Meyer Lemon Ice Cream

Meyer Lemon Ice Cream
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meyer lemon ice cream
Smooth and delicious!

Some things were just meant to be. Meyer Lemon Ice Cream is one of them. We’d decided on Monday to make a batch of Biscotti, so we searched high and low in the library stacks here in the Scratchin’ It reference department, and found one. On the very next page was a recipe for Meyer Lemon Ice Cream, and we thought, “that sounds nice and refreshing; we’ll have to keep it in mind for the next time we have Meyer lemons.” Well, the next day, there was a box of Meyer lemons as surplus at the CSA. We grabbed a half dozen with Meyer Lemon Ice Cream in mind. The next day was our usual shopping day, so we added half-and-half and heavy cream to the grocery list, and had everything needed.

This recipe is based, somewhat loosely, on a recipe from Fields of Greens, by Anne Somerville. We changed it so that our ice cream wouldn’t have lemon zest in it, as we prefer the super smoothness of ice cream without bits of zest. We also did a few other minor modifications, but not many.

Meyer Lemon Ice Cream

Yield: about 2 quarts

Meyer Lemon Ice Cream


  • 3 Meyer lemons
  • 2 cups (1 pint) half-and-half
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar, divided
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Abbreviated Instructions

Zest and juice lemons, placing the zest in a large saucepan.

You should have about 1/2 cup lemon juice. Set aside.

Add 1/2 cup sugar to the lemon zest and rub in with your fingers until the sugar resembles wet sand. Add the half-and-half and place over medium heat. Bring to a simmer (about 170°F), whisking continuously. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes.

Whisk together remaining 1/2 cup sugar and egg yolks. While whisking, slowly add hot half-and-half mixture to the egg yolks. Return to pan and place over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, 170°F, while whisking continuously. Remove from heat.

Strain custard into a large bowl and let cool for 10-15 minutes.

Add heavy cream to custard and stir in. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla extract.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours.

Set up your ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's directions.

Pack ice cream in an airtight container and freeze.

Ingredient discussion:

We like to use organic half-and-half and heavy cream when possible, as they don’t contain anything other than dairy. No polysorbate 80, no carrageenan, just dairy. We also like to use eggs that come from pastured hens. The yolks are a bright orange, which will give this ice cream a nice lemony look, plus, they just plain taste better.

Procedure in detail:

zesting lemons
We weren’t sure how many lemons we’d need so we washed four, but ended up using only three.
lemon juice
We squeezed out about 5 ounces (150 ml) of juice from the three lemons. Perfect.

Zest and juice. We didn’t know exactly how many lemons we’d need, so we started by zesting and juicing three. It was perfect; we ended up with just over 1/2 cup juice. For zesting, we like to use a microplane, something like a rasp, to take the zest off the lemons without removing the bitter pith. For juicing, we find that nothing works like one of those old-fashioned glass reamers. We got ours for a buck or two at a thrift store and haven’t looked back. Place the zest in a large saucepan while you work.

sugar and zest
Rubbing the sugar and zest together helps release flavor from the zest; just what’s needed.

Rub zest. Add 1/2 cup of sugar to the lemon zest and rub the zest into the sugar to release some of the oils. The oils contain the flavor, and this starts getting it out of the zest and into what will become your ice cream. Keep rubbing until the sugar resembles wet sand. Add the half-and-half.

steeping half-and-half
Heat and steep the half-and-half with the lemon zest to release more flavor.

Steep half-and-half. Place the half-and-half mixture over medium heat, and, whisking continuously, heat the mixture until it’s steaming, about 170°F if you use a thermometer. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes.

egg yolks and sugar
These yolks look as if they’ll make a lemon colored ice cream all by themselves.

Temper yolks. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar, and, while whisking, slowly drizzle in the hot half-and-half mixture. As the yolks warm, you can add the liquid faster, but start with just a tablespoon or two at a time (you don’t want to cook the yolks). Once you have most (or all) of the half-and-half whisked into the egg mixture, return it to the saucepan.

cooking custard
We use a thermometer when reheating the custard so we don’t end up with scrambled egg bits in our ice cream.

Cook custard. Place the mixture over medium heat and cook, whisking all the while, until the custard thickens and is slightly simmering. Careful, as you don’t want it to get too hot, or it’ll break and you’ll end up with cooked egg bits in your ice cream. We use a thermometer for this part and heat to 170°F.

straining custard
We didn’t want the texture of the zest to interfere with the creaminess of the ice cream, so we strained it out.

Strain. Pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer and discard the zest. We always strain our ice cream, as it’ll get out any small bits of cooked egg, and ensure our ice cream is smooth and creamy. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

adding heavy cream
The heavy cream will help cool the custard before adding the lemon juice.

Add cream. Stir the heavy cream into the custard. The custard mixture should now be just lukewarm, which is what you want before adding the lemon juice (the cream might curdle, otherwise).

adding meyer lemon juice
Mayer lemon juice is sweeter and has a more complex taste than regular lemon juice, making it a better choice for ice cream.

Add lemon and vanilla. Stir in the lemon juice and vanilla extract and your custard is complete.

Chill. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight. Chilling will help the ice cream freeze when it comes time to churn.

churning ice cream
We use the ice cream attachment for churning.

Churn. Set up an ice cream machine and churn your custard according to the manufacturer’s directions.

packing ice cream
When first churned, ice cream is still very soft; pack and freeze it so it’ll harden.

Pack. Once churned, pack the ice cream into an airtight container and freeze. Feel free to taste some while it’s still soft-serve consistency.

Nice light, lemony flavor. Not overwhelming flavor, more like a hint of lemon flavor, which, we think, is just what you want in a lemon ice cream; sorbet, of course, would be another matter altogether. Five stars.

Worth the trouble?

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