My best friend is married to a man with the last name Peachey. At their wedding several summers ago, peaches were featured prominently, and given the time of year the fruit was dripping with sweetness. They live on several acres of beautiful property in the country, and it made perfect sense to have the festivities take place at their home. The evening of the rehearsal dinner culminated with the groom’s mother, Bertha, serving her homemade peach ice cream straight from an old fashioned, hand crank machine. Bertha is known throughout those parts for her traditional Mennonite cooking, and this ice cream made no mistake of that reputation.
The cold, pastel colored treat was billowy in texture in a way that only homemade, freshly spun ice cream can be. It was just sweet enough so that the flavor of sun ripened peaches stood front and center. Little wedges of the orange and red speckled fruit dotted each spoonful and burst with the fresh, unmistakable flavor of summer. It lacked any of the artificialness you often get with fruit flavored ice cream, and tasted purely of peaches and cream.
Over the course of the next year I gently nudged my friend to inquire about the recipe from her new mother-in-law. I knew I was treading on sacred ground, and after many persistent months, I became resigned to the fact that I may never taste that peach ice cream again. You see I had dappled in my own version of the recipe enough disastrous times to tell that a precarious balance of fruit puree, cream and sugar was necessary to yield the same smooth and creamy results. The traditional method I knew for ice cream simply did not work due to the large water content in the peach puree. Too much water, and not enough fat, makes for an icy rather than creamy texture.
Then one miraculous day I received a call while I was at work. A soft spoken, gentle voice on the other end of the line asked if I was available to discuss a recipe. Over the next several minutes Bertha explained to me that she had always made the ice cream recipe by heart, and never taken the time to record formal measurements. She rambled through a surprisingly long list on ingredients, pausing here and there to question how little or how much of the ingredient she used. It really depends on the sweetness of the peaches, she insisted, and the rest can be tinkered with accordingly. While it was not a sure thing, it was a good enough outline that provided many clues to how I might recreate the ice cream in my own kitchen. Most importantly, it provided me with the secret ingredient used to counteract the excessive water content in the base mixture.
With a case of the ripe stone fruit in supply this summer, I tried my hand at peach ice cream one more time. It proved to be the charm.
Bertha’s Homemade Peach Ice Cream
1 quart, plus 1/2 C whole milk
3 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C maple syrup
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
10 large, ripe peaches, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
Toss the cut peaches in the sugar and maple syrup and allow to sit for about an hour at room temperature. Blend the peach mixture until smooth then set aside. Whisk the flour, eggs and cornstarch into the 1/2 C of milk. Bring the remaining quart of milk to a simmer then gradually temper in the egg mixture. Bring to a boil then remove from the heat and stir in the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, peach puree, vanilla and salt. Chill the mixture over an ice bath then process in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions.