Hello dear friends. How are you?! It feels like an age since I’ve been here. Maybe it has been an age. I’ve lost all track of time as we’ve been in a blur of activity and change.
I meant to come back with a roar, with all sorts of things to say and stories to tell. Instead, I think I’ll go for something more along the lines of a purr. Roaring takes too much energy for the moment. Shifts and adaptations, however positive, are tiring. So is moving and unpacking boxes. Sheesh.
But we are, in fact, wondrously unpacked. We still have a small stack of boxes to attend to, and the art needs to be hung. But, most of the important things (read: kitchen and dining room – and even the living room, actually) are set up and functioning. We had the most amazing help. I mean really, that’s part of why we wanted to be here. The kindness and sense of community are palpable.
Most people just kind of walked around us when we moved into our last place in Boston. Here, we had a steady stream of smiling people stopping by to help unpack boxes, unwrap dishes, deliver pies, and bring us meals. While we were on our long drive, I worried that perhaps my expectations were too high, that I had overbuilt all my memories of how great Minnesota and its people are or how supportive our community would be. What a silly, silly worry. Reality exceeded expectations and then some, as it is wont to do if you will let it.
No sooner had we started to settle into our new place than we picked up to head even a bit further north to spend the long weekend in the Northwoods with friends. We swam, and hiked, and paddled, and napped, and played games, and ate delicious meals until we were fit to burst. And then, to further crown the glorious weekend, our naturalist friends took us to a beautiful bog to pick chanterelles. Seriously. Does life get any better than that?!
My one teeny tiny regret is that I – space cadet that I currently am – forgot to bring either camera or phone. So, no images from the weekend were captured. So be it. They’ll have to live on in the mind’s eye.
Now we’re back and blam! back to work. The ground has been hit, and we are running. But we are being intentional from the start in our effort to work hard in a way that is still life-giving, with plenty of energy devoted to place an to nature. How can we not when there are trails to be run, hawk migrations to be watched, and the world’s largest lake to be jumped into!
A critical part of this balance, for me, is getting back to cooking. It’s kind of been a while! We’ve experienced so much generosity with our arrival that we’ve barely had to be responsible for our own meals in over a week. I feel weirdly rusty in the kitchen. I’m also adjusting to the new space, new appliances, new light (I love our new place, and the kitchen is beautiful, but I must admit that it doesn’t get quite as much light as our last one).
An extremely exciting development? Our new freezer fits our ice cream maker. Wee! Our old one didn’t. This didn’t prevent me from making ice cream on occasion, but the process was an involved series of hacks. Now, on the other hand, it’s a breeze. The breeziest of breezes. And good thing too because I had an ice cream recipe to test!
The original recipe was sort of a sweet cream ice cream base with a bourbon plum jam blended in. The words bourbon plum jam caught my attention immediately. I figured that if we’re starting a whiskey distillery and getting involved in the local food scene, I’d better start working on ways to cook with spirits, and a fruity, creamy treat sounded like a pretty brilliant jumping off point. And it was. It was quite delicious, but ice cream evaluation is a particular and individual thing, and it somehow wasn’t exactly what I had hoped it would be. More particularly, the bourbon flavor was a touch too subdued, and it was decidedly lacking in a swirl. It may indicate a certain lack of refinement on the part of my tastes, but I really like my ice cream to be a vehicle for swirls or chunks. (Though I do like a good, solid plain flavor as well, when well executed.)
So I went rogue, and made some changes to create my own version. I slightly reduced the amount of plum jam blended into the ice cream, and then added a jammy swirl to the finished ice cream. I added the bourbon to the ice cream base rather than the jam, allowing the sweet butterscotch tones to come through a bit more strongly. I also left some of the skin in while making the plum jam to give it a rich red color.
The tang of the plums and the floral notes of vanilla stand pertly up to the mellow creamy of the ice cream backdrop. The ice cream is cold but creamy, fresh from the fruit but deeply and richly flavored from the cooking process and the bourbon. It’s a treat that oozes summer while dribbling a bit into fall. And, it’s proving to be a happy welcome into a new home.
Plum and Bourbon Swirl Ice Cream (makes close to 1 1/2 quarts) adapted from here
- 1 1/2 pounds of very ripe plums
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 Tbs. vanilla extract)
- Using a sharp knife, cut an x through the skin on the bottom of each plum. Bring a pot of water to a boil and plunge the plums in for 1 minute. Remove them with a slotted spoon, let them cool, and peel off the skin.
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the sugars, honey, and 1/2 cup water. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugars dissolve. Cut the vanilla bean in half, scrape out the seed paste and add both the seed paste and the pod to the pot.
- Using your hands, smoosh in the plums (they’ll smash right to a pulp if they’re ripe) and discard the pits. Add a couple of the plum skins that you peeled off.
- Cook over low heat, stirring well from time to time, for about an hour, or until the jam has thickened and tastes intensely of plum and vanilla. Fish out the vanilla pod and the skins and discard them. Transfer the jam to a container, cover, and refrigerate until fully cooled.
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup milk (whole or 2% work)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1 Tbs. bourbon
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the milk, cream, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the salt. Heat over medium until it reaches a bare simmer.
- In the meantime, in a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar.
- When the milk mixture is hot add a ladleful to the egg yolks, whisking vigorously as you add it. Repeat with one or two more ladlefuls to temper the yolks. Then, scrape the yolk mixture back into the pot with the milk mixture. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture has reached the consistency of custard (it should thickly coat the back of your stirring spoon).
- Transfer the custard to a metal bowl and stir in the bourbon. Then either chill the custard in an ice bath (stirring from time to time), or chill it in the fridge overnight.
- Process the cold ice cream base in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It should take close to 20 minutes to churn, and you want it to reach the consistency of soft serve. In the last minute of churning, add 1/4 cup of the plum jam.
- When the ice cream is ready, pour half of it into a freezable container. Spoon 1/4 cup of the plum jam over it. Spread on the remaining ice cream, then spoon on another 1/4 cup of the jam. Run a knife around through the ice cream to swirl the jam, but don’t over swirl or it’ll blend right in. Cover the container tightly (leaving as little space as possible – you can put plastic wrap directly on the surface of the ice cream if you wish), and put it in the freezer for a couple of hours to harden further.
- Allow to soften for about 5 minutes before serving. Homemade ice cream only keeps well for several days because it doesn’t have stabilizers in it, if you share with neighbors, this shouldn’t prove to be much of a problem!