Winter isn’t the most productive time to forage where I live. On a February visit to NH, I was able to score some fresh wintergreen, which I brought home and turned into an extract. I love the flavor of wintergreen (think teaberry gum) but it isn’t always easy to use in food and drink. I thought ice cream would be the perfect vehicle for the wintergreen flavor, and I was right, but boy it took a long time to nail this one down. The extract had a strong flavor and fragrance on its own, but my first ice cream attempt was a miserable failure. The eggs in the custard base completely overwhelmed the wintergreen flavor. My second attempt was only slightly more successful. I used a corn starch base, which let the wintergreen flavor come through, but it was far too faint for my taste. Third time was the charm. With triple the original amount of wintergreen extract, I had a delicious, perfectly textured wintergreen ice cream. This recipe is a keeper.
The first step in making your ice cream is to make the extract. It takes six weeks. (Have I lost you?)
Fill a jar with wintergreen leaves. It’s ok to add a few berries, but, honestly, the leaves have more flavor. I use both, and the fruit adds a little more color, which, by the way, will be brown, not red. Add vodka to fill the jar to the top of the wintergreen, put the lid on the jar, and give it a good shake. Store the jar someplace out of direct sun and give it a shake once a day or whenever you walk by and remember. After six weeks, open the jar and give it a sniff. It will smell wonderful. Strain off your solids and return the liquid to a clean jar. This is your wintergreen extract.
Not only is wintergreen a great flavor for ice cream, but a few drops in a mug of hot chocolate makes a wonderful flavor combination. And it would make a great addition to frosting for brownies or chocolate cake. But I digress.
What You’ll Need to Make Wintergreen Ice Cream
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 Tbs. light corn syrup
- 1 1/2 Tbs. corn starch
- 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
- 3 Tbs. wintergreen extract
What You’ll Do to Make Wintergreen Ice Cream
The corn starch and light corn syrup in this recipe give the ice cream a rich, scoopable texture that doesn’t turn icy in the freezer.
Combine the cream and milk, and warm them over medium heat. You don’t want the milk to boil. When you start to see steam rise, or tiny bubbles form around the edge of the pan, take the pan off the heat, and whisk in the light corn syrup.
Combine the sugar, corn starch, and kosher salt in a large bowl, then slowly pour in the warm liquid mixture, whisking to combine. Return the batter to the saucepan and continue to cook over medium low heat until it coats the back of a spoon. When you notice the liquid beginning to thicken, dip a soup spoon into the batter and run your finger across the back of the spoon. If your finger leaves a trail behind it that doesn’t immediately run together, you’re done. If the batter is runny enough to immediately come back together, you’ll need to cook it a little longer.
When the batter is done, add the wintergreen extract and whisk to incorporate it evenly. This is more extract than I’ve seen in ANY wintergreen ice cream recipe. By a lot. So maybe my home made wintergreen extract isn’t as strong as a commercial extract made from processed wintergreen oil, but dammit, it’s delicious.
Refrigerate the batter to cool it down, then churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. And if you feel the need to add a few semi-sweet chocolate chips, well, who could blame you?