Blueberries are the friendliest and easiest to love of all the berry types available to us here in Western Washington. Sweet, slightly tart and free of tiny seeds or pits, when the blues are plentiful, we snack on them all day.
We freeze pounds and pounds of them every summer. Usually they lasts us until about February, March if we're lucky.
Last August, Kingston and I were down at Bow Hill Blueberry Farm picking enough beautiful organic fruit to keep us happy through the cold months.
After our busy morning, our trunk packed with fruit, we paused for some ice cream. Kingston hopped around on the bench out front, eager for us to dig into the single-serving container. Together, we scooped up the creamy goodness with tiny wooden spatulas.
The ice cream was made by a certain San Juan Island purveyor. It was just the right temperature for cooling off on an already warm morning. We both certainly enjoyed it a lot. But as I was eating it, I kept thinking that I wanted more of that spark of cheerful blueberry flavor.
So, when we opened this week's box from our CSA to find the first of this season's blueberries, last summer's blueberry ice cream at Bow Hill popped into my mind. A note in the CSA box suggested that we make blueberry shortcakes, but I had other ideas of course. Ice cream!
And off I went.
Inspired by my favorte ice cream maker, David Liebovitz, I drizzled Lyle's Golden Syrup over the berries and put them in the oven. After half an hour, the downstairs of our house smelled intensely like blueberries. The extra water content in the berries had oozed out and evaporated, leaving behind a thick purple syrup alive with berry flavor.
A bunch of lemon balm was also in our CSA box. I tore off a leaf and bit into it to discover a deep lemony aroma with strong floral notes. Blueberry and lemon are ideal partners. The lemon balm, which contains both herbaceous and floral scents, would add a citrusy quality with undertones of more.
This is an ice cream with deep blueberry flavor. Each bite is full of the whole, roasted berries which are both toothsome and fruity.
Kingston and I served this to his Dad and his Uncle Jack, who is also a Dad, for Father's Day. The guys ate everything without uttering a word.
"Does it taste blueberry-ish enough?" I dared to ask while they were still eating.
Silence. Then, nods all around.
Blueberry and Lemon Balm Ice Cream
A perfect treat for Father's Day, Midsummer's Day, or any time, really. It's for anyone who loves blueberry flavor, plus more.
Adapted from David Liebovitz.
For the roasted blueberries:
1 lb. blueberries, fresh or frozen
2 tablespoons Lyle's Golden Syrup (or substitute honey)
For the ice cream custard:
1 3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
2 teaspoons finely chopped lemon balm
3 strips of lemon zest
1 cup heavy whipping cream
5 egg yolks
For the blueberries:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place blueberries in one roasting pan (use two if needed) large enough so that the berries remain in a single layer. Drizzle the Golden Syrup over the berries. Place in the preheated oven and roast for 30-35 minutes, stirring at least once. Roast until the berries have given up some of their liquid and a thick, purple syrup has formed. Place berries in a container and set aside to cool.
Blueberries may be prepared up to three days ahead.
For the ice cream custard:
In a large bowl, prepare an ice bath. Place a smaller bowl in the ice bath and set a fine-meshed strainer on top. Pour heavy cream through the sieve into the bowl.
In a small saucepan, combine sugar and milk. On medium-low heat, warm the mixture. When warm, add the lemon balm and lemon zest. Turn off heat, cover with lid, and allow flavors to infuse for 30 minutes.
After the 30 minutes, reheat the milk over medium-low heat until it is hot, Stir together egg yolks. Add a few tablespoons of milk to the yolks and stir quickly. Add a bit more milk and stir again. This warms up the egg yolks and prevents them from curdling.
Pour the yolk mixture into the heated milk-sugar mixture and stir quickly using a heat-proof spatula. Continue stirring and scraping the bottom. This will prevent lumps and clumps from forming. As you stir and scrape, you will eventually notice that the bottom is becoming easier to scrape. It almost feels silky, as if the spatula is gliding across the bottom of the saucepan. This is a sign that your custard is nearly done. It is fully done when the mixture coats the spatula.
Pour the custard through the sieve and into the bowl of cream. Mix quickly and vigorously so that everything is combined and cools slightly. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator to cool completely. Overnight is best.
When the mixture has thoroughly cooled, place it in your ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's instructions. Once you have started the churning, add the blueberry mixture. When done with churning, place the finished ice cream in a freezer-proof container and put in the freezer for a few hours to harden a bit more.
Serve plain or with some fresh berries, and garnish with lemon balm leaves.