When I was younger, my family and I would stay with my great-grandmother in Vermont nearly every summer. The small house was situated on the corner of two intersecting dirt roads, with an ancient wood-burning oven to keep warm in the winters and an apple tree out back that was perfect for my small hands to climb.
Nearby there was a hill where you could pick your own blueberries, so every summer we’d craft make-shift buckets out of empty water gallons by cutting the tops off, and pick as many berries as we could fit in our buckets while still snagging a few handfuls to snack on.
Back at the house I would help my mother wash the giant batch of berries, pick out all the leaves and stems, and then watch as my mother would make jars of fresh jam and blueberry pie. So much pie! To this day the smell of freshly baked blueberry pie throws me back to those sweltering summers spent in that rustic Vermont kitchen watching my mom bake, while I stole bites of raw pie dough when I thought she wasn’t looking.
Blueberry season is now almost over, so get the fresh ones while you can! Then make this ice cream to cool off. Although I didn’t pick these blueberries myself, I did get them from a local farm. Still good vibes.
Don’t freak out, but there’s bourbon in this ice cream. That’s because alcohol has a lower freezing temperature, so it keeps your ice cream creamy rather than hard and icy. You really can’t taste the bourbon at all. If you want to taste the bourbon you can put extra, but the texture of the ice cream will change and it might not fully freeze.
There’s also maple syrup in here, because invert sugars (like corn syrup, honey, agave, etc.) also inhibit icy freezing and it complements the tart blueberries well. This recipe starts by making a blueberry puree, which then gets swirled into a maple custard ice cream base before heading to the freezer. It’s simple and fresh: the perfect dessert on the last few sticky nights of summer.
For reference, I used a combination of these sources to build my recipe:
David Lebovitz: Tips for Making Homemade Ice Cream Softer
New York Times: The Master Ice Cream Recipe
Serious Eats: Use Liquid Sugars Like Corn Syrup for Smoother, Less Icy Sorbet
Strawberries for Supper: Blueberry Maple Ice Cream
Blueberry Maple Ice Cream
adapted from Strawberries for Supper
Makes 1 quart
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
squeeze of lemon juice
2 teaspoons bourbon
Ice cream base:
2 cup heavy cream
2 cup milk
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup maple syrup
4 teapoons bourbon
1/8 teaspoon salt
Get your ice cream maker ready and freeze the bowl for at least 12 hours in advance.
For the blueberry puree, heat the blueberries, maple syrup and squeeze of lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring them to a boil and let it simmer until they come out of their skins and you have a bubbly syrup. Remove them from heat and set them aside to cool. Once cooled to room temperature, stir in the bourbon and stick it in the fridge to chill.
For the ice cream base, separate the egg yolks and set them aside in a heat proof bowl. Get another bowl ready with a strainer on top of it. Whisk the cream, milk, and maple syrup in a large pot and heat it on medium until it bubbles around the edges and looks as though it’s about to boil. Turn off the heat and, while whisking the egg yolks, slowly ladle spoonfuls of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks, constantly whisking so as to not cook the eggs. This tempers the yolks to bring them to the same temperature as the milk.
When almost all of the milk has been whisked into the yolks, pour the yolk-milk mixture back into the milk pot and whisk to combine. Return to a low heat and whisk constantly for a few minutes, until this custard thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon. It will not be a very thick custard; you don’t want to cook it for too long or you will get what looks like loose scrambled eggs. Remove from heat, pour through the prepared strainer, then stir in the bourbon and salt. Cover with plastic wrap touching the custard and let it chill completely in the fridge, for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Pour the ice cream base into the ice cream maker and run it according to the manufacturer’s instructions – for my Cuisinart it took about 15-20 minutes. Get an airtight quart-sized container ready. When it’s done and looks like thick soft serve, alternate spoonfuls of the ice cream and the chilled blueberry puree into the container. Don’t worry about using up all the blueberry puree, you can always save the remainder in the fridge and use it as jam or for baking. Then swirl the ice cream together in a single motion with a knife, just enough so they’re barely combined. Freeze until hard, then serve with extra blueberry puree if desired.