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Food for Thought: Ice Cream

Nancy Leson
Nancy's home made blackberry ice cream.

It's always sounded like fun to have an ice cream machine. But years back I also thought it would be fun to have a fondue pot. See where that's going?  After all, how often would I really make my own ice cream?

So I asked Nancy Leson if she had a machine and how often she used it.


“I've had one for at least 20 years, maybe 25,” she said. “It has a canister that you just leave in the freezer. For years I left that thing in my downstairs freezer just in case I had that moment when I wanted homemade ice cream...” That's where I jumped in with “And that moment never came!”


“It never really did,” she admitted.


Naturally, the day after Nancy evicted the space-hogging canister from her freezer she decided that she did want to make ice cream after all. Wild blackberry “from the wilds of my backyard. For those who do still have a canister taking up freezer space, here's the recipe she used.


Blackberry Ice Cream (makes about 1 quart) I adapted this recipe for Vanilla Bean Ice Cream from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook by Tom Douglas and Shelley Lance. You can adapt it yourself, substituting any type of fresh berries for the blackberries. For the custard: 2 cups heavy cream 1 cup whole milk 1 cup sugar 1 vanilla bean 8 large egg yolks ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract To finish: 2 cups fresh blackberries Place the cream, milk, and sugar in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean Lengthwise and scrape out the seeds using the tip of a paring knife. Reserve the scrapings an add the pod to the saucepan. Place the saucepan over medium- high heat and scald (bring to just below the boiling point until it steams, and small bubbles appear around the edges), stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Meanwhile, put the egg yolks and vanilla bean seeds in a bowl and whisk until the yolks are pale yellow. Gradually add a ladle of scalded cream to the bowl of yolks while whisking to warm the yolks. Pour the warmed yolks into the saucepan with the cream mixture and return to medium heat, stirring until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Immediately pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. (Discard the vanilla pod.) Stir in the vanilla extract. Set the custard over a larger bowl of ice water. When cool, cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours or overnight. Churn and freeze the chilled custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions, adding the berries shortly after the custard begins to thicken. Remove the ice cream to an airtight container. Cover and freeze for several hours or overnight until firm before serving.


Wife DeGroot has sworn off dairy products, but still indulges her ice cream jones with stuff made from oat milk, rice milk, even cashew milk. Naturally I turned my nose up at first, but some were so good I couldn't tell them from dairy ice cream. Nance has tried them, too, and agrees. Yet when facing the supermarket's gigantic Wall O' Ice Cream I still opt for the real thing. “Me too,” Nance admits.


Credit Nancy Leson / KNKX
The QFC Wall O' Ice Cream.

In this episode Nance talks about her favorite ice cream from the Jack and Jill truck in her Philly childhood. The owner was her next door neighbor.  His son Kenny, who she used to babysit is now the present boss.

Leson's favorite ice cream: “Mint chocolate chip. Now and forever.” Mine? Sneer away but it's good vanilla, a flavor I maintain does not get the love it deserves. All that plus tales of childhood ice cream wretched excess in this week's FfT.

It was quite a challenge to make people eat crab ice cream.” – Herb Blumenthal

Dick Stein joined KNKX in January 1992. He retired in 2020 after three decades on air. During his storied radio career, he hosted the morning jazz show, co-hosted and produced "Food for Thought" with Nancy Leson and wrote and directed the Jimmy Jazzoid live radio musical comedies and 100 episodes of Jazz Kitchen.