The Lazy Mama's Lavender Ice-Cream

My Home-Made Honey-Lavender Ice-Cream.
If I can do it, you can too.

A few years ago my friend Nicole told me about an experience she'd had eating lavender whipped cream. "James and I took it to this dinner party, and it was delicious. But when we were biking home, it was like we were sooo stoned. But we weren't! It felt so weird. Then we came home and fell asleep, like totally passed out. We weren't even drunk."

I nodded, smiled, and filed this under two mental categories. The first was Soporific. The second, Ways in Which Nicole is Better Than Me.

You see, I am not a domestic goddess. I want to sew, but I don't have the patience. I like to eat food but if left to my own devices, I eat yogourt and cereal. I like laundry but my mending pile is so well-established, the clothes have actually come back in style.

But some mamas – those better-than-me mamas – they enjoy making stuff at home. They bake cookies with their kids. They source locally-grown, organic food and prepare it in delicious ways.  They don't consume processed crap and everyone in their family has a healthy relationship to bread. They are beautiful, healthy, strong, beautiful... Did I mention, beautiful? They glow, they cloth-diaper, they accomplish the impossible; their kids eschew candy.

What do I 'source'? I source no-name-brand marshmallow-chocolate cookies at 4am. I wear cosmetics with lead in them and I don't even care (very much). My baby knows where those processed cookies live and feels perfectly entitled to his fair share. I took anti-depressants and anti-histamines while I was pregnant. I'll never be one of those mamas. But I have, in my own way, recently come around to the creation of food.

Making food is awesome. It's like making art – except that, when done right, it doesn't stick around cluttering up your basement. Since I'm married to a fantastic cook, my domain is desserts. Which is kind of a good thing because if you're just getting into making food, it's encouraging when it's delicious. Enter, lavender. Lavender is the most awesome, bestest thing to ever come out of hipster domesticity, knitted bondage gear notwithstanding. It grows in abundance around our neighbourhood (Bernal Heights/Glen Park/Out Mission/Excelsior – yes, in SF you can live in four neighbourhoods), it's purple and in case you didn't know, it's the bush-form of French white linen drying in the sun.

This is the man who makes all my meals.
He's the man-form of French white linen drying in the sun.

Today we're making honey-lavender ice-cream. From scratch. I'm basing it off a Martha Stewart recipe so if you're the kind of person who's interested in doing things the right way, who does things like sifting flour and purchasing special cake tins, click here to follow the original domestic goddess recipe. For the rest of you lazy mamas, read on...

You will need:
  • 2 cups whole milk (2% tastes good too)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup clean lavender buds (about 25 stems)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 5 eggs
  • **You can add some natural dye for extra goddess points, if you're feeling fancy. Look below for some suggestions.
Ingredients (cut out the sugar, the honey makes this dessert sweet enough)

Step 1: Making the milk taste like lavender.
  • Throw the lavender buds into the milk, put it in a pot on the stove and bring to a boil (leave a few stems out to use as a garnish).
  • Once it's reached a boil, remove the pot from heat and let steep for five minutes.
  • Strain out buds – don't throw them out, you can keep them for future deliciousness. You could even make lavender whipped cream with them.

Step 2: Whipping Eggs.
  • While the milk is steeping, blend the egg yolks on medium for 3-5 minutes. You can use a blender or elbow grease. It should be kind of thick. If you forget to keep the egg whites out, don't worry. This will just make the whole thing a bit more frothy. I know, because I did it.

Step 3: Add eggs to milk
  • Slowly add eggs to lavender milk, stirring to mix it in.
  • Stirring continuously, bring lavender milk/egg mixture to a low boil. It should thicken and become like a runny custard. 
  • Remove from heat.

Step 4: Add cream and chill
  • Pour the cream into a chilled bowl (preferably sitting in another bowl of ice-water).
  • When the lavender milk/egg mixture has cooled, mix it in with the cream.
  • Let it chill, then transfer to a freezer-appropriate container in the freezer. I used a yogourt container.

Step 5: Breaking up the ice-crystals
  • If you don't have an ice-cream maker and you're using the empty yougourt container method, it's a good idea to take a wooden spoon and stir the ice-cream every few hours so that it remains creamy (I had every intention of doing this, but I just fell asleep).
Serve with the lavender garnish. Done!

I'll leave you with a few other tips. In no particular order:
  • Colouring: I used the juice from some preserved pinot-noir beets to dye the ice-cream pictured above. You could also use a bit of red cabbage juice, regular beet juice, blackberry jam...

Lavender-esque colour.

  • Health Caveat: Like everything fun, lavender is not recommended for pregnant women and nursing mothers. No hard evidence as to the potential negative side effects, but you might not want to gorge on the ice-cream if you're preggers/nursing. To that effect, it would make a great weaning ritual gift...
  • Herbology: There are two popular strains of lavender. The left is English lavender, which is best for eating. The right is Spanish (commonly known as French) lavender, which is prettier. Your choice.
English lavender, left. French/Spanish lavender, right.

  • Harvesting: The rule if you're stealing lavender from your neighbours is not to take more than 3 off any one bush, and to take only stems that wouldn't be noticed. Stay away from plants on the roadside or beside driveways. Even a few feet from the street greatly reduces the toxins you'll be ingesting. When you get home, wash all the stems in water and then remove the buds by sliding your fingers down the stalk.
Wash the lavender, remove the buds.


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