I’m a big fan of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia — ice cream or frozen yogurt. It’s one of those flavors I never get tired of. Now that cherries are back in season, I thought I’d try making my own version, taking advantage of a bumper crop of fat, sweet Bings from my orchard. I have to fight the birds and squirrels and foxes and possums and whatever else roams the property at night for every cherry, but this year there are enough for all of us!
It seems to me that the cherries in Cherry Garcia have a pronounced almond flavor that I wanted to duplicate. I recall reading somewhere that you can add almond flavor to custard bases by soaking cherry pits in the milk. So, I pitted a pound of cherries and added the pits to a mixture of whole milk and heavy cream. After bringing it to the start of a simmer, I refrigerated the mixture overnight to extract whatever almond-like flavor resides in the pits.
I also macerated the cherries in a simple syrup strongly infused with almond extract and left them to steep for 2 days in the refrigerator. As always, I prefer cooking the ice cream base sous vide–style — it is so easy, and it’s foolproof. And I like to temper the ice cream base before churning by chilling it overnight.
With these extra steps, the ice cream recipe takes 2 days to make, so if you don’t want to wait, skip adding the pits to the cream and just let the cherries macerate overnight, along with the cooked custard.
Makes about 1 quart
- Two days before you plan to process (churn) the ice cream, prepare the fruit. From the pound of pitted cherries, measure out 1½ cups. Cut these cherries in half, or in quarters if very large, and place them in a small bowl. Reserve the remaining cherries for another use (or eat them while you cook!).
- Place ½ cup of the sugar in a small pan and add 2 tablespoons of water. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove the syrup from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Add the almond extract and pour the syrup over the cherries in the bowl. Refrigerate the cherries for at least 1 day, or up to 4 days.
- Combine the reserved cherry pits with the cream, milk, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring the mixture to the start of a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.
- The next day, preheat the water bath to 185°F (85°C).
- Whisk together the remaining ½ cup of sugar and the egg yolks in a large bowl. Strain the cream mixture into the bowl and discard the pits. Stir in the vanilla extract. Transfer the ice cream base to a gallon-sized zip lock food bag and hand seal, removing as much air as possible (you do not need to vacuum seal the bag).
- Cook the ice cream base for 30 minutes.
- Quick-chill the bag in an ice and water bath, consisting of at least 50% ice, to rapidly reduce the temperature. Refrigerate the custard overnight.
- Transfer the custard to the bowl of an ice cream maker and add the syrup from the macerated cherries. Process the ice cream until it is almost set, 25 to 30 minutes, depending on your machine. Add the macerated cherries and the chocolate pieces and process for an additional 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the ice cream to a quart-sized container, place a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the ice cream, and seal the container with a lid. Freeze until the ice cream has hardened.