We’ve been wanting to make this ice cream for two years. Yes, two years! But, we haven’t until now. Why? Well, last summer we couldn’t get fresh, tree-ripened peaches, and we just plain refuse to waste our money on those peach-shaped things they try to sell at the store. Often crunchy because they’re picked green, turning mealy as they”ripen,” store peaches are an abomination foisted on people who’ve never had a real peach.
This year, we did get some peaches, and in our CSA share, no less. We’ve often remarked that it would be nice if the CSA started offering more fruit. Sure, in the summer we can count on melons of all sorts, and the winter it’s citrus, but we always think we could use more locally-grown fruit. Fortunately for us, Farmer Frank must have been listening, because he’s planted thousands of peach trees and we’re starting to see the — oh, dare we say it — the fruits of his (and crew, of course) labors.
Oh, and to be fair, we did have a recipe that we found in a book sometime in the past. Unfortunately, we lost the recipe with the crash of the Scratchin’ It central mainframe, so we just had to wing it and make up a recipe.
Use the best ingredients you can afford. After all, you can already buy inferior ice cream at the store, so why make an inferior version at home? For us, that’s real peaches fresh from the tree, eggs from free-range hens, and real vanilla. And organic, no-additive cream and half-and-half if we have it (we didn’t this time).
Procedure in detail:
Grill peaches. Start a fire in your grill. Now, you might have gas grill, about which we know next to nothing, so you’ll be on your own with that one. We used some of the mesquite tree trimmings and made a small wood fire in our grill. Once your fire is going, brush the peaches, both sides, with a bit of oil. This will help prevent sticking to the grill. Place the peaches on the grill, cut side down, and grill for 2 to 3 minutes, or until nice charred marks are formed. Flip the peach halves and grill on the other side until the peaches are soft and bubbling around the edges. Remove and let cool.
Chop peaches. Pull off the peach skins, and cut the peaches into small pieces. Reserve the equivalent of about 1 peach for adding to the custard; cover the remaining amount of peaches and place in the refrigerator, as we won’t need them until after we’ve churned the ice cream.
Heat cream. Well, heat more than cream, actually. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine reserved peaches, heavy cream, half-and-half, and the vanilla. Place over medium heat, and, stirring often, bring to a simmer, about 170°F if you’re using a thermometer (we do). Once simmering, remove from heat.
Steep. Cover the cream mixture and let it steep for 30 minutes. Yes, just go off and do something else for a while.
Blend. Remove the vanilla pod. We used a slotted spoon, but maybe you’ll have a better way. However you do it, remove the pieces of the vanilla bean, as you don’t want to blend those up in your custard. You can either discard, or rinse and save the bean for making vanilla sugar. Once the bean is removed, pour the cream mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.
Strain. Quickly wash the saucepan, and strain the custard mix into the clean saucepan. We want our ice cream to be super-smooth, so take the time and strain it.
Add sugar and reheat. Mix in 1/4 cup of the sugar. It won’t really dissolve until the mixture is heated, so place it back over medium heat and bring to about 160°F, stirring all the while. Remove from heat.
Whisk egg yolks and sugar. In a large bowl, add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar to the egg yolks (remember that separating eggs is easier when they’re cold) and whisk until smooth and light in color, about 1 minute.
Temper egg yolks. Here’s the hard part. You need to add the hot cream to the egg yolks without cooking them, so, while whisking the egg yolk mixture as fast as you can, pour in a small amount of hot cream. Continue whisking and pouring, gradually increasing the rate at which you add the cream, until it’s all mixed in.
Cook custard. Return the custard mix to the saucepan and place back over medium heat. Cook, stirring or whisking continuously, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. If you’re using a thermometer, the temperature should be 165°F. Too hot and the egg will curdle, so be careful.
Strain and chill. Once again, strain the custard mix into a clean bowl (we use a large measuring cup with a spout for easy pouring later). The straining will remove any lumps that formed in the custard from a localized hot spot. It does happen, as you’ll see some lumps that are strained out. Once strained, cover and refrigerate overnight to allow it to chill completely and give the flavors a chance to meld.
Churn. Set up an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions, add the custard, and churn appropriately.
Fold in peaches. Once churned, fold in those grilled peach peaches, and give your ice cream a little taste. That’s the chef’s job, you know.
Pack and freeze. Scoop the ice cream into an airtight contain and pop in the freezer for later. Or eat it all right now; we won’t tell.
Next time we’ll add another peach. We only had three and, which made ice cream with a mild peach flavor, so we think four peaches are more like it. Even so, it was worth waiting those two years to taste this grilled peach ice cream. Even without the grilling it would be great, but the slight smokiness adds just a bit of extra flavor. Sure, it’s more trouble to grill up a few peaches, but in this case, it’s worth it. Five stars.