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23 Aug 2022

Fun and Easy Herbal Homemade Ice Cream for Those Hot Summer Days

As the weather gets warmer, the craving for cooler treats is also on the rise. When it comes to sweet treats, nothing beats homemade ice cream, and I like to incorporate herbs into all my homemade treats. It’s like guerilla herbalism, sneaking herbal allies into the fare at all my social gatherings. Whether I’m hosting or just attending, it’s kind of a mission for me! Herbal ice cream is the perfect Trojan horse for sneaking herbs past even the most guarded or hesitant palates. 

Ice cream machines come in a range of sizes, from personal pint-sized to a 2-quart friend and family size. The former is great if you just want a little treat for yourself, and the latter is better for when you want to make enough to share. Let me tell you, homemade ice cream is a potluck impression maker, but just be prepared to be asked to bring it to every gathering from then on! I first got an ice cream churner a couple of years ago, and have been experimenting with flavors ever since.

ingredients to make herbal homemade ice cream 

Homemade Ice Cream with Herbs: Practical Tips 

When it comes to herbal homemade ice cream, there is definitely a bit of a learning curve. Playing with the ratios of herbs to other flavors has taught me a few key tips. One thing to note is that if you can, infusing the herbs into the base through heat before you begin the cooling process is the best way to impart the flavor throughout the final product. If you’ll be adding the herbs to the base without a heated infusion, like in the sorbet recipe below, you can add the herbs to the base and chill overnight in the fridge to allow the flavor to infuse into the fruit purée. 

Another thing that surprised me about homemade ice creams is that they thicken up so much quicker than I thought they would. In just a matter of 30 minutes or less, you can go from cool liquid to icy treat. When the contents of your churner reach a soft serve consistency, the process is complete. You can serve the ice cream right away, or put it in the freezer overnight to have it harden up to a hand dip ice cream consistency. 

You can use your ice cream maker to churn out sorbets as well. The best sorbets will capitalize on the pectin content of the fruit, so blending the fruit into a purée is a must. If the fruit has larger seeds, you can do the work of removing the seeds before blending. For fruits with smaller seeds, like berries, you can just purée the whole fruit. Either way, you’ll want to strain the purée with a fine mesh strainer. We want to pull the tougher parts of the fruit out, so we are left with a thick and silky fruit purée for churning.

There are so many possibilities when you are creating your own herbal ice creams. Different bases, sweeteners, herbs, and additives like fruit or candy yield near endless outcomes. I’ve included three of my favorite recipes to date, each with variations in bases and additives. The recipes here are for a pint-sized ice cream maker, like mine, but will be easy to scale up for larger-sized churners.

measuring cups and spoon with flowers and honey in background

cardamom coconut ice cream

Coconut, Cardamom, & Honey Ice Cream

I really wanted a flavor that was sweet and simple with a depth of flavor. The cardamom adds a kind of extra mouth feel as a warming spice in a cold dessert. Yield: 2 servings.

Ingredients

¾ cup canned coconut milk
¼ cup almond milk
4 green cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) pods
2 tablespoons honey
1 pinch salt

Directions

  • Crush or grind cardamom pods just enough to break the pods and scar the seeds. We don’t want them to be powdered, but we do want them to begin to release their aroma. Next, toast the cardamom pods in the bottom of a small saucepan. Once the aroma of the cardamom begins to waft up from the pan, pour in your canned coconut and almond milk. Bring liquid to a scald, meaning there will be subtle movement on the surface of the liquid before it begins to boil. Then remove it from heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Then while the mixture is still warm stir in the honey and salt, and allow it to cool completely. For a vegan version of this recipe just replace the honey with maple syrup.
  • Once the mixture is cooled, strain the liquid into a refrigerated glass bowl, using a fine mesh strainer, and whisk vigorously for a few minutes to re-emulsify any of the fat solids that might have separated during the cooling process. If you have a blender with a glass bowl you could also chill your blender bowl in the freezer, and blitz the liquid in there for a few minutes. This will continue to cool the mixture as well as ensure that there are no fat-solid floaties before the mixture goes into the ice cream machine.
  • Following the instructions for your ice cream machine, pour the mixture into your ice cream maker, and set it to start churning. Once the mixture has reached a soft serve consistency you can serve it up, or put it in a freezer-safe container and store it in the freezer for a firmer hand-dipped ice cream texture.

pouring strawberry puree

strawberry sorbet

Strawberry Thyme Sorbet

I really wanted to do something with fruit and herbs that was a little more outside the box than basil or mint. I love the savory flavor of thyme and decided to give it a try. The results were fabulous. Yield: 2 cups.

Ingredients

1 ½ cups strawberries chopped (the riper the berry, the sweeter the sorbet)
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon dried thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Directions

  • Place your strawberries, honey, and thyme into a blender and blend until smooth on a high setting. It may be necessary to start the blender on a low speed and work up to a higher speed in order to get the mixture to liquefy properly, so use your best judgment. Ultimately, we don’t want to add any water to the mixture. 
  • Once the fruit, honey, and thyme have reached a smooth purée, transfer into a small container and refrigerate overnight. This allows the flavors time to marry and ensures that the purée will chill before churning. After refrigerating overnight strain your purée using a fine mesh strainer, then chill in the freezer for another 20 minutes.
  • Transfer the freezer-chilled purée into your ice cream mixer and, following the instructions for your ice cream maker, start the churning process. Once the contents have reached a soft serve consistency you can either serve or put the soft sorbet in a freezer-safe container overnight for a hardened hand-dipped consistency. 

This sorbet is fantastic on its own, or it can be drizzled with a balsamic reduction for an added kick and bold flavor. For alternate delicious herbal ice cream flavors, you could try switching out the thyme for basil or mint. For a vegan version of this recipe, you can replace the honey with agave nectar.

blueberry compote

close up of herbal homemade ice cream

Blueberry Lavender Ice Cream

This is my attempt to duplicate a seasonal flavor from one of my favorite ice cream makers Jeni’s Ice Cream’s Wildberry Lavender flavor. I left out the sweet orange flavor as citrus can curdle milk. All in all, I am happy with my dupe. Yield: 2 cups.

Ingredients

1 cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon dried lavender (Lavandula officinalis)
¼ cup blueberries

Directions

  • First, pour the heavy cream and milk into a small saucepan, and heat over a medium-low temperature. Once the mixture is warmed, stir in ⅓ cup of sugar. Heat to scalding, then add lavender, stir, and allow to steep for 5 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a container with a lid, and place it in the fridge to cool overnight. Once the mixture has cooled in the refrigerator, move the container to the freezer, and chill for 45 minutes, shaking every 15 minutes to allow the contents to chill more evenly. 
  • While your ice cream base is freezer chilling. put ¼ cup of blueberries in a small saucepan, place the pan over the burner on your stove, and turn the heat up to medium. Once the blueberries start to become soft and juicy, add 1 tablespoon of sugar and turn the heat down to low. Continually stir the blueberries and sugar together until all the sugar is melted. Once the sugar is melted, turn off the stovetop and allow the mixture to cool. Now you have blueberry compote to add during the churning.
  • After the freezer chill, set up your ice cream maker according to the manual instructions. Pour in the chilled cream base and start your ice cream maker churning. Keep an eye on the consistency of the base as it thickens. Once you can start to see ice crystals in the base you can add the blueberry compote to the churner. This will give you more of a swirling effect in your final product.
  • Once the mixture reaches a soft serve consistency you can either serve right away or transfer the soft serve to a freezer-safe container and freeze further for hard ice cream.

homemade ice cream on wooden table

In Closing,

I have loved making my homemade ice cream and sorbets and finding yet another way to sneak herbs into the lives of my friends and family. There are so many possibilities when you create your own ice creams at home. It’s so much fun to play around with your favorite plant allies in a new and tasty way. Each attempt brings you closer to honing your technique and recipes. Start with these tried and true options and let your imagination run free as you create your dream ice cream.

Fun and Easy Herbal Homemade Ice Cream for Those Hot Summer Days | Herbal Academy | Nothing beats homemade ice cream when it comes to sweet treats, and using herbs in your recipe is a unique way to use your plant allies.