Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Every year at this time, I buy a couple pawpaws from a Earl Livengood at the Reading Terminal Market. And each year, eating them fresh, I commit myself to making something else out of them. Today, I finally did: ice cream.

I used a cooked base, adding about a cup and a half of strained pawpaws (about five pawpaws) and a scant teaspoon of vanilla, to half a quart each of whole milk and half-and-half (not ultra-pasteurized), in addition to the sugar (just shy of a full cup) and two eggs. (I didn't go for a true French base, that would have been much too rich for the fruit, but I did want a little more richness than a Philadelphia-style recipe usually produces.)

Wow! It's aging in the fridge's freezer now, but it was superb right out of the ice cream freezer. The pawpaw flavor came right through: banana-like, but with a subtle acid accent, just a little spicy. Many recipes call for adding a little lemon juice and/or substantial quantities of orange juice; totally unnecessary.

The key, as in all fruit ice creams, is to make sure the fruit is absolutely perfectly ripe. In the case of pawpaws, that means they will have considerable brown patches on the thin green skin. You'll know they're ready when you walk into the kitchen from the out of doors and are delighted by the tropical fruity scent -- all the more incredible given that pawpaws (the largest native American fruit) grow in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states as well as the South. Each fruit has about a dozen or more rather large black seeds, but it's easy to separate the flesh from the seeds with an implement (I used the back of a wooden spoon) to mash the pulp through the strainer.

PS: Don't confuse these pawpaws, Asimina triloba, with the tropical fruit sometimes called pawpaw, which is another name for the papaya.

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