Damson ice cream

This time last year our damson trees were groaning under the weight of their fruit. We picked kilos and kilos. The best damsons (like the best blackberries) are always the ones out of easy reach, so last year I spent a fair amount of time perched high on a ladder on the back of a flatbed truck. I wouldn’t have wanted a visit from a health and safety advisor, shall we say. This year, this is pretty much it:

From four trees I managed to get just under 600g. I am glad I don’t rely on my damsons trees to provide the rent.

This situation called for something special. I could have gone for stewed damsons, pickled damsons, or even a small bottle of damson vodka. But it strikes me that these are all for years of plenty, and this is not a year of plenty. One of my favourite things is stewed damsons and custard. So why not damson ice cream? Which, after all, is frozen stewed damsons and custard.

Oh my, it is delicious. It intensifies the punchiness of the damson but offers that lovely creaminess of the custard. It is not one for the children, well not my children anyway. Which, perhaps, make it all the more special – just me and my tub of damson ice cream ( I am debating whether I should tell Mr OC about its presence in the freezer).

500g damsons
100g granulated or caster sugar

4 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
375ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Put the damsons and 100g sugar in a pan and place over a medium heat. Bring up to a gentle boil and simmer for about five minutes until all of the damsons have burst their skins and there is plenty of juice in the pan. Leave to cool slightly.

When cool enough to handle safely, strain the damsons through a sieve to get rid of the skin and stones. You end up with the most beautiful purply red puree.

Make the custard by whisking the egg yolks and caster sugar together until light, thick and smooth. The whisks should leave a trail as you lift them out of the mixture.

Put the cream and vanilla extract into a saucepan and scald by bringing it up to just under boiling point, you should see the surface shimmer slightly. Pour this over the eggs and sugar, whisking all the time. Return the custard to the pan and stir over a gentle to medium heat until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Take the custard off the heat and continue to stir for a minute or two to bring the temperature of it down. Add the damson puree to the custard and leave it to cool.

Now, either use an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions or place the custard into a plastic container and fit a lid. Place in the freezer for about half an hour. Take out and then beat well, either with a fork or in a processor. Return to the freezer and repeat the freezing and beating process another two times.

Eat greedily and celebrate the few damsons that you may have. Please do tell me if you are lucky enough to have a damson tree that is heaving with damsons so that I can be terribly envious.

Damson ice cream Read More »

Chocolate and strawberry ice creams

The weather forecasters tell us this week it’s going to be ice cream weather in England, and who am I to question them? I, therefore, expect that tonight’s edition of the local paper will have at least one photo of a girl wearing a sun hat and eating an ice cream in a park somewhere in Shropshire.  It may make the front page, if it gets above 20°c today. I scoff, but in this house all weather is apparently ice cream weather.   My two girls will ask for ice cream when there is snow outside.  Come wind or gale, ice cream is their number one choice.

My mum very kindly left her ice cream maker at our house, which makes meeting the demands of my children very easy indeed.

Mum also has a large strawberry patch in her garden, which, when the strawberries are ready, is visited daily by two little girls who emerge with strawberry juice grins quite a bit later.  Any surplus strawberries are pulped and mixed with sugar and the resulting purée is bagged up and frozen for use during the winter and spring until next year’s harvest.  Hence, the making of strawberry ice cream this week, when we still have a few weeks to wait before we can visit the strawberry patch.

When strawberry ice cream is made it is inevitable that there will be cries for chocolate ice cream shortly afterwards and so that too is made.  Both are absolutely delicious and really don’t taste like anything you can buy from the shops.  It is definitely worth the time spent making both.  The strawberry ice cream takes mere minutes, there is a little more stirring involved with the chocolate ice cream but it is definitely worth it.

The ice cream in the pictures were the just before school portions and yes, I know it is probably wrong to give your children ice cream before school, but when it is made out of such delicious things I can’t really see any harm in it.  Especially when it means I get to sneak a spoonful or two as well.

The recipes for both ice creams come from Jacki Passmore’s The Book of Ice Creams and Sorbets (Salamander Books, 1992).

Chocolate ice cream

50g (2oz) good quality dark chocolate
4 egg yolks
50g (2oz) sugar
375 ml (12 fl oz) single cream
a tiny pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract


Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.   In a stainless steel or heatproof glass bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla extract together until pale, thick and creamy.  Scald the cream in a pan and then, whilst still  whisking pour the hot cream slowly over the eggy mixture.  Place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and stir continuously until the mixture thickens and just coats the back of the spoon. Stir in the chocolate and mix well.  It takes a while for it to combine properly so keep on stirring until it is a glorious dark brown. Allow to cool.

If you have an ice cream maker, then pour the mixture into the ice cream bowl and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  If not, pour the mixture into a large tupperware box and place in the freezer for an hour, take out of the freezer and using a fork beat until smooth.  Repeat this process another 3 times.

After a full day in the freezer this ice cream will need to be removed from the freezer for about ten minutes before you can even begin to think about spooning it out.

Strawberry ice cream

500g (1lb) fresh strawberries
100g (4oz) caster sugar
350ml (12 fl oz) double or whipping cream


Mash the strawberries with a fork or whiz in a food processor until pureed.  Add the sugar and mix well.  At this point you can place the mixture in a freezer bag and it will happily freeze until you want to use it.  If it is frozen, allow to defrost fully before adding the cream. Lightly whip the cream.  Add the cream and mix well.

If you have an ice cream maker follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If not place the mixture into a large tupperware and place in the freezer, after an hour of freezing use a fork to beat the mixture well and freeze again. Repeat this 2 or 3 times.

Store the ice creams in covered containers.

Chocolate and strawberry ice creams Read More »