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ginger ice cream with black pepper and orange zest

(post, Elizabeth Stark)

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If you ever lived in Charlottesville, VA in the 90's or early 00's you probably saw a bunch of bands in the basement of the Tokyo Rose. Those, my friends, were the days. Night after night of crazy, perfect, awesome shows and upstairs amazing sushi. Almost all my friends worked there in some capacity at some point. I spent my youth eating sushi and listening to indie rock all at the same place. Sniff, the Tokyo Rose, that version, is gone and the heyday of indie rock is on the downswing, but I can still pop open a Kirin Ichiban and have some ginger ice cream.

Homemade fresh ginger ice cream is an upgrade from the standard sushi restaurant fare, but it still has that amazing warm flavor that comes from frozen cream, which would be comforting even if it didn't flood you with a wave of nostalgia for your squandered youth. Oh, but, did you buy that ice cream maker yet?

Ginger's bright, crisp flavor and mild heat is a great counterpoint to fall foods. After curing for a few days the cream fully absorbs the ginger and orange, and the ice cream is silky with a little bite. I guess all homemade ice cream is festive, but this is especially so. You could even make the argument that you need to eat it after a big meal; ginger, after all, is a digestive aid.

Ginger Ice Cream with Black Pepper and Orange Zest

(adapted from the Big Sur Bakery Cookbook, by Michelle Wojtowicz, Phillip Wojtowicz, Michael Gilson and Catherine Price)

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons honey
1 cup sugar
4" section of fresh ginger peeled and sliced
4 egg yolks
a big pinch of salt
zest of one orange
4-6 turns of freshly ground black pepper

Put the ginger in a small saucepan and just cover with water. Bring it to a boil and then let it steep for 10 minutes. Dump the water and then combine the ginger and 1 cup of milk in a blender. Blend well, for two minutes or more.

Combine the milk and ginger mixture, and the rest of the milk, the cream, honey, salt, and half the sugar in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat, when the cream mixture is starting to steam set aside for ten minutes to allow for even more steeping. Bring the heat slowly back up and put the yolks in a heat proof bowl whisking in the other half of the sugar and the orange zest. Whisk a cup or so, 1/4 cup at a time, into the eggs. The goal is the raise the heat of the eggs so they won't curdle when added to cream. Whisk the tempered eggs into the cream mixture. Cook over medium heat until the custard begins to thicken and coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Pour into a large bowl, cover and chill for a long time--3 hours at least. Then process according to your ice-cream maker's instructions. Please note that this makes slightly less than 2 quarts of ice cream, so you might need to process the ice cream in two batches. Remove from ice cream maker and freeze for as long as you can wait. Three hours is good, but this ice cream is at it's best once it has cured for a few days. Serve with a twist of orange peel and a dash of fresh pepper.