogurt, milk, 1/2 cup of the sugar, salt and vanilla in a bowl until sugar is disolved. A wire whisk works great. Refrigerate. I’ve found it works best if you prep the cream mixture and the berries earlier in the day so they’re cold when you put them in the machine.

Pour cold cream mixture into the ice cream maker and run until it thickens. Then add the berry mixture and continue until thick. Man, I love ice cream. Enjoy!