In Honor of National Ice Cream Month: Basil Ice Cream & Red Wine Cherries

July 6, 2012 No comments » [ssba]

“Now, therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim July 1984 as National Ice Cream Month…and I call upon the people of the United States to observe these events with appropriate ceremonies and activities.” –Ronald Reagan, July 9, 1984

All I can say is, “Thank you, Ronnie!”  We are in the midst of National Ice Cream Month and for most of the country who have already experienced sweltering temperatures this summer, we’ve eaten our share of the creamy, dreamy, sweet confection that is ice cream.

Such an important “holiday” deserved a blog, I thought.  And so, while I found a ton of ice cream recipes that I would have loved to whip up, it was very difficult to find one that might pair well with wine.  Let’s face it, most people don’t think of wine when they think of ice cream.  Aha, but what if the wine was in the recipe?  The first thing I considered was a granita recipe, which is a semi-frozen dessert – almost like a slushee.  Then, I remembered a recipe tucked away in one of my cookbooks; one that I’d wanted to try for ages: Basil Ice Cream with Wine-Poached Cherries.  Perfect.

If you have a freezer, you can make this recipe, you see, it doesn’t call for an ice cream maker at all, which I loved because my ice cream maker happens to be MIA at the moment.  All of the ingredients are generally easy to find; I’d say the most “foreign” item is crème fraiche, which, really, is pretty widely available.  The ice cream and the cherries were both a cinch to put together; there is no candy thermometer involved and no heavy equipment to haul out of the pantry.  For the ice cream, I simply simmered heavy cream, crème fraiche, lemon zest and vanilla in a saucepan.  When that was simmering, I poured it into egg yolks that I’d beaten with some sugar and a handful (yes, a handful!) of basil leaves.  After this mixture was chilled in an ice bath, I popped it in the freezer for a couple of hours.  As for the cherries, it was a combination of bing cherries, sugar, red wine, vanilla and lemon juice.  After that was boiled down for a few minutes, I set it aside until the ice cream was frozen and ready to serve.

Have you ever eaten something that you literally could not stop eating?  All your manners go out the window and you just focus on the food in front of you?  The only thing you can hear is your own voice saying “Mmmm” in a low hum.  That’s what this ice cream did to me.  It was so insanely delicious.  What I loved was that the ice cream was just barely sweet.  It was milky and rich, almost like the taste of real, fresh whipped cream, but with a warm vanilla whisper and punch of basil flavor.  As for the cherry-wine syrup, it, too, was not cloyingly sweet.  It was tart with a strong red wine flavor, in essence, a perfect complement to that rich basil ice cream.  I used a red blend, similar to Ponte Angry Wife Red, and I loved the wine-forward flavor it added.  If I wanted the syrup to be a little sweeter, however, I think Ponte Beverino would be out of this world.  And because it’s a sweeter wine, I would absolutely serve the ice cream with an extra glass of it on the side.  Now that I think about it, Vernaccia Nera (with those awesome bubbles!) and Late Harvest would work just as beautifully.

It’s settled, then, I’m going to have to make this recipe again, at least three more times using the three aforementioned reds.  But I’m not complaining.

Basil Ice Cream with Wine-Poached Cherries

Recipe adapted from Eat This Book by Tyler Florence

Basil Ice Cream

  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup crème fraiche
  • 1 strip of lemon zest
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves


  • 1 lb fresh bing cherries, pitted
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 ½ cups red wine
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • Juice of ½ lemon

In a saucepan, combine the heavy cream, crème fraiche, lemon zest and vanilla extract.  Whisk to combine and bring mixture to a simmer.  Remove from heat.  In a bowl, whisk the eggs yolks and sugar.  Add the basil leaves and whisk again to bruise the leaves and release their oils.  Now, add the hot cream mixture and stir for about 5 minutes.  Strain out the lemon zest and basil leaves and place the cream mixture in an ice bath* until it’s nice and cool.  Add the remaining handful of basil leaves, give it a stir and pour everything into a freezer-safe baking dish or container and cover.  Place in freezer for about 2 hours.

While your ice cream is freezing, make the cherries.  Combine the cherries, sugar, wine, vanilla extract and lemon in a saucepan.  Bring to a simmer and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the cherries are softened and the liquid has reduced a little.  Take the pan off the heat and set it aside until you’re ready to serve.  After about 2 hours, the ice cream will have just started to set but it will still be soft.  Serve scoops of ice cream with the cherries and wine syrup.

–What is your all-time favorite ice cream flavor?

Posted by , July 6, 2012 No comments

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