I have great mint in my garden. Unfortunately I can’t take credit for it – it was here when we moved into the house a few years ago, and keeps popping back up year after year. It used to take over the back lawn as well, making the air nice and minty-fresh whenever we mowed it – but for some reason we’re down to a few plants this year. I’ll be laying off the mojitos this summer and rationing my mint for use in other things, like ice cream.
I was never a particular fan of mint until I hit my thirties, and now I can appreciate it. When mint is fresh it has an earthy quality that it turns out works wonderfully in ice cream. Recently at the market, a farmer friend of mine had fresh chocolate mint on offer – it looks like regular mint, only browner in color, with a chocolatey flavor. A plant that actually tastes like chocolate. Shouldn’t this make me a millionaire somehow?
This is the simplest possible recipe; crushed leaves steeped in hot cream, then cooled, sweetened and frozen in an ice cream machine. (Which, by the way, everyone should have. Ask Santa.) It’s soft and voluptuous, with none of the harshness that would come with a teaspoon of mint extract. Pure, mellow and creamy mint ice cream is wonderful on its own, drizzled with chocolate sauce, or -hello- sandwiched between two chocolate wafer cookies to make chocolate mint ice cream sandwiches. If you can’t find fresh chocolate mint, you could use plain fresh mint and add a handful of white chocolate chunks or chips to the cream while it’s warm (strain the leaves out first) and stir to melt it, or add the chocolate pieces straight into the machine as it finishes freezing to make mint chocolate chip. (Dark chocolate would work well added in chunks too.)
And here’s a bonus: you can infuse cream with mint for other uses too; steep, then chill it to whip and dollop on top of chocolate things, or fruity things, or hot chocolate. Use your imagination – I’m sure there are plenty of great things that can be done with mint-infused cream.
Homemade Chocolate Mint Ice Cream
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup half & half
small handful of fresh mint or chocolate mint, roughly chopped
1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
a handful of white or dark chocolate chips or chunks (optional)
In a small saucepan, stir together the whipping cream, half & half and fresh mint, and bring to a simmer. As soon as it comes to a boil remove it from the heat and set it aside to steep and cool.
Once it has completely cooled, strain through a sieve and stir in the sugar. Refrigerate until cold and then freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions. If you like, add chocolate chips or chunks toward the end, when the ice cream is almost frozen but still soft. Serve immediately or transfer to the freezer to freeze until firm. Makes about 1/2 L.