Meyer lemons are native to China and are a combination of regular lemons and mandarin oranges. They are a wonderful fruit, much sweeter than regular lemons, and I am lucky enough to have a tree in my backyard. It fruits almost all year, especially in the winter, and I try not to let any of the lemons go to waste.
This ice cream is not difficult to make, despite several steps, and is well worth the effort. This frozen dessert is a creamy yet tart confection that’s perfect after a summer barbecue or in the middle of winter after a hearty stew.
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Finely grated zest of 2 large Meyer lemons
6 large egg yolks (organic is best)
Juice of 2 large Meyer lemons (yield will be a little less than 1/2 cup), strained
1/8 teaspoon lemon oil extract (optional)
Whisk egg yolks until frothy, then gradually beat in sugar, making sure the mixture is smooth. I use a hand whisk for this, no need for lots of equipment!
In a saucepan, heat cream, milk, and lemon zest on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it just comes to a boil. Remove from heat and slowly whisk 1 cup of the liquid into the egg mixture. This process is call tempering, and prevents the cold eggs from curdling when a hot liquid is added. When you’re done you should have a smooth mixture with no lumps or “scrambled egg” pieces. Pour the custard back onto the remaining milk and heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, until the mixture thickens. You can tell the mixture is done when there is resistance against the spoon when you’re stirring or, when you lift the spoon out of the mixture, the custard clings to the side of the spoon.
Remove the custard from the heat and pour into a bowl. Stir in the lemon juice and lemon oil extract. If you don’t have the lemon oil it’s not a big deal; it just makes the ice cream a bit tangier and more intensely lemon flavored. Place the bowl in an ice bath until cool. Then place plastic wrap over the surface of the custard so it doesn’t form a skin, and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors form. If you’re in a hurry, you can chill for 3–4 hours.
Add to an ice-cream maker and freeze the custard according to the instructions. It should take about 25–30 minutes. You can eat the ice cream immediately but it’s better if you let it freeze until harder. Yields a little over 1 quart.