We've got a few ice cream machines in our house. Two of them we've had for years. They're identical with their big plastic tub that holds a can with a paddle inside of it, with plenty of room between the can and the sides of the tub to pack in lots of ice and salt.
And then there is the Cuisinart machine with its ice cream can insert that needs to be frozen before you can make ice cream. I have two inserts. I store both in the freezer so they are ready to go whenever I have a sudden urge for something sweet and frozen.
I use my old machines for making ice cream, preferring the creamy consistency that results. I use the Cuisinart machine for making sorbet.
Earlier this week I plucked leaves from my lemon verbena plant out in my garden. It was the first time I was using the bright, fresh lemon-scented leaves. For the last couple of years I had searched local nurseries for lemon verbena plants and always came out empty-handed until this spring. There are so many ways I want to use lemon verbena and I am so excited to finally have a plant of my own. I'm told it is a perennial, and if it comes back each year, it becomes a nice shrub. We'll see if it can survive a cold Minnesota winter. I hope so.
I decided my first experiment with lemon verbena would be in frozen custard. And, just in the nick of time to celebrate national dairy month. Today is the last day.
I steeped some chopped lemon verbena leaves in hot milk and cream one evening. While the liquid was being infused with the intoxicating fragrance, I prepared my favorite lemon curd recipe, using a little less butter than normal. After straining verbena leaves from the liquid, I mixed it with the lemon curd and refrigerated the mixture overnight.
Yesterday evening, I got the old ice cream maker set up out on the deck. As the custard churned, I rinsed, pitted and halved some fresh cherries to serve over the ice cream.
It was cool last night, but we invited the neighbors over and sat around the campfire eating Lemon Verbena Frozen Custard topped with sweet cherries. The best.
I'll keep you posted as I do more experimenting with lemon verbena.
If you don't have an ice cream machine and you live in the Twin Cities you have at least a couple of places to go for a frozen custard treat that someone else has prepared. I've been to Adele's Frozen Custard, a small shop in Excelsior that makes small batches of premium frozen custard. It's great.
On my last visit to the Twin Cities, I discovered Liberty Frozen Custard. It's another small shop in an old renovated gas station in Minneapolis. I couldn' t just drive by. I stopped for some very creamy, rich frozen custard. Yum.
Lemon Verbena Custard has just a whisper of tart lemon flavor, not one bit overpowering. It is simply lovely with all the fresh berries of summer, complementing their sweet flavor rather than diminishing. Fresh cherries are another delicious match for this frozen custard.
Lemon Verbena, I love you. You were so worth waiting for.
If you don't have an ice cream machine, go get one. Hurry.
Lemon Verbena Frozen Custard
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup lemon verbena leaves, rinsed, dried and chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons superfine sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter, cut into small chunks
Bring the milk, cream, chopped verbena leaves and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 30 minutes.
While mixture is steeping, whisk eggs with superfine sugar in a 2 1/2-quart saucepan until light. Add grated zest and lemon juice. Whisk briskly by hand over medium-low heat, adding small chunks of butter, one at a time, making sure the butter is melted before each addition. When mixture just begins to bubble, it will be thickened, similar to the consistency of pudding. Remove from heat.
Pour the steeped mixture through a fine strainer into a bowl, pressing on the lemon verbena to extract all the flavorful oils. Discard the lemon verbena.
Gradually pour the milk-cream mixture into the lemon mixture, whisking to blend and incorporate completely before adding more. When all liquid has been blended with lemon mixture, allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, covered, until thoroughly chilled.
Freeze the mixture according to the instructions for your ice cream maker. Makes about 1 quart.
Sue Doeden is a food writer based in Bemidji, Minn. Her columns, recipes and photos appear weekly in select Forum Communications Co. newspapers. She also appears on Lakeland Public Television's Wednesday newscast at 10 p.m., and teaches cooking classes. Her recipes can be found online on her blog Sue Doeden's All about Food.