Dark Days 12, Part 2, Valentine’s Day Challenge: Lemon Verbena Ice Cream, Cranberry Sorbet and Maple Candied Cranberries

A continuing series on weekly meals that use sustainable, organic, local and ethical food during the challenging winter months. For more information, go here to the DDC section of Not Dabbling in Normal’s website: Dark Days Challenge.

In which I pull out the stops to make an all-local delectable fancy dessert, much to my surprise

Happy Valentine’s Day! Getting ready to satisfy sweet expectations, I succumbed to the Dark Days Challenge to create a second all-local V-day dessert. The first one, a pumpkin flan, was totally in bounds for my challenge but did include a few non-local spices. This time, everything was sustainable, organic (as much as cranberries can be), local and ethical. I formed the ice cream and sorbet using cookie cutters so that my red and white presentation was perfectly themed. And oh so schmaltzy. All I needed was a rose between my teeth. But at this time of year, for this challenge, it would have to have been dried. Hmm. The photos don’t do this justice. The sorbets were the same exact colors as my antique plate from Holland . 

My husband’s first remark about the ice cream was to say that I cheated by using lemon juice. Not so, as he should know by now given the volume of lemon verbena tea that I consume. I infused milk with dried organic lemon verbena from our CSA and combined it with local honey, eggs and cream to make the base for a delicious ice cream. I had made this with fresh lemon verbena in the fall, which I prefer because I love its grassiness. But dried was perfectly fine and added a slightly different taste dimension. Definitely lemon.

Second, I still had local cranberries from the holidays, and saw some at a farmers’ market a couple weeks ago so I knew I could give my self a second chance if I blew it.  Most of the berries were combined with water and maple sugar from eastern Pennsylvania to make sorbet, which I spiked with local Tomasello Vineyards cranberry wine to cut any potential iciness in the sorbet. Finally, I candied cranberries in simple syrup made with water and maple sugar, coated in more maple sugar, and used them as a garnish.

Lemon Verbena Honey Ice Cream – Local Style

1½ c milk

½ c honey

1 c loosely packed dried lemon verbena leaves

4 large egg yolks

1½ c heavy cream

Warm the milk and sugar over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the lemon verbena leaves and heat until the milk is nearly boiling. Turn off the heat and let the mixture steep for an hour.

Beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl.  Remove the lemon verbena leaves from the milk and discard the leaves. Reheat the milk. Add a little milk to the egg yolks, whisking or stirring to warm the yolks without cooking them. When the yolks and milk are combined, return the mixture to the saucepan and cook gently, over medium low heat, stirring, until custard forms and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Meanwhile, place the cream in the bowl and put a strainer over it. When the custard is done, pour it into the cream. Let the mixture cool and refrigerate until well chilled.

Process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Cranberry Sorbet — Local Style

2 c fresh cranberries

1/3 c water

1/3 c maple sugar

2 tbsp Tomasello cranberry wine (or 1 tbsp vodka)

Pick over the cranberries to remove any stems inferior berries.

Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the cranberries and cook them until they pop and turn into a puree. There may be a few skins in the mixture. Srt aside to cool. When cool, add the wine and refrigerate until well chilled.

Process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Cranberries Candied in Maple Sugar

½ c – 1 c fresh cranberries

¼ c maple sugar

2 tbsp water

Additional maple sugar for coating

Pick over the cranberries to remove any stems inferior berries and place them in a shallow bowl.

Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan and cook until it starts to form a light syrup. Set it aside for a few minutes before pouring over the berries. (You don’t want the berries to split open from the heat.)

Set aside to cool and then refrigerate them for several hours or overnight. (This allows the syrup to penetrate the berries.)

Sprinkle additional sugar on a plate, drain the berries (save the liquid for the sorbet or for a sauce), and roll them one at a time in the sugar to coat. Set aside, not touching each other, on a plate, to dry for several hours. They will turn into slightly crunchy, almost hard candies. Store in an airtight container.

Categories: Cranberries, Dark Days Challenge, Dessert, SorbetTags:

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