The strawberries have been lovely this season, but alas, they’re winding down here. For some of you, the season is just starting, and for other lucky ducks, production will continue for some time. But here in the Heartland, our climate and soils are more suited for tomatoes and corn, and our local farmers’ attentions will now be directed towards those crops.
But, I was strawberry greedy at the farmers’ markets this spring and have stocked my freezer with lots of bags of beautiful red berries. Strawberry ice cream and strawberry shortcakes will be plentiful this summer.
Also planned this summer: lots of homemade ice cream and frozen yogurt (and just yesterday I saw frozen kefir at the grocery store — intriguing, must experiment). Although single-use appliances usually grate on my nerves, my ice cream maker has more than paid for itself.
Gelato — Italian ice cream, not to be confused with sorbet or granitas — is slightly lighter than American ice cream, with a larger ratio of whole milk to cream (reversed, for American ice cream). Smooth and creamy, it’s a perfectly textured vehicle for fruit and nut add-ins.
I’ll also be experimenting with different kinds of milks, including the coconut milk I used here (for the shredded-coconut-averse — like myself — there is not a spot of the dreaded substance to be found in this recipe. Only coconut milk). Almond milk is definitely on the to-try list.
The balsamic-macerated strawberries and subtle coconut flavors paired very well, and the gelato was a wonderful, cooling treat on a brutally hot day last weekend.
Strawberry Coconut Gelato
5-6 ounces strawberries, tops removed, chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon vodka (optional*)
1 tablespoon brown or turbinado sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 cup coconut milk (full fat)
1 cup sugar, divided usage
1 wide strip of lemon zest
2 egg yolks**
1. Place the strawberries in a small bowl and stir in the vinegar, vodka and brown sugar. Set aside to macerate.
2. Combine the milk, coconut milk, 3/4 cup of sugar and lemon zest in a small saucepan. Heat over medium, stirring occasionally, until it begins to bubble lightly, then adjust heat down to maintain a very gentle simmer.
3. Whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl. Pour a small amount of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture and whisk thoroughly. Then pour the egg yolk mixture into the hot milk, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking. Simmer, whisking all the while, until the custard reaches 160°F.
4. Strain the custard through a sieve into another bowl set over ice water and allow to cool. Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour (or overnight).
5. Process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions – the gelato should reach soft-serve consistency. Add the strawberries and accumulated juices during the last five minutes of processing. Store the gelato in the freezer for several hours to firm up.
*Vodka will help keep the gelato from freezing hard — alcohol doesn’t freeze solid at freezer temps.
**Custard-style gelato is often made with 4 egg yolks, which yields a very, very creamy result. To use 4 egg yolks, simply rebalance the sugar division (use the same amount): use 1/2 cup when heating the milks, and then whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup into the 4 egg yolks.