"His ideal of dessert is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich." She offered that as an explanation right after she said there would be no birthday cake.
"Maybe ice cream and cookies... something we can stick some candles in."
So I set out to make a special birthday dessert for someone who doesn't like cake, but likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and, apparently, ice cream and cookies. Easy, I thought, I'll make peanut butter cookies and grape ice cream sandwiches. As luck would have it, I had a concord grape puree in my freezer that would serve as the base for the ice cream. And I had a recipe for killer peanut butter cookies that I had refined over the years and recently tweaked to include miso. But you know what they say about the best laid plans...
Unpacking in the client's kitchen, I had a sudden vision of the grape ice cream... still sitting in my freezer at home! I wanted to panic but there was no time. My schedule was tight even before I was asked to move dinner up a half hour.
As I began preparing dinner, my attention turned to a replacement for the ice cream. With a kitchen full of professional appliances, but no cooks in the house, I knew there was little chance of finding an ice cream maker tucked away in a cupboard. I had plenty of cream, but nothing for a flavor base or sugar. A search through the kitchen produced neither, but I did find three jars of grape jelly. I assessed the situation: no equipment to churn— but I had cream and a sweetened flavor base. A plan was quickly put in place: melt the jelly, blend in the cream, freeze in a shallow tray, whisk often, hope for the best, and pray that I wasn't turning into Sandra Lee. I got the base in the freezer just as the first guests arrived. They were hungry. And impatient. And I had to focus on dinner.
It wasn't until dinner was on the table and I returned to the kitchen that I remembered the neglected ice cream base. I opened the freezer expecting to find a solid block of grape-flavored ice crystals. To my surprise (and relief) it yielded easily to a spoon and out came a scoop of creamy smooth ice cream!
Since then, I've made this ice cream several times with both commercial and homemade jellies. I've tried churning it in an ice cream machine to test the difference. It was slightly creamier, but not dramatically so. I've even kept it uncovered(!) in the freezer for 4 days with no loss of texture or ice crystal build up. I believe this works because jelly is largely invert sugar and pectin, a combination with a high freezing point that stabilizes texture by preventing it from freezing solid and forming ice crystals.
While it may not be the most refined of ice creams, it comes together with only two ingredients and minimal effort. That alone (and that it saved my ass) is worth adding it to my emergency food kit.
stupid-simple jelly ice cream
measure by weight:
7 parts jelly
10 parts heavy cream
Melt the jelly until it is completely fluid. Add the heavy cream, a little at a time, while whisking. Pass through sieve into a bowl or container. Freeze thoroughly.