The local juicy fruit season is short here in New England. So, so short that by September, it can be difficult to believe that we were not so long ago graced with the juiciest of peaches, and cantaloupes effusing such a heady perfume that your favorite farmer tells you to eat them now, no don't wait a few days, eat them now - they're ripe right now - for no sooner are we devouring these luscious fruits than it seems that they're gone.
The local cantaloupes tend to get the cube-and-eat treatment, so hard is it to postpone The Devouring during the few short weeks they're available here in the northeast. Sure, I'd love to whip up a cantaloupe soup with mint and honeyed creme fraiche (see, now, that sounds delicious), but why meddle with perfection when perfection is so fleeting?
I'm not sure why the local peaches don't get this exact same treatment (and seeming straight-from-the-plant reverence) from me; it's not as though they aren't sweet, and delicious, and, yes, perfect, but they do inspire far more variety of preparation during their short New England season in savory as well as sweet treatments, though my first inclination is to start on the sweet end of the spectrum.
Homemade ice cream is a cinch to make. The active time is somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 25 minutes, and, yes, while you will have to wait for the custard to cool enough to be freezable (2 to 24 hours), and, yes, you will have to be sure that your ice cream maker canister is prepared to freeze and churn the ice cream, the actual work is so easy that once it's over, you'll barely remember having put any effort into it at all. Well, maybe the constant stirring will feel like work, but it's quick work. Quick, I say.
Makes approximately 1 quart:
3 cups light cream
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon (such as Jim Beam)
3 medium peaches (approximately 1 to 1 1/4 pound), peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 tablespoons honey
The peaches and honey are a half-hour-before-churning-the-ice-cream activity, so you can wait to work on that part of the prep.
Scald the cream in a large, non-reactive saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
While waiting for the cream to scald (meaning that steam has just begun to rise from its surface, and tiny bubbles are forming all around the edge of the saucepan), whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they form a pale yellow concoction.
Once the cream has scalded, use a ladle to gradually pour the hot cream into the egg and sugar mixture, stirring constantly to avoid scrambling the eggs. I add about half of the cream to the eggy sugar, then transfer the creamy mixture back to the sauce pan.
Add the bourbon, place the sauce pan back on that medium heat, and stir the cream mixture constantly until it has thickened to the consistency of pancake batter and coats the back of a spoon. This will take approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
Transfer the cream mixture to a non-reactive bowl (I like to use a glass bowl with a handle and a pouring spout to make the whole pouring-into-the-ice-cream-maker process easier - pretty much exactly that bowl up above there with the pale eggy sugar mixture in it is what I use), then cover the mixture with plastic wrap, such that it is touching the top surface of the cream mixture in order to prevent the formation of a crust. Refrigerate the cream mixture until it is completely chilled, 2 to 24 hours.
Just before you're planning to freeze the ice cream, combine the cubed peaches and honey in a large bowl, and allow to macerate for 1/2 hour.
Freeze the ice cream in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. At the very end of the freezing process, strain the peaches from their accumulated juices, and add the peaches to the ice cream maker, reserving the juices for a refreshing drink. Perhaps a bourbon cocktail, if you’re so inclined.
Mix the peaches in the ice cream maker until they're evenly distributed, then transfer the churned mixture to a freezer-safe storage container, and freeze for another hour or two before serving it forth.
For an additional bourbonbonanza, whip up some bourbon-caramel sauce while waiting for that final ice cream freeze:
In a medium saucepan, combine 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 cup light cream (a good use for the 1 cup you have leftover from the ice cream making), 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons bourbon. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently, and cook until the mixture is reduced by half, approximately 15 minutes.
Store any leftover caramel sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week, reheating it as you need it for topping bowls of ice cream. Or smearing on shortbread cookies. Or spooning directly into your mouth. Whatever use you deem appropriate.