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