Monday, January 22, 2018

Sour Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream

I love cherries, especially the tart kind, but my birch pollen sensitivity causes me to have a mild allergic reaction when I eat these fruits raw. I can work around this issue by cooking the offending element, which includes pretty much all stone fruits. Happily, popping peaches, apricots, etc., in the microwave for a minute or so seems to kill whatever it is that my body thinks is an allergen. I can also eat dried, frozen, or canned stone fruits, so I don't really feel at all deprived.

When I found that Oregon Fruit Products sold red tart cherries in jars, packed only in tart cherry juice, I was elated. Tart cherries are available for such a short time in the summer, and sometimes I miss that window. Jarred cherries, however, are around all the time, so I can have them whenever I want. I've always been a fan of Oregon's products. I'm pretty sure that the very first blackberries I ever ate came from a can. Now there's usually a can of berries in the pantry for those times I have a need for instant fruit and am too lazy to walk to the grocery store (which is often).

Oregon Fruit Products was kind enough to send me a few jars of their tart cherries to try. Now what to do with them besides eating them directly from the jar? Pies and tarts seem the obvious choice, but why not ice cream? When I was a kid, one of my favorite ice creams was a certain name brand's cherry vanilla, back in the good old days when they advertised that their ice creams had no artificial ingredients. It had a strong vanilla flavor, punctuated by sweet fruit. My cherry vanilla ice cream is completely different than theirs. Not only is it made with ingredients that are more likely to be found in a home pantry than a chemical lab, the cherry flavor is the star. I wanted to taste the vanilla too, which is why the recipe calls for a whole tablespoon of extract. If you feel that's too much, by all means cut back. You just won't taste it as much.

The Oregon Red Tart Cherries are quite tart, as they are packed with no added sweetener, so I warmed them up with a bit of sugar before adding them to the ice cream. The tart cherry juice left over went directly into my gullet. Did you know that antioxidant-rich tart cherry juice is helpful in fighting inflammation and pain for people with osteoarthritis?

Tart Cherry Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

For the cherries:
1 13-ounce jar of Oregon Red Tart Cherries, well drained (drink the juice!)
1/2 cup granulated sugar

For the ice cream:
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons softened cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

To make the cherries: Cut the drained cherries into quarters and place them and the sugar in a sauce pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar begins to bubble, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and refrigerate until completely cold.

To make the ice cream: Mix 2 tablespoons of the whole milk with the cornstarch to make a slurry. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream cheese and salt together until smooth. Prepare a shallow ice bath: in a large bowl or baking pan, place an inch or two of cold water and several ice cubes. Set aside.

Cook the remaining milk, cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a large saucepan until it comes to a rolling boil, Boil for 4 minutes, watching carefully so it doesn't boil over (stir when it starts to expand), remove from heat, and slowly whisk in the slurry. Bring back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Blend a few tablespoons of hot milk mixture into the cream cheese to loosen it, then pour the cream cheese mixture into the pan of milk. Whisk well until smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Pour into a container with a tight-fitting lid and place the container into the ice bath until cool. Refrigerate until completely cold.

To finish: Freeze ice cream according to manufacturers instructions. Once ice cream is mostly done, add the cherry mixture a little at a time until it is completely incorporated.

Scoop ice cream into a lidded container. Press a piece of wax paper onto the surface of the ice cream. Seal container and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

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