20 Years of Watermelon Gelato

St. Peter's Basilica

My husband and I just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. This year’s celebration had to be very low-key as he suffers from leukemia and will be undergoing chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant soon. But one thing that has always remained a constant in our marking of the day has been homemade watermelon gelato. How that tradition came to be is a story that is very special to me, and I’d like to share it with you, along with the recipe.

Our honeymoon to France and Italy overflowed with art, history, culture, and culinary pleasures, and one of the latter was the watermelon gelato we ate, no, experienced, at a gelateria across from the Trevi Fountain in Rome. (I hope that place is still there.) As we sat on the steps of an ancient church, also across from Trevi Fountain, and ate our gelato, we decided, once we returned home, to try to re-create the recipe with our new ice cream maker. It took a lot of experimentation. For instance, you can’t put too much pureed watermelon in as that is essentially water and will make the gelato ice-cube hard. Now I can’t promise that what we came up with tastes exactly like the stuff at the Trevi Fountain gelateria, but it is yummy stuff and has stood the test of time at our house every August for 20 years.

2 cups 2% milk

3/4 cup sugar

1 T. cornstarch

1/8 tsp. salt

2 eggs, separated

1 cup whipping cream

1/2 of a 3-oz. package of watermelon Jello

2 cups pureed watermelon

Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium saucepan. Add milk and heat to very hot. Refrigerate egg whites for later. Beat egg yolks. Add one cup hot mixture to egg yolks, stirring constantly. Add all back into milk mixture and heat on medium, stirring constantly, to 160 degrees F. Cool two hours to overnight. Strain custard mixture. Beat egg whites till stiff peaks form. Whip cream, and add egg whites and cream to custard mixture. Add Jello and watermelon puree. Freeze in ice cream maker. Ripen in freezer. Enjoy a small taste of Italy!

Old-Fashioned Custard-Style Ice Cream Pt. 2

In my previous post, I gave my original recipe for a basic ice cream, which is pretty bodacious in its own right. But if you want to ramp it up a bit,Ice Cream here is a list of variations I’ve tried. You still make the basic recipe, then follow the directions below for different flavors. Try some of your favorites here, then when you feel comfortable, do some experimenting of your own.

French Vanilla:  Add 1 T. vanilla to custard and whipped cream mixture.

Toasted Marshmallow:  Cut down sugar just a tad in the custard mixture.  Add 1 tsp. vanilla to custard and whipped cream mixture.  Spread about half of one bag of large marshmallows in a foil-covered pan and toast in the oven till brown, about 15 minutes at 350 degrees.  Add to finished ice cream, chop up, and mix in.

Coconut:  Add ½ tsp. vanilla and 2/3 tsp. coconut extract to custard and whipped cream mixture.  Add ½ cup toasted coconut to finished ice cream before ripening.

Banana Cream Pie:  Puree two bananas in blender with some of custard mixture and add to rest of custard and whipped cream mixture with ½ tsp. vanilla.  Make about three dozen tiny disks of pie crust (bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes) and stir into finished ice cream before ripening.

Cherry:  Add ½ tsp. vanilla and 1 tsp. cherry extract to custard and whipped cream mixture.  Add ½ cup chopped maraschino cherries to finished ice cream before ripening.

Strawberry:  Cut down sugar a tad.  Add ½ tsp. vanilla and two cups sugared and pureed strawberries to custard and whipped cream mixture.

Peach:  Add ½ tsp. vanilla and 15 oz. can peach slices in syrup, pureed, to custard and whipped cream mixture.

Watermelon Gelato:  Add 1-2 cups pureed watermelon, half of a 3-oz. package watermelon Jello, and approximately 8 drops red food coloring and 2 drops yellow food coloring to custard and whipped cream mixture.

Lemon Custard:  Add small package instant lemon pudding and ½ tsp. vanilla to custard and whipped cream mixture.

Orange Cinnamon Crunch:  Add 1/3 cup orange juice concentrate and 1 tsp. cinnamon to custard and whipped cream mixture.  Make a crunch by mixing ½ cup oats, ¼ cup flour, ¼ cup brown sugar, and 2 ½ T. butter.  Spread on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.  Cool, then stir into finished ice cream.

Rum Ginger:  Add 2 tsp. rum extract and ½ tsp. ginger to custard and whipped cream mixture.

Pumpkin:  Add ½ cup canned pumpkin, ½ tsp. vanilla, ¼ tsp. each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, and 1/8 tsp. ground cloves to custard and whipped cream mixture.

Egg Nog:  Cut sugar in half.  Replace whipped cream with 1 ½ cups egg nog.  Add 1 tsp. vanilla and ¼ tsp. nutmeg to custard and egg nog mixture.

Amaretto:  Add 1 tsp. almond extract to custard and whipped cream mixture.

Chocolate Rum:  Add ¼ cup cocoa to sugar before adding milk at the beginning.  Add 2 tsp. rum extract to custard and whipped cream mixture.

Chocolate-Marshmallow-Banana:  Add ¼ cup cocoa to sugar before adding milk at the beginning.  Puree ½ jar marshmallow cream and ½ banana in blender with some of custard mixture and add to rest of custard and whipped cream mixture.

Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato:  Add ½ cup Nutella to custard mixture while still hot.  Add ½ tsp. vanilla to custard and whipped cream mixture.

Mint Chocolate Chip:  Add ¼ tsp. mint extract and 6 or 7 drops green food coloring to custard and whipped cream mixture.  Add desired amount of chocolate chips to finished ice cream before ripening.

Peppermint:  Add ½ tsp. peppermint extract and 3-4 drops red food coloring to custard and whipped cream mixture.  Add 1/3 cup finely crushed soft peppermint candies to finished ice cream before ripening.

Rootbeer:  Add approximately ¼ bottle (to taste) rootbeer concentrate to custard and whipped cream mixture.

Pistachio:  Cut sugar in half.  Add small package instant pistachio pudding to custard and whipped cream mixture.

Crème Caramel Toffee Crunch Gelato:  Add ½ tsp. vanilla to custard and whipped cream mixture.  Add ½ jar caramel topping and desired amount of toffee bits to finished ice cream before ripening and swirl gently for a marbled effect.

Strawberry Cheesecake:  Add ½ tsp. vanilla and strawberry jam to taste to custard and whipped cream mixture.  Add chopped pieces of partially thawed strawberry cheesecake to finished ice cream before ripening.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough:  Add ½ tsp. vanilla to custard and whipped cream mixture.  Add about a third of a tube of cookie dough, chopped, to finished ice cream before ripening.

M&M Malt:  Add ½ cup malted milk powder to sugar before adding milk at the beginning.  Add desired amount of M&M’s to finished ice cream before ripening.

See how fun this recipe is? My dad once ordered dill pickle ice cream at an ice cream parlor. I would never try that one, but if you want to, break a leg!

Old-Fashioned Custard-Style Ice Cream

Ice CreamI had never made ice cream before when I was married in 1994, but we received a frozen treat maker as a wedding gift, and thus began my foray into the world of frozen dessert making. After much experimentation I came up with this very tasty basic ice cream recipe that is smoothly perfect in texture as well as flavor.

The recipe makes approximately a half gallon. Once you get the hang of it, this process goes really fast. I make it about once a week all summer long and on special occasions the rest of the year. The whole family loves it.

2 cups 2% milk

3/4 cup sugar

1 T. cornstarch

1/8 tsp. salt

2 eggs, separated

1 cup whipping cream

Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium saucepan. Add milk and heat to very hot. Refrigerate egg whites. Beat egg yolks. Add one cup hot mixture, stirring constantly. Add all back into milk mixture and heat on medium, stirring constantly, to 160 degrees F. Cool two hours to overnight. Strain custard mixture. Beat egg whites till stiff peaks form. Whip cream, and add egg whites and cream to custard mixture. Freeze in ice cream maker. Ripen in freezer.

Next post: I’ll share a boatload of different flavors you can make with this recipe.