Buttermilk Strawberry Swirl Ice Cream

As a child, surprisingly enough, I was not into food. I could take it, or leave it. Much to the dismay of my Chinese grandmother, who moved in with us to help care for me shortly after I was born, and never left. I ate so slowly, she would fall asleep, bottle in hand.

Of the few food memories I do have, the most vivid would have to be, making strawberry preserves with friends of my mother and father, Val and Lynda and their son, Mark, who was my age, maybe we were 8 years old. Our fathers met as officers in the Navy stationed together in Connecticut, remaining close friends for over 40 years, despite living on opposite coasts. 

I remember Lynda with the firm kindness of a teacher, Val smoking a pipe in the evenings, a habit his doctor eventually persuaded him to give up, and Mark, who I would sometimes hide from when they visited. It was Lynda, my mother, Mark and I who went berry picking, what I remember to be an impossibly immense number of berries, small, red, and juicy. The recipe was from my mother's ubiquitous red plaid Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, with pectin, and a disc of cooled translucent wax on top. I was in disbelief at just how brilliantly red, jewel-like, how delicious the jam was. With a taste bearing no semblance to anything found on a supermarket shelf. It was like a sort of magician's alchemy.

More recently, shortly before a trip to Africa my parents were due to take with Val and Lynda, they learned that Val was very ill. He was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night, having fallen in the darkness after a heart attack. The doctors told them he had a 10 percent chance of surviving.

Miraculously, he did survive. He recovered. But not without loss. He who played tennis daily for as long as I could remember, and who had a great love for restoring antique cars. He had to give up tennis. He had to sell his cars, unable to play tennis or drive again.

They did eventually make the trip to Africa.

Some days I need a reminder of how fragile life is, it can be too easy to grow lost in the everyday. Days, weeks, could easily be washed away, preparing meals for family, keeping kids healthy and clean. Treading water in an ever rising tide of laundry. Driving here and there and back again.

Today my daughters and I joyfully made it our priority to pick strawberries and make jam. Meanwhile, the dust bunnies and dishes collect. And, I hope, memories.

Strawberry Swirl Buttermilk Ice Cream

Buttermilk lends a pleasant, old-fashioned flavor and tang to the ice cream, providing a nice contrast to the sweetness of the strawberries.

adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, 90 Recipes for Making Your Own Frozen Treats From Bi Rite Creamery

For the Ice Cream Base:

5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup 1% or 2% milk
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks just to break them up, then whisk in half of the sugar (6 tablespoons). Set aside.

In a heavy nonreactive saucepan, stir together the cream, milk, and the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar. Put the pan over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally and watch closely as the cream heats up (it can boil over easily) as you bring it just to the brink of simmering: bubbles will form and break along the edge of the pan, and then the mixture will seem to swell slightly. When the mixture approaches a bare simmer, reduce the heat to medium.

Carefully ladle out about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture and, while whisking constantly, add the cream to the bowl with the egg yolks. Repeat, adding another 1/2 cup of hot cream to the bowl with the egg yolks. This step of gradually adding the hot cream to the egg yolks is necessary to gently heat or temper the yolks which reduces the risk of scrambling them.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the cream as you slowly pour the egg yolk mixture from the bowl into the pan. Continue to cook on medium heat, stirring constantly in a figure 8 pattern with a heatproof spatula, until thickened enough to coat the spatula.

Pay close attention to the consistency as the base cooks, as it can change quickly.

Test the consistency by drawing your finger across the back of a coated wooden spoon. If it leaves behind a clear path, it has reached the proper consistency. Cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Strain the base through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container. Set the container into an ice-water bath, using a clean spatula, stir the base occasionally until it is cool. Remove from ice-water bath, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least two hours, or preferably overnight. (otherwise the addition of buttermilk will cause the mixture to "break".)

After the base is completely chilled, add the buttermilk and vanilla, whisking to blend.

Freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. While the ice cream is churning, put the container you'll use to store the ice cream into the freezer. Transfer to the chilled container and freeze for one hour, or until half-frozen.

 meanwhile, prepare the strawberry swirl:

Quick Strawberry Jam

adapted, loosely, from Ina Garten

 2 cups sugar
juice from one large lemon
1 1/2 pints strawberries, hulled, cut in half

Place 3 small plates or saucers in the freezer. Combine sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Cook slowly over very low heat until sugar is dissolved. Add strawberries. Continue to cook over very low heat for 20 minutes, boiling slowly. To test if the jam will thicken upon standing, remove one of the plates from the freezer. Place a small amount, 1/4 teaspoon or so, onto the cold plate. If the juice thickens to a jelly-like consistency, it is ready. Puree in a food processor until smooth. Chill in the refrigerater until ready to use. 
Swirl in the strawberry puree:

Working quickly, add the chilled strawberry jam puree by dropping large spoonfuls over the half-frozen ice cream, then gently swirling with a chopstick or butter knife, being careful not to over-stir.

Freeze for at least 4 hours.

optional but delicious:

Homemade Sugar Cones

we splurged and purchased this waffle maker, and are very happy with it

Delicate and crisp yet sturdy, we like them served while still a bit warm. It takes a few times to get the trick of rolling them without an opening at the bottom of the cone, but this is easily remedied with a spoonful of melted chocolate, a delicious final bite!

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup egg whites
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Combine the powdered sugar and egg whites in a medium bowl and whisk together. Add the flour, mix to blend, and add the melted butter. Mix until blended and smooth.

Bake waffle cones using a waffle-cone maker according to the manufacturer's instructions until lightly caramelized.

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