May 30, 2012
Rhubarb Ginger Ice Cream
This spring, I have been able to get enough rhubarb. We have had many warm days, but ripe local fruit is still weeks away. Rhubarb, though technically a tart stalk, makes an acceptable substitute while we wait to eat strawberries by the handful. After trying it in crisps, jam, a savory sauce, and a syrup, rhubarb ice cream had to be next.
It starts with a compote: rhubarb, sugar, a little lemon juice, and some crystallized ginger for a different sort of zing. You could stop there and pour the sweetened rhubarb over vanilla ice cream or anything else that strikes your fancy. If you have time and just enough patience you should make the custard, add cream, stir it all together. After it chills, churn it into ice cream. The compote melts into the creamy custard, making a very pale pink ice cream. The sugar mellows the rhubarb's dominant tartness, but the flavor of those green red stalks is still there.
These beautiful spring days that feel more like summer don't need much embellishing. They make a page of perfect snapshots in the album of my memory. A picnic blanket in the warm grass, heating coals on the grill as the daylight fades, sharing a meal with friends and perhaps ending it sweetly with homemade ice cream.
Rhubarb Ginger Ice Cream
Feel free to adjust the sweetness of the compote to your taste, but don't let the sugar overwhelm the flavor of the rhubarb which should be a little bit tart. The ginger in this ice cream is there as more of a compliment to the rhubarb and is not very strong, but you could use more if you want a stronger ginger flavor.
2 cups rhubarb, cut into inch long pieces
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
4 egg yolks
2 cups heavy cream
Combine the rhubarb, lemon juice, and sugar in a pot over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the rhubarb has broken down into a red sauce, about 15 minutes. It won't be totally smooth but there should not be any large chunks of rhubarb left. Remove from heat and stir in the crystallized ginger. Let the compote cool somewhat while you make the custard.
Before starting the custard, place a fine mesh strainer on top of a quart sized (or larger) bowl. Heat the milk, sugar and salt over medium low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the milk is very warm. Beat the egg yolks until smooth and slowly pour about a cup of the hot milk into the egg yolks, stirring constantly. Return the rest of the milk to medium low heat and pour the egg/milk mixture into the pot of milk. Stir constantly with a heatproof spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot. After a few minutes the milk will begin to thicken. When it is ready, it will be thick enough to coat the spatula. Remove from heat and pour through the strainer into the bowl. Pour in the cream and stir in the rhubarb compote. Refrigerate until completely chilled, overnight if possible.
Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions. Makes about 1 quart of ice cream.