Monday, April 23, 2012

Ah, the sweet smell....

Being on just the southern side of the Appalachian Mountains I get a quicker warm up into spring with a frost free date of mild April (though this year is going to skew the average considerably). My tomatoes, peppers, zucchinis, black-eyed peas and cucumbers are already in the ground as well as basil, cilantro, hyssop, summer savory and dill. The husk tomatoes, sugar baby watermelon and cantaloupe wait in their cells to be transplanted into solid ground. My radishes are being sliced nightly tossed with my arugula and rossa lettuce. I hope the nasturtiums pop a flower or two before the lettuce leaves are completely spent for a peppery garnish.

It seems this year my mind has not raced to abundance of the farmer’s markets as it has in years past. Usually, by mid-April I am biting at the bit for some dirt encrusted something but I have been satiated by the luxury of walking out my back door. However, not all pining’s are quenched by a quick grazing through the yard. I wish I will be able to get fiddlehead ferns but they don’t occur down here as well as ramps. Fortunately, I found myself up in the mountains over the weekend, and even if the urge is not a pregnant as I usually expect it to be, I made a beeline early in the morning for a market. And low and behold I found what I was seeking – ramps. So, a craving was met and they were terrifically stinky. But this warm spring brought an unexpected find, strawberries. I cannot even describe the perfume that filled the car on the ride home, or the sweet assault that greeted in the morning as I went to grind my morning beans. The strawberry plant in my garden has just started to put out flowers with a few still albino fruits making their way to the ready. We have enough to pop in our mouths for a couple of days, and the rest have to be processed. These are not Driscoll’s engineered berries that withstand cross-country journeys they will quickly start to breakdown sending an invitation to every fruit fly in the county to feast.
Their aroma is a celebration in itself and I would love to be seduced daily by the wafting of spring’s crimson seducer. While home offers plenty of indulgences one cannot forget the thrill of a market and the unexpected.

Strawberry Ice Cream yields approx. 1-1/2 quarts
1-quart milk
3 large stems anise hyssop
2-cup chopped strawberries
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 egg yolks

In a 2-1/2 quart saucepan bring the milk, hyssop and 1-cup of the strawberries to just below the boil over a medium heat.

In a work bowl beat the sugar and egg yolks together until pale yellow and slightly thickened. Once, the milk has heated slowly add about a third of the warmed milk into the eggs, whisking continuously. Add the tempered egg mixture back into the remaining milk, and cook over a medium low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. Pour the milk mixture thorough a fine sieve, and refrigerate it until cold.

Place the chilled milk mixture into the freezer compartment of an ice cream, and proceed occurring to the manufacture’s instructions. Just prior to removing the ice from its freezing compartment adding the remaining cup of chopped strawberries. Remove the ice cream to the freezer.

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