Brandied Blackberry Ice Cream for Valentine’s Day, MegaBus and Family Treasures

Valentine’s Day deserves an extra special dessert. While any chocolate dessert is my favorite, I opted to create something unique in my kitchen this year:  Brandied Blackberry Ice Cream with Heart-Shaped Sugar Cookies. Serve the ice cream in an antique Haviland china bowl and share with someone special – in this case our family’s grandmother. My husband’s mother, grandma Jeanne, aged 90 years, discovered MegaBus service and rode in from Houston this weekend to attend my daughter’s double-bass music competition here in Baton Rouge.

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Someone Special, Grandma Jeanne

Grandma Jeanne turned 90 years of age this past December. She lives in her own home, drives a car, goes to work almost every day. Pretty amazing. She was in town this weekend to attend my daughter’s  music competition.

grandma inspecting Roger's silver spoon - IMG_2592_1

During the morning I asked grandma to help me in my kitchen with a family recipe, “Aunt Gaye’s Stuffed Cabbage.” Grandma chopped the vegetables, stuffed the cabbage, made the sauce and helped answer a number of questions about exactly how this recipe was made, as Aunt Gaye’s instructions were somewhat vague in a couple of places. The recipe turned out like grandma remembered and it was nice to have her show me how to make this old family recipe. Here she is inspecting a piece of antique sterling silver flatware that I found in a trunk of items collected when we moved a relative. We had a fun time that morning reminiscing about old family stories and inspecting the treasures.

What Is MegaBus? Round trip for $59 from Houston

Although Grandma still drives, the five hour trip from Houston to Baton Rouge is too far for her to attempt to drive alone. Grandma Jeanne discovered MegaBus service, as my son has used it several times. What is MegaBus? The web site states that MegaBus is “safe, convenient, low cost, daily express service in the US and Canada.” There are no bus stations, no intermediate stops. In Houston, the bus pulled up to the side of a building and grandma got on. The two-level bus was clean, modern, safe with internet connections and made only one stop for a rest break. Now that grandma has discovered this inexpensive bus service, perhaps we will have more frequent visits.

Brandied Blackberry Ice Cream

My mom used to take us blackberry picking in the summer in Virginia when we were growing up. Several times we went to a country farm with huge blackberry bushes in the fields. This was the Glick family and I’m sure the family has owned and lived on this farm in the Shenandoah Valley since long before the Civil War.

Blackberry bushes also grew at the edge of mom’s garden. They are somewhat a weed in Virginia with daunting, thorny vines and you are likely to get scratched up when reaching for the highest, juiciest berries. Mom made homemade blackberry ice cream and delicious blackberry pie.

When I notice blackberries in the grocery store, I thought this would make a good Valentine  Day dessert. The fruity, sweet aroma of blackberries is just perfect for ice cream. Blackberries are sort of a Valentine’s deep red-maroon color. I like to serve ice cream with something crunchy, and made some Heart-Shaped Sugar Cookies for accompaniment.

I like custard-type ice creams and added blackberry fruit pulp and some Blackberry Flavored Brandy to help intensify the flavor. My Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker is just the right size to freeze a small batch of ice cream. It holds one quart of mix. If yours is larger, I suggest doubling the blackberries and increasing the whole milk/cream to 6 cups.

Here is the recipe and steps, including how to make an ice cream custard:

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup blackberries, washed and sorted

1 extra large egg
1/2 cup sugar

1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups half-and-half cream
1/4 cup blackberry flavored brandy

Heat water and 1/2 cup sugar in medium sauce pan, boil until reduced to 1/3 cup. Remove from heat, add blackberries (save a few back for garnish), mashing berries against side of pan. Cool and refrigerate overnight if time allows. Process the sugar/pulp mixture in food processor until smooth. Strain blackberries through a strainer to remove seeds. Set pulp aside.

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In medium electric mixer bowl, add egg and 1/2 cup sugar. Beat on high speed until light and creamy. Set aside.

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In saucepan, scald one cup milk over medium high heat. Heat the milk until it steams but does not boil. Remove from heat.

scalded milk - 1 IMG_2496_1

Slowly, slowly stir the milk into the egg/sugar mixture.

add scalded milk to egg-sugar - IMG_2500_1

Return the custard to the stove.

Cook over low-medium heat until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Stir constantly. Technically, you should cook the custard in a double boiler to avoid the protein in the eggs from curdling. However, I stir and cook over low heat and it comes out okay.

custard coats spoon - IMG_2506_1

Remove from stove. Stir in reserved blackberries pulp.

Chill in refrigerator until ready to freeze.

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Remove custard from refrigerator. Add 2 cups half-and-half, vanilla extract and blackberry flavored brandy. Pour into ice cream maker bowl and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker and Brandy Bottle - 2 - IMG_2579_1

When ice cream thickens, remove from maker and let harden in freezer several hours before serving. I find that this ice cream maker yields a very soft ice cream when compared to traditional ice cream makers that use rock salt to freeze the ice cream. The Cuisinart ice cream maker custard does harden in the freezer.

Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker churning ice cream - IMG_2576_1

Serve the ice cream with Heart-Shaped Sugar Cookies.

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Enjoy this Valentine’s day with someone special!

Grandma enjoyed her visit to our family, our morning in the kitchen and especially her granddaughter’s competition and concert at the LSU double bass festival.

I enjoyed an early Valentine’s Day with my mother-in-law.

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