Recipe: Honey Buttermilk Ice Cream

This all started in the mountains of West Virginia while on vacation (or at least semi-vacation). A whole 9 days of no cell phone reception or air conditioning. Just hiking, reading, cooking, and relaxing (and catching up on some much neglected work). Some of the things I love most, with some of the people I love most.

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Before leaving Tennessee, I went through our fridge to see what to bring. We had tons of heavy cream and buttermilk. What to do with those? My first thought…buttermilk ice cream. I have no idea why my first thought was ice cream since it is not really my kind of dessert. I much prefer a good bread pudding or cake. Ice cream generally is too sweet and not creamy enough for me. It was not until my first taste of real gelato in Italy, the kind that leaves a film of cream in your mouth, that I realized the potential of ice cream, but that is a whole other story.  Well, ice cream was the first thought that entered my head, and when I get an idea, I have an awfully hard time dispelling it. So, ice cream it was!

Being in the mountains, with a limited pantry and a very limited kitchen, forced me to wing things.  But that is what I like.  Figuring it out and making it work.  I considered bringing an ice cream maker but thought that a little unnecessary.  Doing things old school, slow and natural, with the effort of my hands brings a certain satisfaction in the kitchen.

So, here is my ice cream recipe (the long version – if you don’t want to take hours to make this, use a machine and follow the manufacturer’s instructions)…

Honey Buttermilk Ice Cream:


Makes 1 quart roughly

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • optional:  ingredients such as thyme, vanilla bean, or lavender

Set up an ice bath for later use, by partially filling a large bowl with ice and cold water.

Heat the cream and the honey in a saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.

While the cream mixture is heating, combine the egg yolks and salt in a separate bowl and whisk until the yolks begin to thicken.  Once the cream mixture has begun to simmer, remove from heat and slowly pour into the egg bowl while whisking constantly.  Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium low heat, again stirring constantly, making sure to scrape the bottom of the saucepan, until the custard thickens enough to coat a spoon or spatula and registers 175 F on a thermometer. Roughly 5 minutes.  Do not let boil.

Pour through a fine mesh sieve into a medium bowl and place in the ice bath, allowing to cool completely.  Add the buttermilk and mix.  The buttermilk may curdle if the cream mixture is not properly cooled before it is added.

Transfer custard mixture into a freezer safe bowl or dish and put into freezer.  The more shallow the vessel, the quicker it will freeze.  After 30-45 minutes remove from freezer and stir vigorously, making sure to use a spatula to scrap down the sides of the bowl.  Return to the freezer.  The beauty and the curse of making ice cream.  You need it to begin to freeze, however, you do not want large ice crystals to form.  The more you blend the mixture and beat it to break up the ice crystals, the smaller they will stay, and the smoother the ice cream in the end.  And when I say beat, I mean you want to feel the burn in your triceps.

Continue to check the mixture every 30 minutes, stirring vigorously and scraping sides of the bowl, then returning the mixture to the freezer.  Continue to check and stir until ready (2-3 hours).  Once frozen, transfer the custard ice cream to a proper storage container until ready to serve.

*If you want to infuse any flavors into the ice cream, the time to do it is when initially heating the cream.  You can scrape the seeds from a vanilla bean or add herbs such as thyme or lavender to the cream.  If you decide to infuse a flavor, bring just the cream to a simmer as stated above with the flavor you want to infuse.  Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for an hour.  Then strain the cream through a fine-mesh sieve and return to saucepan with the honey and heat to 175 F as directed above, continuing the recipe from there.

If you would like to add any ingredient such as chocolate chips or fresh herbs not infused into the cream, add when the mixture is almost frozen and mix throughout the custard mixture.




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