Blackberry Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

If you’ve never spent time in Southwest Ohio, you might be surprised to know that it is home to some pretty unique foods. Aside from standard midwestern fare, not only one but two chains of restaurants devoted to Cincinnati chili speckle the region, each of which has ardent followers who flock there for liquid-y chili served atop spaghetti and under a mountain of cheddar cheese.

As someone who grew up in the Southwest, chili means something very different to me. The local fare I was far more enthusiastic about was the delectable dessert served at Graeter’s Ice Cream. Sold both in ice cream parlours and also by the pint at area grocery stores, Graeter’s features seasonal flavors amongst a collection of favorites, and one of their most beloved varieties is Blackberry Chip.

I’ve been scheming to invest in an ice cream machine for the last couple of years, and I finally took the plunge earlier this summer and got one. Frivolous? Perhaps. Necessary? Certainly not. But utterly worth it? Ab.So.Lutely.

This ice cream features one of my favorite tastes of summer: blackberries! Sweet but tart, these berries not only lend their lovely flavor to the ice cream but also provide their spectacular hue. The whole berry doesn’t end up in the final ice cream, just the juice, but with fresh berries you’ll end up with plenty of blackberry flavor.

Once the berry juice is ready the actual cream of the ice cream is prepared. It turns out, there are so many ways to make ice cream, and I had noooo idea. I’ve eaten ice cream for years! Soft-serve, hard-packed, fancy-pants pints, cheap-and-by-the-gallon, at ice cream shops, at home. This particular recipe is considered a “custard-based” ice cream, which incorporates eggs and actually involves some cooking before the freezing process can begin.

Before you know it, the ice cream is ready to freeze!

Another thing: if, like me, you’re new to ice cream making (because let’s face it you should go and get one of these bad boys immediately), the ice cream won’t be ready immediately. The “frozen” state of the ice cream when it’s done is slightly thinner than soft-serve. I think I was expecting it to come out of the maker ready to pile on an ice cream cone, but it doesn’t. But it’s solid enough, so I added the chocolate and started counting the hours until the ice cream was ready to serve.

And the wait was worth it! A little difficult to scoop straight out of the freezer, but oh my lordy, this business is good.

For fun, I bought some ice cream cones. There is nothing quite so decadent as eating fresh, homemade ice cream on a waffle cone in my own house.

If waffle cones aren’t your thing that’s okay too. Because of course, ice cream can always come by the pint.

Blackberry Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

Adapted, just barely, from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier

2 pints fresh blackberries, washed and patted dry
1 1/4 c sugar
juice of one lemon
1 1/2 c half-and-half
5 egg yolks
1 1/2 c heavy cream
6 oz dark chocolate

Place blackberries and 1/4 c sugar into a small saucepan. Squeeze the juice of one lemon into the saucepan as well (it’s okay if the seeds drop into the pan, you’ll be straining them out later). Mash up blackberries a bit with the back of a spoon or a potato masher and cook over low heat until the blackberries are broken down and the mixture is slightly syrupy, about 20 minutes.

Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and pour the blackberries into the strainer. Press as much juice as possible into the bowl using a whisk or a spoon (you can also use a food mill instead of a strainer if you have one). Set the bowl aside to cool and discard the pulp and seeds that remain in the strainer.

Wash out your saucepan and combine the half-and-half with the remaining 1 c sugar. Heat over medium-low. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks until they are thick and are beginning to pale in color. Pour just a bit of the warm half-and-half into the beaten yolks while whisking continuously, then pour the egg yolks into the saucepan. Return saucepan to the stove and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

By this time, the blackberry juice should be fairly cool. Pour the heavy cream into the berry juice. Finally, pour the egg mixture into the berry juice and stir well. Following the instructions on your ice cream maker, freeze the mixture. For most ice cream makers, this should take about 20 minutes. During that time, chop your chocolate into small, rough chunks. You can also use chocolate chips if you prefer. Once the ice cream has reached the consistency of soft-serve (mine is actually a bit thinner than that, and this may vary based on the kind of ice cream maker you have) add the chocolate and stir well.

Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container and allow to chill for several hours, or preferably overnight.

To serve, allow ice cream to rest on the counter for a few minutes to allow for easier scooping. Serve very often.