I’m crazy about this ice cream!! It all started when we got a bundle of lemon balm sprigs from the CSA. No – it started farther back than that, when I got a brand new ice cream maker! I’m so excited. It’s almost exactly like my old donvier, except that it has a little cage that goes round, and a motor. I decided to turn the lemon balm into ice cream. And I decided to use buttermilk to make it, because I had just bought a big container to make something else, which I’ll tell you about another time. Buttermilk is so lovely and creamy, with just a tiny tang. It curdled when I first put it on the heat, but it all came together beautifully when I added the eggs, sugar and flour. I steeped the lemon balm leaves in the buttermilk. So there’s a lovely lemony flavor, a slight buttermilky tang, and a beautiful creamy texture. You could easily make this with other herbs – mint would be nice. I’ve heard of tarragon ice cream, so I might try that. I’ll let you know!
Here’s Nina Simone with Balm in Gilead
2 cups buttermilk
4 or 5 thick sprigs fresh lemon balm, cleaned and dried
1/3 + 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 t salt
1 scant T flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Steep the lemon balm sprigs in the buttermilk…warm them together in a medium-sized saucepan. Once they start bubbling slightly (the buttermilk might curdle) set them aside for at least half an hour. After that time, lift the lemon balm out of the milk and set it in a strainer over the pot. When it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze it in your hands over the milk. Discard the lemon balm, and put the buttermilk back on a burner over medium low heat. Add 1/3 cup sugar, and whisk it in well.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs, remaining 1/3 cup sugar, flour and salt till they’re light and frothy.
When the buttermilk is just steaming, pour it in a thin stream into the eggs, which you will whisk vigorously the whole time. When the mixture is all whisked together, return it to the pan and return it to the heat. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook, whisking constantly, for about ten minutes. You don’t want it to boil. It will become thicker than regular custard, but not quite as thick as a regular pastry cream.
Remove it to a cool bowl, whisking the whole time. Then pour it into a cool tupperware (or another bowl) cover tightly, and chill for at least five hours.
When you’re ready to freeze it, add the heavy cream, and freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.