Depending on where you live, summer's bounty of beautiful produce has either officially flown the coup or is desperately struggling to hang on for just a few final days. Around here, we are in the midst of that strange limbo period when the long tables of tomatoes and summer squash are growing sparse, and yet, we are still a good two weeks away from the day when baskets full of brussels sprouts and sugar pumpkins will arrive. Which is why these last few days, as the large ceramic fruit bowl on our kitchen table has remained empty, I've found inspiration in one unassuming, half-consumed jar of jam.
This year is the first time in a long time (or ever if I'm being really honest with myself) that our upcoming pop-up schedule doesn't feel entirely insane. Maybe it's because this is the third full season that we're giving it a go. Or maybe it's because I've learned to relax a little bit and accept that life will be 1) crazy, 2) messy (literally and figuratively), and 3) not always perfect no matter how much we plan or how hard we try these next few months. However, I'm also thinking it has something to do with the fact that, for the first time ever, we finally have a permanent, professional space where we can prep for all our upcoming pop-up markets (i.e.: not our tiny, apartment-sized home kitchen and definitely not the rented commercial kitchen in a less than ideal section of Brooklyn that we were once forced to use out of necessity, though were only permitted to do so during weird hours in the middle of the night).
This weekend was the first of those events, a two-day food festival where we served our food, had the chance to meet a fascinating Hemingway biographer (totally random, and yet entirely cool, right?), hit up a D.I.Y. Bloody Mary bar (the amount of worcestershire and olives in mine was straight up delicious and gross), and had the opportunity to witness the chef give his first formal "lecture" of his career (an introduction to molecular gastronomy by way of pressure cookers and a discussion about flavor combinations and why/how they work).
When the chef and I returned home from the event, a few important things dawned on me. The first, and most ahhhmaaazing, was the sheer fact that when we walked into our home kitchen following the weekend's activities, there was no mess. As in, there were no splashes of braised meats across our ceiling (yes, it's happened on multiple occasions). There were not stacks of dirtied hotel pans stacked on our countertop, or piles of rags soaked in grease. Additionally, there was no mad dash to take quick power naps before waking up in the middle of the night to sprint out the door and head to our borrowed commercial space until dawn. Instead, after returning home from the weekend's pop-up, we both changed clothes, put something in the oven for dinner, and called the shop to be sure our employees had things prepped, cleaned, organized and generally under control until the morning. Which (thank God), they did. And so, after a few awkward moments of blank stares (so, uh, what do we do with ourselves now?), we gave ourselves permission to hang out, reflect on the weekend and just relax. Which is how this Golden Plum Preserves Ice Cream was born.
I already had a container of vanilla ice cream base hanging out in the back of the fridge from a few days earlier (doesn't everyone?), so whipping up a quick dessert was really just a matter of pouring the thickened liquid into our ice cream maker and hanging out for a little bit. Originally, I had big plans for tossing in some mint, but, thanks to an unseasonably warm start to the month, most of what remains in our herb garden is wilted and sad. Plan B came in the form of a big ol' handful of chocolate chips; however, the chef likes to be sneaky and rummage through our pantry when he thinks I'm not looking to grab handfuls of the stuff. So, naturally, when I went looking for the 16 ounce bag I recently purchased, there were only a few lonely chips hanging out at the bottom of the bag.
However, I guess in a strange way I should thank the chef for eating those chips, because their magical disappearance is what ultimately led me to the jar of preserves sitting on the door of our fridge. Thanks to this seasonal limbo, I've sort of been craving some fresh (i.e.: not frozen), local berries to sprinkle across my granola (or to just eat straight out of the pint container), or perhaps fold into some freshly made ice cream. But to no avail. As I sifted through our refrigerator in search of a solution, it occurred to me: sure, we don't have much in the form of fresh fruit right now. But we do have a few jars of preserves which, at one time, were fresh fruit. Problem. Solved. While I'm beginning to accept the fact that it'll still be a little bit until a basket of crisp apples arrives on our doorstep, the swirls of golden preserves and accompanying chunks of plums found in this custardy vanilla ice cream are proving to be enough to hold me over in the meantime.
Golden Plum Preserves Ice Cream
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 10 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup prepared golden plum preserves
Combine the milk, cream and sugar in a medium saucepan. Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean and add both the seeds and the bean to the saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat; cover, and let stand for 30 minutes in order for the vanilla to infuse the cream.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks to blend. Slowly, add the cream mixture, being sure to whisk constantly. Return the mixture to a clean saucepan and cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly, being sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan, until the mixture reaches a custard-like consistency and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. Set a medium sized bowl in the ice bath. Set a fine mesh sieve inside the medium bowl. Strain the custard through the sieve. Let cool completely, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture is cool, refrigerate until cold (preferably overnight).
Pour the custard into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Fold in the preserves and transfer the ice cream to an airtight container. Cover and freeze until the ice cream is hard.