Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cantaloupe Ice Cream with Agave

I've never been much of a melon fan. Oh, I enjoy watermelon during a hot day at the beach (or a watermelon-flavored Jolly Rancher any time!), but that's about it. If you think about it, melon is really the second class citizen of the fruit world --be it the honeydew filler in a fruit salad, or the straggly slices of cantaloupe that pass for a fruit plate at some restaurants. Granted, some people enjoy melon wrapped in prosciutto, but when it comes to sweet vs. savory, there is one way to make melon shine: in ice cream. Growing up, there was a local ice cream shop that made all sorts of flavors, including seasonal favorites like pumpkin (fall) and cantaloupe (summer). Despite being a melon-hating kid, I really dug the cantaloupe flavor. Sadly, the shop kind of went down hill, and the flavor is really hard to find elsewhere. And it's even more of a challenge to find cantaloupe ice cream recipes online. In fact, the one I came across time and time again was credited to Ben & Jerry's! The basic recipe calls for making a standard French-style custard base and combining with a bit of cantaloupe juice then freezing almost completely before mixing in well-drained cantaloupe puree at the very end. I followed the basic premise, but tweaked the base, going Philadelphia-style (e.g., no eggs, no cooking) by combining cream, a dash of vanilla and agave syrup since I was out of white sugar. I've been reading a lot about agave, and while it has about the same calorie count as sugar, is supposed to have a lower glycemic index. I've used in in place of simple syrup in drink recipes, but this was my first attempt "cooking" with it. And it worked fine. I have to admit I tasted the ice cream both before and after adding the puree and think I liked it better before adding. Although the melon taste was less prominent (since I only used a half cup of juice), the texture was a lot silkier. Next time, I may experiment with reducing and concentrating the cantaloupe juice rather than adding both juice and puree. Because even with a chunkier texture, the taste (and memories it brought back) made the ice cream good enough to make again!
Cantaloupe Ice Cream
Although I made this batch with agave syrup, you could also substitute white sugar.
1 Cantaloupe, peeled and cubed
1 Lemon, juiced
2 c. Heavy cream
6 T. Agave syrup
Dash of vanilla
Puree cantaloupe cubes and lemon juice in blender or food processor; place puree in a sieve over a large bowl.
Combine .5 cup of the juice from the puree with the cream, agave syrup and vanilla, blend well and chill completely.
Add cream mixture to your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.
Approximately five minutes before the ice cream is totally frozen, add the well-drained puree to the machine, discarding the extra juice.
Once the puree is well-incorporated, your ice cream is ready!

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