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Chock-full of cherries with just a splash of bourbon, this homemade ice cream is an adult delight

Cherry season is upon us.

Why not enjoy the little gems in a creamy, dreamy, summery adult delight, chock-full of cherries with just a splash of bourbon?

It’s not quite a frozen twist on a classic cocktail, but almost.

It isn’t for kids. But they can certainly help harvest.

The cherry crop at the you-pick orchards in the Green Bluff agricultural area – some 15 miles north of Spokane – really get going in July with the Cherry Festival. High Country Orchard, a popular spot for picking, expects its you-pick cherries to be ready by July 10. Varieties include deep red and consistently sweet Bings, delicate yellow-and-blush Rainiers, and Montmorency mouth-puckering and highly perishable sour pie cherries.

Mark your calendars, also, for this yearly highlight: the 39th annual Cherry Pickers’ Trot and Pit Spit is July 20. The event includes a 4-mile run through picturesque Green Bluff, a cherry pit-spitting contest, live music, hamburgers and hot dogs.

Can’t wait a few more weeks for Green Bluff cherries? Cherries from outside the region already have been pouring in to the Spokane area for a few weeks now. It’s interesting to note that about 70 percent of the cherries grown in the U.S. come from four states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah.

For more information about the Green Bluff Cherry Festival, visit greenbluffgrowers.com.

Cherry-Bourbon-Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Adapted from sweetpeaskitchen.com

1 pound fresh cherries, pitted and halved

1 cup sugar, plus 3 tablespoons, divided

1 1/3 cups heavy cream

1 1/4 cups whole milk

2 vanilla beans, slit lengthwise and seeds removed, pod reserved

6 egg yolks

1/4 cup bourbon

In a small saucepan, stir together cherries and 3 tablespoons sugar. Simmer over medium heat until sugar dissolves and sauce thickens slightly. Transfer to a small bowl and cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold.

Meantime, set a fine mesh strainer over a medium-size bowl and set the bowl over a large container of ice water. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat cream, milk, vanilla seeds and pods, and 1/2 cup sugar, stirring occasionally, until steam appears and the mixture reaches 175 degrees, about 5 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk the yolks and 1/2 cup sugar until smooth. Slowly whisk about 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into the yolks to temper them. Then, slowly whisk the yolk mixture back into the remaining hot milk mixture. Continue to cook the custard mixture over medium heat until it is very hot but not simmering, 180-185 degrees.

Pour custard into the strainer bowl set in the ice bath and let cool, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove custard from ice bath, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, about 3 hours.

Remove and discard vanilla pods. Pour mixture into ice cream maker and churn following the manufacturer’s instructions. When it’s just about ready, add bourbon, cherry mixture and give it just a couple more turns. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container. Cover container and freeze until firm, about 3 hours.

Yield: 1 quart