There is a lot of berry picking nostalgia tied to my childhood. Having a whole lot of woodsy property meant random wild blueberry bushes and happening upon the occasional tiny little wild strawberries, along with a giant huckleberry bush in a clearing and a decent number of raspberries along the driveway. But blackberries were the most abundant, popping up around the edge of our lawn, all along the driveway and main road, and covering a semi-secret enormous hillside a little ways outside our property line. Which is perhaps why they’ve always been my favorite berry. Strawberries are fleshy and sweet. Raspberries are tart and delicate. But blackberries are intense. They are hearty, seedy things. (I might be among the minority here, but I love berry seeds.) Their appearance means season change is just around the corner. Goodbye gross summer and hellooooo glorious fall. Bring on the sweaters, scarves, and birthday cake.
Just FYI, if you’re ever looking for someone to go blackberry picking with, I am so your girl. Not in a romantic way. (Is berry picking generally considered a lovely weekend activity, or have I just been living in Vermont for too long?) In an I-will-wear-a-sweater-and-jeans-tucked-into-socks-in-the-middle-of-August-and-prepare-for-battle way. I get obsessive. To the point where I will carefully make my way into a thicket, then less skillfully back my way out once I realize I’ve gone too far, snagged hair and skin and clothes be damned. If I see ripe berries, I want them. All. ALL THE BERRIES.
So yeah, after all that, I wish I could tell you about how I picked these berries. Buuut, I didn’t. I bought them at the store. :D (Points for honesty! Yes?) Regardless of where they came from, the smell and taste of blackberries immediately reminds me of being covered in fresh scratches and bruise-colored stains. And this batch was particularly delicious. I’m not sure my childhood self would have been into the combination of thyme and blackberries, but it’s one of my favorites now. Let honey and goat cheese join the ice cream party and, oh yeah, we’re in serious business.
I’ve had my eye on Linda’s honey-thyme ice cream since last year, and I knew it would be awesome in conjunction with the blackberries. This recipe gave me the chance to work on my swirl technique after a previous failure, and it turned out a bit better (although I’ll admit, that was kind of by accident — things got all melty and out of hand very quickly, and I sort of gave it a quick stir before saying “gah! enough!” and just throwing it in the freezer). And after dealing with post–photo sesh melty ice cream, I wound up with a fully incorporated (or, in other words, non-existent) swirl anyway. Both, quite frankly, are delicious. The swirled version was the contrast of the sweet-savory honey-thyme base with intense rivers of tangy goat cheesy blackberriness. When everything wound up mixed together, the result was an ice cream that tasted like a grown up black raspberry. Regardless of swirl or no swirl, I highly recommend garnishing a bowl of this stuff with some chopped chocolate or bits of candied ginger (or just mix them right in if you’re going the no-swirl route).
Sooooo I got in a photo groove and took a thousand photos of the ice cream. I hope no one minds!!
Note: I used a creamy goat cheese from Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery. (If you read my last post, you know all about my stash of VTB&CC goodies!) If you can’t find creamy goat cheese, use normal goat cheese and reduce the amount to just a little over 2 tbsp.
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
6 large sprigs fresh thyme (approximately 4″ long)
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup honey
2 pints of blackberries
1 1/2 cups of sugar
3 tbsp of creamy goat cheese
Mix blackberries and sugar together in a bowl. Cover and let sit for an hour, then macerate until blackberries have been crushed as much as possible. Push through a sieve and stir in goat cheese.
Combine milk, cream, and thyme in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 20 minutes, the strain out thyme sprigs.
Whisk egg yolks together. Temper by whisking in warm cream mixture, a spoonful at a time, until you’ve added about a cup of the cream. Whisk in honey, then scrape the warmed egg mixture into the original saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.
Refrigerate mixture until chilled — ideally overnight. (If you aren’t going to bother with the swirl, mix the blackberry and goat cheese directly into the custard before you chill it. If not, keep it chilled separately.) Process in your ice cream maker as per the manufacturer’s instructions. When ice cream is finished churning, add a layer to the bottom of a large tin. Add a drizzle of the blackberry–goat cheese syrup, then lightly swirl in with a chopstick or knife. Add another layer if ice cream and repeat. Continue until all the ice cream is in the tin.