Beets are a vegetable – I am sorry to admit – that my immature tongue refused for years. But with the coming of age, your taste buds transform, and now I am happy to say that I love beets! And black coffee, and dandelion greens, and strong cheese! All the things that make me feel like a distinguished gourmand, when in reality I just have the palate of a normal adult. It’s not that I’ve completely abandoned my adolescent cravings – like ice cream, my Epicurean heel – it’s just now I do odd things like add BEETS to ice cream.
I’ve played around with beets before in my confections, primarily as a natural food coloring for cakes. I’m drawn to its rich, beautiful color, which is why I continue to incorporate it in both my savory and sweet concoctions. It lends itself well to both. Generally people stick to the savory, but I’m always astounded by its versatility in the sweet department. Beets can play a supporting role where you barely notice its presence – as in a red velvet cake with grated beets. Or they can be the star of the show, as they are in this ice cream, where the flavor is just as bold as the color.
There are not many beet ice cream recipes floating around, and I’ve certainly never come across it to taste test, so I thought I’d give it a try. Beets are sweet after all, so it shouldn’t taste too odd, right?…I was pleasantly surprised! It tasted just as I had hoped! It was sweet enough to not conflict with the sweetness of the cream, yet the earthiness of the beets came through just enough to offer a different flavor profile that was new and exciting. The texture was also spot on. Roasting and pureeing them thoroughly avoided any texture complications. It was smooth and homogenous as good ice cream should be.
Adding the grapefruit is a tricky yet necessary task. The ice cream needs a bit of acidity in order to make all the right notes of the beet flavors pop, and the grapefruit flavor is one that complements the beet quite splendidly. There’s just one problem with adding acid to dairy – it curdles! I tried to avoid this issue by implementing the acid in a simple syrup cooked separate from the custard base. You need to keep them separate until the last minute. So, right before you put the mixture in the ice cream maker, you quickly whisk the simple syrup into the custard base. Incorporate quickly and rapidly to keep the curdling low, and immediately pour the mixture into a prepped ice cream maker. So far I have been able to keep the curdling to a minimum with this method.
So there you have it – Beet Ice Cream. A sweet kiss from Mother Nature. An avant-garde flavor profile. A color feast for the eyes. All from the humble beet. My kitchen and garden have many more adventures with beets to come, so stay posted.