I was SO excited to see that fresh cranberries are in the grocery stores again! Why? Because of this ice cream. It just might be my favourite ice cream of all time!
“But who wants to eat ice cream in the fall and winter?” True ice cream lovers, that’s who. Ever since my Mother-in-Law gave me her Cuisinart 2Qt Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker, saying that she just didn’t have time for it anymore, I have been obsessed with homemade ice cream. It’s not cheaper than my favourite brand of store-bought ice cream (President’s Choice Ice Cream Shop Flavours), but I just LOVE creating varieties that can’t be found in stores!
After I had tried some of the basic ice cream recipes in the Cuisinart booklet, I noticed certain ingredients and procedures common to most of them, and I started experimenting. This Spiced Cranberry Ice Cream happens to be one that I thought of completely on my own, and it even turned out great the very first time! Probably beginner’s luck, but I’ve made it several more times since, so I’m confident that you can follow my recipe, too.
Be forewarned: this ice cream needs to be prepared well in advance of when you want to eat it. In order to pack in the most cranberry flavour, the cranberries must be cooked, reduced, and then cooled and set COMPLETELY before proceeding. The same goes for the spiced cream. So either you make it very early in the morning and give it all day to cool in the fridge, serving it for dessert that night; or you make it the day before and let it cool overnight. Ice cream can be a breakfast food, right?
SPICED CRANBERRY ICE CREAM
Makes 6-7 cups
• 3 cups (one 340g bag) of fresh cranberries – Sometimes I use 4 cups
• 1 1/4 cups sugar
• 1 cup water
• 1 envelope gelatin
• 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
• 1 cup homo (whole) milk
• 3 cinnamon sticks
• 5 star anises
• 1 tsp. whole cloves
• 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean (if you’re feeling rich)
• 1 whole nutmeg (optional)
Combine the first four ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan. Turn the heat to med-low, cover, and cook. Stir occasionally. When the berries become soft and begin to burst, mash them with a potato masher to break them up further. Leaving the lid off, increase the heat to medium and maintain a boil, stirring occasionally. If it keeps on boiling over, lower the heat slightly. Reduce the mixture to approximately 2 3/4 cups. It should be noticeably thicker than it was; like a thin jam. When ready, transfer the cranberry sauce to a glass container and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
(Why glass? Because it’s inert. Metal containers will sometimes react with fruit acids, staining the metal and giving the fruit a metallic taste. Plastic containers can leach harmful chemicals into foods that are stored in them, especially when the food is warm and/or acidic.)
While the cranberries are cooking, combine the remaining ingredients in another medium-sized saucepan, except for the vanilla extract. If you are using a vanilla bean, cut it open and scrape the seeds into the cream and milk mixture.
Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the mixture reaches a boil, lower the heat to med-low and leave the lid ajar. Simmer for 30 minutes. (The cranberry mixture will probably take the same amount of time to reduce). When the time is up, remove the pan from the heat and pour the spiced cream through a strainer, into a glass or non-reactive metal container. If you did not use a vanilla bean, add the vanilla extract to the spiced cream, cover, and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
Total prep time: about 45 minutes, largely unattended.
When the cranberry sauce has “set” and the spiced cream is cool, combine the two with a hand mixer, blender, food processor, or immersion blender. They must be completely blended together into one homogenous new mixture. Using a “chopping” device like an immersion blender will give you a more uniform texture, and using a hand blender (with the normal beater attachments) will leave you bits of cranberries. I prefer the latter, but it’s really a matter of personal preference.
I recommend using a deep, high-sided bowl if you go the hand mixer or immersion blender route. It minimizes splashes!
Set your ice cream maker up, pour the spiced cranberry mixture in, and turn it on.
I find that most ice creams, including this one, take about 30 minutes in my machine (though the Cuisinart recipe book says it should take 20-25 minutes). Just taste-test the ice cream with a small spoon (or a big one; I’m not judging) at the 25 minute mark, and check the consistency. When it is firm enough for your liking, it’s finished! Switch your machine off, and either serve the ice cream immediately, or transfer it to a well-sealed container and stick it in the freezer.
I can never resist enjoying a bowl (or waffle bowl!) of this ice cream right away. It’s just SO GOOD! Smooth, creamy, and full of flavour. . .
Some of you may want to know that this ice cream does contain cranberry seeds. They are tiny, much like blueberry seeds, and they don’t bother me. But if they bother you, you could try puréeing the cranberries with the water and sugar, straining the seeds out, and then adding the gelatin to the strained mixture and cooking it to reduce it. I think you’d miss out on some of the flavour though, since you would also strain out bits of cranberry peel and pulp.
One other tip: if you aren’t going to use heavy cream for this recipe, then don’t even bother. Seriously. I have tried to make low-fat versions of a few of my ice creams, and they are just nowhere near as good. Not only are most flavours fat-soluble, but fat doesn’t freeze completely solid. This gives you that smooth, creamy texture that everyone wants in their ice cream. If you substitute milk, or even half-and-half, you are greatly increasing the water content of your recipe, and water freezes quite solidly indeed! Who here likes it when the ice cream is frozen so solid that you can’t even scoop it out of the container? Hmmmmmmmm. . . no one is raising their hand. . . My point exactly. I think that store-bought ice cream contains various weird ingredients to stop it from freezing solid even when it’s made from milk instead of cream. They might be chemical or natural in origin (carrageenan, anyone?), but part of the reason I make my own ice cream is that I know exactly what is in it. I don’t have to add preservatives, either, because it never lasts for more than a week! It’s just so darn delicious.