I’m a sucker for a bargain, but I don’t often buy things that I don’t need. That changed this week. When you find out that Supervalu is selling 2kgs of cherries for €5 what are you supposed to do? Ignore this information on the basis that you don’t even know what cherries taste like? Of course not. You buy them, and figure out what to do with them later. You did read that correctly, by the way. I don’t know what cherries taste like, or at least I didn’t. I’ve eaten and loved many cherry-flavoured things in my life, but that doesn’t mean I know what cherries taste like. Almond extract tastes nothing like almonds, so the same could be true for cherries.
It turns out that it is true. Or at least I think it is. I’m still not quite sure what cherries taste like. These ones tasted a bit like grapes, but I didn’t eat enough to be sure. They were fine though. I’m not sure why I’ve avoided them for so long. But while I could take them or leave them, my husband is a big fan. There’s no way he could get through 2kgs of cherries though, so I figured I’d make something with them. We recently cleaned out our freezer and I’d promised myself that I’d use the extra space to make ice cream. My husband’s favourite Ben and Jerry’s flavour is Cherry Garcia, so I used that as my inspiration.
This was a real experiment of a recipe. I had no idea how it would turn out. I decided to start with the custard base I use for vanilla ice cream, minus the vanilla, and wing it cherries-wise. I completely underestimated how many cherries would be necessary, but this was easily rectified but just adding more while the custard was cooling. Throw in a few chopped cherries and a chocolate chips and you have a pretty good attempt at recreating Cherry Garcia. I think. I’ve never eaten the real thing. (There’s a pattern emerging here!) My husband was impressed though, so that’s good enough for me. Don’t be put off by the colour – the beautiful pink ice cream doesn’t photograph well! This is a rich ice cream with a subtle cherry flavour, and the bursts of fresh cherries and shards of chocolate complement it well. Best of all, it’s easier than you’d expect!
600ml cream (I use double for an extra creamy texture, but single or a mix of both is fine.)
4 egg yolks
115g caster sugar
600g whole cherries, plus an extra handful
70g dark chocolate, chopped
If you’re using an ice cream maker, put the bowl into the freezer the day before you want to make your ice cream.
Start by preparing your cherries. Remove the stems and stones. A cherry pitter would be ideal, but who has one of those? I believe a nozzle from a pastry bag works well. (Just place it on the counter and push the cherries down on it.) I went with the old-fashioned tools: a knife and my fingers. Slice into the cherries until you hit the stone, and then use your fingers to scoop out the stone. Time-consuming, but easy and effective.
Place 600g of the cherries in a saucepan over a low heat with a couple of tablespoons of water. Put the lid on the saucepan and leave the cherries to stew, checking every 5 minutes. They don’t need to have turned to mush. You just want them to be soft enough to purée.
Using a blender or hand blender, purée the stewed cherries. Push them through a sieve until you’ve squeezed every bit of cherry juice out of them. Set this juice aside to cool.
For the ice cream, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they’re thick. When you lift the whisk out of the bowl the mixture that drips down should stay on the surface for about 10 seconds.
Heat the cream and cherry sauce over a medium heat until it is hot but not boiled. Pour the cream over the eggs and sugar and mix it together immediately. Strain it into a clean saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring all the time. It will take about 10-15 minutes for it to turn into a custard. It will thicken and the back of the spoon will become thickly coated. Pour it into a jug or bowl to cool. Once it has cooled a bit you can put a layer of cling film directly on the surface of the custard to stop a film forming. Chill it in the fridge.
When the custard has chilled, remove the ice cream maker bowl from the freezer and put the machine together. Turn the ice cream machine on and slowly pour the custard into it. When the custard has started to thicken and freeze, add the remaining cherries, chopped finely, and the chocolate. Churn the ice cream as per your machine’s manual. Mine took about 20 minutes to freeze. Spoon your ice cream into a container and stick it in the freezer. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, just pour your chilled custard into your container and freeze, mixing vigorously every 30 minutes for about 3 hours.
Serve your ice cream topped with a few extra cherries if you have them, and maybe an extra sprinkling of chocolate, then sit back and wait for Ben and Jerry’s to beg you to work for them.