I’m pretty equal-opportunity with ice cream, as was my Sainted Dead Grandma. I remember mostly the stuff that came in gallon plastic tubs and was stored on the bottom shelves of the freezer section at the grocery store. (The pails were never thrown away, and she often used them as compost containers on her back porch.) There were cardboard cartons of Yarnell’s butter pecan and black walnut and of store-brand Neopolitan, sometimes bought in bulk on sale and stored out back in the huge chest freezer that looked like a big white coffin. (Yarnell’s is an Arkansas company, then based about 50 miles away in Searcy. They’ve since merged with HiLand in Fort Smith, but the brand perseveres, issuing limited edition Razorback flavors like Hog Heaven and Woo Pig Chewy.) Grandma also made hand-cranked stuff the real way, with rock salt and a big apparatus put out on the porch and swaddled in blankets. I remember nights in front of the TV at her house, eating ice cream out of melmac bowls. Ice cream wasn’t seasonal. Ice cream just was.
Later I graduated to Haagen Dazs and twee gelatos and Mr. Husband’s homemade ice cream, but I’m still convinced there’s such a thing as a good soft-serve. Growing up, every Friday after school meant cones from Andy’s Dairy Freeze, a mostly-rock roadside stand on the border of Levy in North Little Rock, AR that no longer exists.)
There’s especially good soft-serve here in CNY, and I ran across a little polar parlor with lovely pumpkin soft-serve cones back in September. It’s unfair to blame that cone for what happened next, which is entirely my own fault: I bought a tub of Edy’s Pumpkin Ice Cream during an evening foray to Wegman’s.
It was pretty awful. Fake, tasting of dead cinnamon and old cloves, with a strangely fluffy consistency. I checked the label: mmmm, propylene glycol. Ice cream is supposed to melt. The photo above is after Mr. Husband dumped the whole thing in the sink and ran hot water on it for ten minutes. It looked like the slow death of a gigantic push pop.
So I bought a pie pumpkin and dug up David Lebovitz’s very fine recipe for pumpkin ice cream. It got made in stages. Last Saturday I prepped the pumpkin and stuck it in the oven, then wandered off to take a shower and do some grading. Came back when it was done, pulled it out to cool, went off to do something else. Skinned, mashed and sieved it, then put it in the fridge to chill. I made the custard that evening and since I wasn’t using a double boiler it scrambled, despite my best efforts at tempering and constant stirring. I dumped that batch down the drain and gave up for the night. (Complete waste of five egg yolks and a cup of cream.) The next morning I made a successful batch, put it in the fridge to chill, and realized that the Absentminded Professor had forgotten to chill the tub of the ice cream machine. That requires 24 hours, so no ice cream on Sunday. Or on Monday or Tuesday, which were crazy busy. It wasn’t until Wednesday that I actually got around to combining the custard with the pumpkin, adding vanilla, and churning it.
It’s almost exactly what I wanted pumpkin ice cream to be, although I’m sure I could improve the texture if I made ice cream often enough to actually have ice cream skills. It tastes wonderfully fresh, and Lebovitz’s recipe gets all the spice levels right. You can add Grand Marnier if you like, but I didn’t this time, since I wanted the pumpkin to sing through loud and clear.