I’ve been eating cherries in several preparations lately, from the berries I made jam and cooked with some sugar to top some ice cream, but from the pits I’ve made a few batches of ice cream. I knew the flavor wouldn’t be that strong, so I wanted to avoid eggs, but I also didn’t think that an all-cream Philadelphia-style fit the bill. That’s when I settled on a cornstarch thickened spin on gelato. It took a few batches (pity) to get the recipe right, but I think this one’s a keeper.
There are a few methods for preparing the cherry pits, but they basically break out into two camps – the labor-intensive, slow way and the quick way. I’ve done it both ways and I’d say the slow way yields a slightly stronger flavor, but it’s not a very noticeable difference. Look in the recipe for the fast way, but I’ll describe the slow way here.
First get a meat tenderizer/pounder and a strong cutting board. Place a single pit on the cutting board and smash it – not too hard, you don’t want to break up the little kernel inside – to crack open the shell. Fish out the little kernel and set aside, repeat for the entire 1/2 cup (or a little more) of pits. This is an agonizingly slow process, but you do get to destroy a lot of small things, so if you need stress release, this may help.
On a related note, as I was cleaning up my kitchen I found a small bottle of mahlab that I’ve had for a few months. This Middle Eastern/Eastern Mediterranean spice is made out of sour cherry kernels, so it essentially seems to be the same thing, and would be easier procure than a large amount of cherries to process by hand. I may try it out to see the difference. If I do, I’ll post an update here.
Cherry Pit Ice Cream
1/2 cup cherry pits
1 1/2 cups cream
2 1/2 cups milk
6 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
Clean and dry the pits. You can prepare them as mentioned above, or throw a towel over them and smash indiscriminately with a hammer (fun) or grind them up in a spice grinder (fast). Place the pits in a small pan with half of the cream and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and turn off the heat. Allow to steep for 30 minutes. Return to the heat and add the milk. Bring back to a simmer. While that reheats place cheesecloth in a strainer over a bowl (you’ll want about 4 layers of cheesecloth).
Pour the hot milk and kernel mixture through the cheesecloth and then wring it out as well as possible. Return the milk/cream mixture to the pan and add the sugar. Stir the cornstarch into the remaining cold cream and then add the cream/cornstarch mixture to the pan and stir vigorously. Bring back to a simmer and then remove from heat. Refrigerate for at least 8 and preferably 12 hours before churning in your favorite ice cream machine.
Makes a little over a quart of ice cream.
*The flavor is similiar to almond extract so you can add a few drops of that if you think the flavor is too weak – try it straight up first to decide which way you like it best.