Sandlapper Society

Summer 2010

Fun with Flavors

As a 17 year old who loved ice cream, working at Sanders Corner— a bait, sandwich and ice cream shop across from the Loch Raven Reservoir near Baltimore— was about as close to a perfect job as I could imagine. Everyone told me that by the end of the first week I’d be so sick of ice cream that I’d never want to eat it again, but they were wrong. For two reasons: one is the fact that ice cream is something that I really can’t ever get enough of and the second is that Mr. and Mrs. Sanders, who watched over the shop with hawk eyes, had a strict “No Eating” policy. The only tastes I had were the surreptitious spoonfuls I scooped out whenever I had the chance.

Of course, that only made it taste better. As if it could. Sanders ice cream was the real thing, made from milk, cream and eggs. The flavors changed with the seasons and included favorites such as strawberry and peach, as well as more exotic offerings like black walnut— there was a tree out back— and blueberry. With chocolate and vanilla, there were at least six choices each day. That may not seem like a lot, but given that Mr. Sanders, who was at least 70 at the time, was churning out the ice cream himself, five gallons at a time, I wondered how in the world he did it. When I asked him, he laughed and asked me to follow him to his “factory” in his house next to the shop. There, in front of an old television, sat an exercise bike that had been rigged, somehow, to an ice cream maker. Every night it seems, Mr. Sanders would make up a batch of custard, hop on his bike and churn away while he watched the news. He said he’d been doing it for years and it worked perfectly.

I still love ice cream. And while I’ll dig into a pint of Häagen Dazs® in an emergency, the best ice cream is still homemade. Luckily, not only can you find fabulous homemade ice cream in South Carolina, but chefs are having fun with it, creating flavors that leave chocolate, vanilla and strawberry in the dust. At The Backyard Café in West Columbia, for instance, husband-wife owners and ice cream makers Peg Mead and Mike Wilson turn out Death
by Chocolate, Coconut Cream Pie, even Cotton Candy.

“I grew up making ice cream the old-fashion way, churning and churning and churning,” Peg recalls. “My sisters always felt like they were smarter than me because they took the first shift when it was easy to turn the crank. I did have to work harder, but it was worth it because I got first dibs on the dasher when it was finished.”

Joe Trull had been making ice cream for years working at Nola in New Orleans, where he was Emeril Lagasse’s pastry chef, but it wasn’t until he and his wife Heidi moved to the Belton area to open Grits and Groceries that he was able to really get creative with his flavors. In addition to classics such as Egg Nog and Butter Pecan (his version is spiked with bourbon for good measure), he’s flavoring ice cream with flowers, grapes and even hot chili peppers. Cinnamon ice cream is so popular that it’s on the menu every day; lemon buttermilk is zesty and creamy; coconut chocolate chip turns a Mounds® bar on its head. 

The Trulls and the Mead-Wilsons use professional churners to make their ice creams, but I’ve had good luck with the ones that use a removable insert that you store in the freezer. Since it freezes more quickly, the texture isn’t quite as fine as you get using salt and ice, but it’s a whole lot easier and takes almost no time. Your other option, of course, is to get in the car and check out the flavors of the day at The Backyard Café and Grits and Groceries. It will be well worth the drive, no matter what flavors they’re serving.

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A few ice-cream making tips: Joe Trull’s recipes call for straining the custard before churning. This is an important step that shouldn’t be skipped. No matter how careful you are, cooking eggs invariably leads to tiny pieces of cooked egg ending up in the custard. Straining will remove them. If you find that you’ve overcooked your custard and it has become a curdy mess, there’s hope for your ice cream. Simply dump the mixture into the blender, spin it into submission and proceed with the recipe. It’s also important that you let the custard cool off a bit before you freeze it so that it won’t curdle on contact with the cold surface of the freezer. 

Honeysuckle Ice Cream

Joe Trull suggests this ice cream as an accompaniment to blueberry crisp.

4 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups sugar
1 cup of egg yolks (about 12)
3 cups honeysuckle flowers

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the milk, cream and sugar. Heat mixture over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved and milk is hot to the touch. Put eggs in a bowl and slowly add hot milk mixture in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Return mixture to the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it becomes thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove custard from heat and strain into a large bowl. While the custard is still hot, add the flowers, stir gently, and allow them to steep for one hour. Strain the flowers, discard them, and freeze the ice cream in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Muscadine Ice Cream

Joe Trull’s recipe for a late summer treat.

4 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 cups muscadine purée (use a food mill to remove the skin and seeds)
1 cup egg yolks (about 12)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine milk, cream, sugar and lemon zest. Heat mixture over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved and milk is hot to the touch. Put eggs in a bowl and slowly add hot milk mixture in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Return mixture to the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it becomes thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove custard from heat and strain into a large bowl. Whisk in the muscadine purée and the vanilla, and freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Death by Chocolate Ice Cream

At the Backyard Café, Peg always uses pasteurized eggs, which have been heated to a temperature that kills most bacteria so you can eat them raw without fear of salmonella. Most of us eat more raw or undercooked eggs than we realize when we taste batters and doughs, enjoy runny fried eggs in the morning or make Caesar salad dressing. Since using regular eggs won’t change the texture of the finished product, the choice is yours. Please note: if not using pasteurized eggs, follow directions for a cooked custard base.
  
4 pasteurized eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup Dutch process cocoa (the label will read “Dutch process.” Hershey®’s is not Dutch process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 cups half-and-half cream
3 cups 40-percent heavy cream
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 recipe Chocolate Ganache (recipe follows)
1 cup chopped chocolate chips

Mix eggs, sugar and salt until a light lemon color. Add cocoa and mix well. Add half-and-half cream, 40-percent cream and vanilla; combine thoroughly. Freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions for your ice cream maker.
When ice cream churn has stopped and ice cream is soft, remove about two cups of the ice cream and set it aside (this is to facilitate mixing in the chocolate). Swirl the cold chocolate ganache and chocolate chips into the ice cream that remains in the container until it’s evenly distributed, then add back the reserved ice cream and mix again until the chocolate ganache and the chocolate chips are swirled throughout. Freeze for about an hour until hardened.

Chocolate Ganache

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup 60% bittersweet chocolate pieces

Heat heavy cream to a simmer, but do not boil. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate pieces. Stir until smooth. Refrigerate until cold and ready to use.

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The Backyard Café
940 Old Barnwell Road 
West Columbia, SC 29170
803.951.0405
thebackyardcafe.net

Grits and Groceries
Saylors Crossroads
2440 Due West Highway
Belton, SC 29627
864.296.3316
gritsandgroceries.com

 

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