When you think of ice cream flavours, hops aren't usually at the forefront. Given their citrus notes and balanced aromas, however, they make an excellent flavour.
This recipe doesn't use an ice cream maker1, although if you have one it will save you taking your mixture out to stir regularly while it's freezing. It's also an egg-free recipe, so don't worry about eating raw eggs.
Hops are the seed-heads of the hop plant; the seeds are surrounded by petal-like leaves. Hops are added to beer for two main reasons, their bitterness and their aromas. The bitterness comes purely from the oils present in the hop leaves; the hops are boiled to release the oils. This bitterness isn't really wanted in an ice cream, so it is important not to boil the hops. The leaves themselves have a wonderful delicate flavour to them, but can be a bit like chewing grass if they're not very finely chopped.
There are a lot of different sorts of hops out there, with more being developed each year. The best ones for ice cream depend purely on your personal tastes, but the newer American hops with their citrus aroma make for a really tangy taste. Hops are all graded with an alpha content: this represents the amount of oils in them – the higher the alpha content, the more powerful the hop. American hops such as Amarillo and Simcoe in particular have a high alpha content; English hops, particularly Fuggles and Goldings, tend to have a low alpha content. So if you like a more citrusy hop use American hops; if you want something more subtle, use an English hop.
You really don't need many hops; if you use a lot you'll get both a very bitter, and a very grassy-tasting ice cream. About two or three hop cones (a moderate pinch) is more than enough. Getting hold of just a pinch of hops isn't as hard as it sounds. You possibly know someone who does home-brew that can spare you some, or most small or micro breweries will let you have a bit if you ask nicely. Failing that, any moderately decent home-brew shop will sell you 100g worth (for a few pounds in the UK) which is enough for quite a lot of batches.
- 150ml (5 fl oz) milk
- 85g (3 oz) sugar
- 300ml (10 fl oz) cream
- pinch of hops (2 or 3 cones), finely chopped
Although we've already mentioned that the hops needs to be finely chopped, it's worth saying again, so as a first step, chop the hops finely.
Warm the milk without boiling in a saucepan with the sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
Add in the cream and continue to warm gently over a low heat, stirring until all the cream has mixed in well and there are no lumps.
Once the mixture is smooth and warm, remove from the heat and add the very finely chopped hops and stir them in for about five or ten minutes to allow the flavour to spread through the mixture. Transfer to a suitable tub for freezing, cover and allow to cool, then place in the freezer.
About every half hour, remove from the freezer and stir thoroughly with a fork to make sure that everything is mixed well and no large ice crystals are forming. If you forget to stir every half hour, don't worry too much, just make sure to stir it well when you do remember. All that will happen is that your ice cream will be a bit thicker and harder.
When the ice cream is frozen right through to the middle of the tub, it's ready to eat.