Although ice cream consumption has been decreasing steadily over the last decade, Americans still consume nearly 13 pounds per capita of the frozen treat annually. And New Englanders eat their fair share, despite living in one of the coldest parts of the country. Having grown up in Massachusetts and lived in New York and Rhode Island, then Florida and Virginia before moving back to Maine, I can attest to the fact that finding a roadside ice cream stand is far easier in New England than it is in the South.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where real creamery ice cream is widely available, you’re lucky enough. But if your only choices are Dairy Queen soft serve (no offense to Dairy Queen!), it’s easy enough to make your own rich, creamy ice cream at home. And if you raise chickens and cows, it’s a great way to use your fresh eggs and milk!
This vanilla bean ice cream recipe is my favorite. If you aren’t a fan of plain vanilla, you can add in any combination of fruits or nuts you want. But your fresh eggs and milk plus some vanilla bean to add wonderful flavor and flecks really transform the simple ingredients into a decadent dessert.
Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
(makes about 1-1/2 quarts)
4 cups milk (whole, skim or 2% – all work just fine)
2 cups heavy cream
3 vanilla beans, split and scraped (I buy mine here)
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks
Ice Cream Maker
Whisk the sugar, salt and egg yolks in a medium bowl and set aside. Simmer the milk, cream and vanilla in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until bubbles begin form around the edges. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let sit for ten minutes. Strain the liquid through a mesh strainer, being sure to press the vanilla bean flecks through the mesh for maximum flavor. Discard the solids and return the liquid to the pan.
To prevent the egg from curdling, slowly add some of the warm liquid to the egg mixture in the bowl, whisking to combine well, then pour into the saucepan with the remaining milk mixture. Whisking constantly, continue to cook the mixture for two minutes over medium-low heat, then remove from the heat.
Pour the liquid into a bowl and refrigerate until completely cooled. Once cooled, pour into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. (I have a Cuisinart ice cream maker and it takes about 20-30 minutes to reach a soft-serve consistency. Then I transfer the mixture into a regular bread loaf pan, cover it with plastic wrap and freeze it for several hours.)