As a kid growing up in Ohio, I looked forward to late May and early June when local farms would bring their harvest of juicy homegrown strawberries to market. On special occasions our family would venture to the farm, walking down the straw lined paths, for “Pick your Own” berries. We would fill our baskets anticipating Mom’s traditional strawberry shortcake recipe. Not too sweet, allowing the sweetness of the berries to take center stage. Inevitably, my parents would pour milk on top, allowing the crumbly cake to soak up its moisture. (I have always thought this was a horrible thing to do to a perfectly lovely cake.)
Wanting to create similar memories wrapped in the tradition of food, I took our two children to a local patch for the first time a few weeks ago. I grabbed a few baskets from the garage left from last year’s produce purchases and into the fields we went. It was a sunny day, the berries were warm, and they began picking with fervor, each berry more exciting to find than the last. It reminded me of an Easter egg hunt.
I gave the kids permission to try one, just picked from the earth and still warm from the sun. My son exclaimed, “Oh, that’s Heaven!”. I think he proceeded to eat one for every three he picked until we left. Perhaps they should have weighed him upon our arrival, as they did our empty baskets, to determine the true weight of berries leaving the farm in our car!
After filling two very large baskets (think 20 pounds!) we drove home, the kids snacking all the way. What to do with all the fruit? Homemade ice cream, of course! It was a tradition in the summer growing up to make Philadelphia style (no eggs) ice cream. Mom would mix up the cream, sugar and flavorings and my Dad manned the hand crank ice cream maker. I know there is a picture lurking around of a 5 year old me in my dad’s giant leather work boots, cut off jean shorts, and no shirt, leaning over the old White Mountain, my skinny arms cranking away. I was always quite the tomboy.
Before we all went dairy free, I used to use ice cream recipes from Bruce Weinstein’s, The Ultimate Ice Cream Book. I’ve since modified them to suit our lifestyle. I’ve swapped out the traditional heavy cream and half and half with unsweetened coconut milk and added a touch of vodka to prevent crystallization (vodka doesn’t freeze, right?) and keep things creamy. These recipes diverge from the Philadelphia style ice creams of my youth and instead use eggs as a binder to create a delicious creamy custard.
- 3 heaping cups fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk (alternatively you can use 1 can of unsweetened coconut milk and top it off with plain rice or almond milk to make a total of 2 cups)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon vodka
- Place the strawberries and salt in a food processor or blender
- There should be about 2 cups of puree. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with a whisk until thickened and pale yellow. Set aside.
- Bring the coconut milk (and rice or almond milk, if using) to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Slowly beat the hot coconut milk into the sugar/egg mixture, tempering the eggs with the hot liquid. Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk until the mixture thickens, being careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble. Remove from the heat and pour the custard through a strainer, into a large, clean bowl. Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in the strawberry puree, vanilla, and vodka. Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight.
- Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- When finished the ice cream will be soft but ready to eat. For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours.
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Let me know how you enjoy your homemade ice cream. Do you top it with fresh berries? Scoop it on top of a warm brownie? Smoosh it between two homemade chocolate chunk cookies for a scrumptious ice cream sandwich? Or simply unadorned, marveling all the while at your bowl of dairy free bliss?