lemon verbena ice cream
Falling leaves, muddy puddles, winter squashes, pumpkins and goblins – not the season you’d likely have lemon verbena ice cream on your mind (if in fact there was a season you ever did.) Does it seem somehow out of place here? I did have my reason though, and here it is. It’s the season for bringing things in. Lawn chairs, sun umbrellas, precious plants that won’t winter over, the last of the tomatoes – and herbs leaning with the weight of autumn rain. I had two tall lemon verbena plants and they had grown upwards all they were going to, and now were struggling to hold their heads up. It was time they came in out of the rain. And once in, I had to do something wonderful with them.
This is an herb new to my garden this year, and I’ve already grown to love it to pieces! For those of you new to it too, the aroma is like lemon, but more lemony, and floral like the flowers of a lemon tree. It’s exquisitely and powerfully aromatic and after bringing it in and plucking leaves from its stems, our house smells as fresh as it maybe ever has. And the flavor? It too is more lemony than lemon, but with none of the sourness. For those of us crazy for citrus, what more could we possibly ask of an herb? If you have an herb garden, or a sunny space for a pot by your door, I vouch for this one! Every time you brush against it (and you’ll find reasons to do that often) you’ll be greeted with a delicious nose-ful. (I predict some of you will even start petting it.)
One thing about lemon verbena though is that heat weakens its lovely intensity. It’s best preserved by making a sort of sweet pesto of it. (Though it works beautifully in savory dishes too.) To make a sweet paste: Two parts lightly packed leaves to one part sugar – into the food processor and processed until you have a smooth green paste. You can put it into the freezer this way and it will keep for months and months; and because it has such a high sugar content, you can easily scoop out just as much as you want at a time. Use it in frozen desserts, custards and curds, tarts and cakes, fruit salads and compotes. Or perhaps you’d like to design a cocktail around it. My mind is churning on that one, but for now…
an ice cream made of milk infused with fresh ginger
& the so-fragrant verbena
Lemon Verbena Ice Cream
makes 5 cups – 10 servings
The light and vibrant, tangy taste of this ice cream is maintained by the addition of crème fraîche or sour cream in place of the heavy cream of most ice creams.
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 ¼-inch-thick slices of fresh ginger
- 1 cup (gently packed) fresh lemon verbena leaves
- 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 2 cups sour cream (full- or low-fat) or crème fraîche
- 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Bring the milk to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the ginger and remove from heat. Allow the milk to steep and cool.
Process the lemon verbena and sugar in a food processor until the leaves are finely ground, a minute or so.
Stir the lemon verbena/sugar into the milk and stir to dissolve. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and refrigerate until cool.
To finish, whisk the sour cream in a medium-sized bowl to smooth out any lumpiness. Gradually whisk in the chilled lemon verbena milk, then the lemon juice and salt. Put the mixture into your ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s directions. Best served just slightly softened, maybe with ginger snaps or crispy lemon cookies or biscotti. Or just covered in berries or sliced fruit. I haven’t tried it yet, but hear that candying the leaves is very easy to do. I’m going to give it a shot. Imagine those sparkly edible leaves on a cake with fresh flowers.
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(This recipe comes from the renowned Herb Farm Restaurant, Woodinville, Washington )