There are many fresh strawberry ice cream recipes out there, but nothing beats this one for flavor and texture. I’ve been making most of our own ice cream for 10-15 years, now, and after many trials with raw, cornstarch thickened, and custard based ice cream, I’ve found that the custard technique is the best for rich flavor and creamy texture that our family prefers….by a huge margin. This is a good thing, because I love to discover great ways to use the abundance of eggs produced by our flock of backyard chickens. And the custard technique is really easy, once you get the hang of it.
Every year we pick about 30 pounds of strawberries at a local pick-your-own farm, and spend the rest of the day freezing berries, canning jam, and making pies. Check out this site to find pick-your-own farms in your area.
And then we make strawberry ice cream. This is the real thing: fresh, old fashioned flavor with no distracting vinegar or lemon juice, no tasteless lumps of frozen berry, and a super smooth texture that stays smooth even after a week or more of freezer storage.
Fruit and berry ice creams present a bit of a challenge because the added water content can make the ice cream gritty with ice crystals. Many cooks try to get around this by cooking the berries to evaporate off some of the water, but this imparts a cooked, almost jammy, flavor to the berries. But for this recipe I really wanted an authentic, old-fashioned, fresh berry flavor, and I found that a well-thickened custard base can be blended with quite a bit of berry puree without producing a gritty ice cream. A little tapioca syrup (or corn syrup), which binds water better than table sugar, also helps prevent formation of ice crystals.
Silky Smooth, Old Fashioned Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream Recipe
Makes about 1 quart
For the berry puree:
- 10 oz. (about 2 ½ cups) fresh strawberries
- 1/3 cup sugar
- Hull the berries and puree them with the sugar until very smooth.
- Let sit in food processor for 20-30 minutes at room temperature. This allows the sugar to draw out the water and soften the flesh so it will pass through the strainer, leaving almost nothing behind but seeds.
- Puree again.
- (Optional) Strain through a fine mesh strainer, pushing the puree through the strainer with a spoon. There should be almost nothing but a wad of seeds remaining in strainer, and yield of strained puree should be 1 ¼ – 1 ½ cups. You’ll need 1 ¼ cups of it for the ice cream.
- Cool completely in fridge, and keep refrigerated until ready to use.
For the ice cream base:
- 2 large eggs
- 1 and 3/4 cups heavy cream
- ½ cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 Tbsp tapioca syrup (or corn syrup, but not HFCS, which is a lot sweeter and would throw off the recipe)
- Pinch of salt
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs to break up yolks and blend them well with the whites. Set aside
- Add cream, milk, sugar, corn syrup, and salt into a 4 quart saucepan and heat over medium-high, stirring frequently, until it just reaches a simmer. Remove from heat.
- Temper the eggs by slowly drizzling about 1 – 1 ½ cups of the hot milk/cream mixture into the eggs, while whisking the eggs vigorously. If you need to rest your whisking arm, be sure to stop pouring the hot mixture while you rest. This very slow addition of the hot mixture into the eggs helps prevent the eggs from scrambling.
- Carefully pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining hot milk/cream, while whisking the contents of the saucepan. (You do not need to drizzle it, since the eggs are already tempered, but do not dump it in all at once, or you might scramble the eggs.)
- Place the saucepan on medium-low heat, and cook, stirring constantly (preferably with a heat-proof rubber spatula, but a spoon will do), scraping all portions of the inside bottom of the pan, until the mixture thickens, and reaches a temperature of 170-180 degrees F (use a candy thermometer). It should take about 7-14 minutes to reach that temperature range. The mixture should be noticeably thicker than the raw milk/cream mixture.
- Remove from heat, and immediately pour the hot custard (through a fine mesh strainer, optionally) into a large bowl. Cool it somewhat in an ice water bath, and then refrigerate. Stir occasionally for the first half hour, or so, of cooling.
- Allow it to cool completely for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator, or overnight.
- Blend 1 ¼ cups of the cold strawberry puree into cold custard.
- Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to a 1 qt container, and store in the freezer until ready to eat.