Vegan Ice Cream

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No Dairy, No Sugar, No Soy…

As summer arrives (more or less), our thoughts turn to cold treats like sunflowers turning to the sun. Mine do, anyway, and so do those of my dear family. Back in the day, I used to whip up batches of ice cream using gorgeous organic cream and lots of fresh fruit, from rhubarb to raspberries. Since I now cater cheerfully to family members who can’t have dairy, soy, sugar, wheat, or citrus, the frozen treats have changed quite a bit. The good news is that we can make literally dozens of delectable treats without resorting to the off-limits ingredients list.

Like Sorbets, F’rinstance…

Traditionally made from fruit, juice, or alcohol, sorbets are dairy free alternatives to ice cream. The basic idea is very simple; combine the flavoring agent (fruit or whatever) with water, add sweetener and freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker. Tart sorbets are used as a palate-cleanser between courses at long, fancy banquets. They don’t need to be super-sweet to be tasty, and you can make really intriguing sorbets using apple cider vinegar, freshly made tomato juice, cucumbers, or ripe bell peppers. Here’s my current favorite sorbet to try:

Vegan Rhubarb Sorbet

4 cups rhubarb, chopped in 1-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract

Place cut rhubarb in a saucepan, add 1 cup water, bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer until soft (10-12 minutes). Puree in a food processor for 1 minute, then add salt, and honey to taste (start with 3 tablespoons). Puree for 30 seconds, stir in vanilla and chill until cold. Process in an ice cream maker until well whipped, pack into containers and freeze. Makes about 2 pints.

We All Scream For Ice Cream

Sorbets are definitely refreshing. Sometimes, however, we crave a treat that tastes more like real ice cream. Dairy free ice creams abound these days, but most are loaded with sugar and/or soy products, which in our case are out of bounds. I tried making ice creams with rice milk but found them on the thin side, with not much body. Coconut milk works great and the results are all about body, but can be overwhelmingly rich.

My recent attempts have been the most successful so far. These involve using almond milk, with some coconut milk. Instead of sugar, I’m using honey and/or maple syrup. Homemade ice cream is often rock hard, especially non-dairy versions. Commercial ice cream is whipped (air is cheap) to stay soft, but also contains ingredients that make ice cream softer.

Softer, Gentler Ice Cream

Fats, for instance, don’t freeze, so cream or coconut milk makes for softer ice cream than oat or rice milk. Sugar, brown rice syrup, honey, and maple syrup also have a softening effect. So does alcohol, including pure extracts like vanilla, almond, and chocolate as well as wine or liqueurs (which work especially well since they also involve a lot of sugar). Thus, a successfully soft ice cream will include some of all these ingredients.

My most recent ice cream recipe combines ripe strawberries with a little of each of these important ingredients, balanced for personal taste preferences. I started with a 2-pound tub of organic strawberries, which I hulled and quartered. Some were a little manky, so I didn’t use them. Some were not very ripe, but I definitely used those, since they offer the tartness that would usually come from added lemon juice (not on our permitted list). It tastes light yet satisfying, and just sweet enough without losing that fresh fruit flavor.

Vegan Strawberry Ice Cream

2 pounds strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons maple syrup

In a food processor, puree fruit with 1/2 cup almond milk. Add remaining almond and coconut milks, salt and vanilla, then sweeten to taste with honey and maple syrup. Chill until cold, then freeze as directed on ice cream freezer. Makes about 3 pints.

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2 Responses to Vegan Ice Cream

  1. Sarah Katherine says:

    SO pleased to find this blog through Log House Plants. Though I now live near Corvallis, Oregon, I am from the Seattle area and I think I have every single book written by Ann Lovejoy. Really wonderful to be able to read her writings and try her recipes, once again. Thanks, Ann Lovejoy (and thanks to Log House Plants whose gardening offerings I’ve bought for many years, for having this on their site!).

    • Ann Lovejoy says:

      Well, thank you for such kind words, and welcome! Please let me know if you are looking for particular recipes or garden topics and I’ll be delighted to help if I can. It’s an honor to be on the Log House Plants website, and I, too have bought their amazing plants for many, many years. They were and are such pioneers, bringing ardent gardeners innovations like colorful, informative plant labels, recycled/recyclable food-grade pots, and of course incredible plant offerings found nowhere else. We are so lucky!

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