Fresh mint ice cream sounds redundant, but it’s not.
Most mint ice creams you eat are made with mint extract, not real mint. There is a reason for this, aside from the fact that it’s a helluva lot cheaper for a corporation to use extract than buy tons of mint. The reason is because extracts give you a pure mint flavor, which I find nice, but, well, shallow and rather one note.
Using actual fresh mint leaves gives you several advantages:
- First, it’s a way to use up all that mint that has invaded your yard and is threatening your children. If you grow mint, you know what I am talking about.
- Second, you get a nicer color with the leaves, which lend some of their chlorophyll to the cream. If you use an extract, you need to use food dye to get that pretty celadon green.
- Third, you get to revel in the wildly variable world of mints. Mints are notoriously fickle, and will hybridize and morph grandly into sweet or spicy strains. Chocolate mint, anyone? And with wild mints, you have an even larger palette of flavors to work from.
I used wild Sierra Nevada mint from about 6800 feet to make this batch, and it’s a very vegetal, green-tasting mint with a spicy overtone. Imagine a combination of mint and green tea and you get the idea.
No need to go into terrific detail on how you should eat this ice cream. I like it by itself, or in a milkshake.
Keep in mind that any mint — really any aromatic herb — works here. Spearmint, water mint, yerba buena, peppermint, young oregano, marjoram, lemon verbena, sweet Melissa, lavender and monarda are some of the herbs that would be nice in an ice cream. I am sure you can think of others.
Can you make this with dried herbs? Yes, but the flavor will be slightly different, a bit less “green” and a bit more musty. Can you add chocolate chips? Yep. Do it right after you churn your ice cream, when it has the consistency of soft serve, so you can fold in the chips before you freeze the ice cream hard.
Fresh Mint Ice Cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- Pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 packed cups of mint leaves
- 2 cups of heavy cream
- 4 egg yolks
- Put the milk, salt, sugar and 1 cup of the heavy cream in a pot and heat over medium-low heat, stirring often, until everything combines. Add the mint leaves and stir to get them all wilted in the hot milk. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let the milk return to room temperature. When it hits room temperature, chill overnight in the fridge.
- The next day, strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve. It's OK if a few tiny mint leaf specks get in there. Reheat the mixture over medium-low heat. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl. In another bowl, pour in the other cup of heavy cream and set the fine-meshed strainer over it.
- When the mint-cream mixture is hot, about 150°F, you are ready to temper your eggs. With one hand whisking the eggs, slowly pour in a ladle of the hot cream. Do this three times total, whisking and pouring the whole way. Then pour the egg-cream mixture into the pot and stir to combine.
- Cook the mixture slowly, stirring often, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 160°F. Pour it through the strainer into the bowl with the other cup of heavy cream; doing it this way cools the mixture quickly. Chill everything down and churn according to your ice cream maker's directions.
Amy Zhang says
If, hypothetically, it totally slipped my mind to reserve the second cup of cream and I added it to the hot milk-mint mixture, could I reserve a cup of that liquid after cooling and straining instead? Or is there a reason this wouldn’t work (maybe the milk and sugar in the mixture needs to cook with the eggs?) appreciate your help
Hank Shaw says
Amy: That could work, but I have never tried it.
Queen Boadicea says
This is sublime! It’s a great summer recipe: light, cool and refreshing. You can really smell and taste the mint in it. I like having it for dessert after dinner and have to refrain from partaking in the afternoon in order to have enough for the evening repast. The only other ice cream treat I’ve made this summer that matches it is a cucumber ice cream from a 19th-century recipe.
Your recipe is easy to follow. As cooling requires several hours and takes place over 2 or 3 days, it does take time to make. But I don’t mind that; the result is well worth the time. I must share this with my friends. If they like mint as I do, they’ll adore it.
A few years ago we had some fresh mint ice cream while on vacation and I’ve wanted to make some ever since. Finally did it with this recipe. I don’t know that I’ve ever had ice cream this creamy. And the mint flavor was just what I was looking for. This was also my first time making ice cream; the instructions are excellent.
Made that on Mother’s Day 2022, and it was a success. I didn’t wait over night, just a couple hours, and I used more mint leaves (I figured the more the better). I used a chinois to get most of the juices from the seeped leaves. The ice cream turned out beautifully, a very pale green, and a fresh mint flavor that was deeper than commercial ice cream. We loved it.
I just did a batch of monarda / mint ice cream using this recipe…and it was a fail. The flavor was spectaculars and I thought I was being very careful tempering the eggs, but when I reheated it broke. Waaaa. The failure was somewhere in my technique – does anyone have ideas? I’ll look it up and keep trying. (using this recipe because I trust David Lebovitz) Thanks!
Thomas Manns says
This is very time consuming. Over 2 days? 40 minutes cook time is a little misleading. The results were excellent. So your not going to make this in an afternoon.
Kim B says
Update: I *thought* it was a fail, but churned it anyway and it came out BEAUTIFULLY!! It was creamy and got rave reviews. I made another batch using flowers and mint with excellent results. Am going to use this recipe to make TOMATO ice cream from the skins when I do my canning.
Thanks for a really great recipe!!
This is only the 3rd ice cream I’ve ever made and it was the best! Husband and toddler also loved it and asking for more. Thanks!
i think it’ll work and taste good
Julie Kristine Yates-Fulton says
Harvested the wild mint while on a kayak adventure. Came home and made this. Sure was tasty. Plan to take my students out to harvest mint and make this in class.
I tried this recipe and it was spot on! Very delicious and easy steps to follow. 3/4 cup worth of sugar made a rather sweet, but not sickly ice cream. If you prefer things to be a little less sweet, then I’d adjust accordingly. Thanks for sharing!
Wow. This recipe is great. Best mint ice cream ever!
It looks absolutely delicious … Ice cream is my all time favourite…!
G Hart says
Can I still make this without an ice cream maker? What would be the method for such? I’d love to try this recipe, I just don’t have a machine.
I made this with wild black peppermint that was growing on my property. It was delicious. Absolutely will make it again!
I’ve yet to make my own ice cream. Something about it just feels overwhelming to me. That said, this post reminded me of the best mint chip I have ever had. I get it whenever we are in Nevada City at a little ice cream shop called Treats. They make it just for their shop using the same leaves in the cream method. It’s spearmint and it’s absolutely divine! Maybe I’ll try it at home now.
Alanna Kellogg says
Thanks for the reminder about that tip about the last cup of cream, it’s a great one. I’ve made ice cream twice this week already, just put the freezer back into the, um, freezer for another batch or two over the weekend. I’m thinking? Yeah, mint. 🙂