It had been a long day, and was far from over. The weather was not helping. I ducked into a local spot and was enjoying the quiet of its afternoon lull when I found the unexpected: a freezer full of memories.
For many, summer - even as we know it - combines with nostalgia to produce a craving that only ice cream can satisfy. The grocery stores are well stocked and there are places scooping cones full of flavors in every color of the modern rainbow, chock full of chunks of whatever you didn't realize you wanted. There are even a few places to get an extra-special treat: gelato.
Gelato is the Italian version of ice cream. It was my bit of luck to confront a freezer-full in Juneau at the very best moment to be flooded with reminiscence of an enjoyment of the treat in Rome, Perugia, Siena, Florence, Bologna and Venice. In every town, at least two scoops, at least two unique flavors ... Heaven!
Here in Juneau, even if it wasn't quite up to the perfect fig-and-mascarpone memory, it made my day.
One source points to the Old Testament for the first mention of gelato, in the form of cold goat milk offered to Abraham by Isaac to "eat and drink". Others stop with a 4.000-year-old recipe from China concocted with rice. Gelato as we know it, though, originated in the icy Dolomites as a cold, creamy treat for summer travelers.
There's no gelatin in gelato, or at least there's not supposed to be. While it is dense and smooth like premium ice cream, most recipes contain significantly less butterfat and often contain no eggs, starches, or other emulsifiers. There are traditional fruit, nut, and chocolate-based flavors just as with ice cream.
There's no need to go all the way to Italy for exotics either. You can find rosewater and lavender as close as Fairhaven, Wash. just up the hill from the ferry terminal. I've heard that in Portland, Ore. they're experimenting with carrot and avocado. Bacon next?
For bacon, or to take advantage of the upcoming summer harvest of all that makes Southeast Alaska so marvelous, it is necessary to make your own gelato. The easiest recipe requires no cooking at all and can even work without an ice cream maker, although adapting for bacon would require some extra effort.
For fruit or berry gelato:
1 lb. fresh fruit or berries, skinned and/or strained if necessary
12 oz. granulated sugar, about 1.5 cups, to taste
1.5 cups cold whipping cream
1.5 cups cold water
lemon juice to brighten fruit (optional)
Cut washed, peeled fruit into small pieces. Strain seeds from berries if necessary. Then put fruit, most of the sugar, and water into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Taste for sweetness and tartness. Remember that freezing will lessen these, so mixture should be a little sweeter and brighter than the desired end result. Whip cream until slightly thickened, then combine cream with fruit mixture and blend.
Freeze as indicated by the manufacturer of your ice cream maker. If you don't have an ice cream maker and still want to try it, pour the mixture into an airtight container and place in your freezer. Take it out at half-hour intervals or less, stir and return to freezer until it reaches desired dense, smooth consistency.
Juneau Empire ©2013. All Rights Reserved.