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Is there any citrus that’s more than refreshing that lemon? I don’t think so! And when it’s a lemon thyme ice cream, you better believe it’s a deliciously crisp, clean flavor!
Growing up, our garden was full of everything we needed to can and freeze food to fill our basement shelves. Mom loved gardening, but in southeast Iowa, we didn’t have a lot of places to purchase unique plants with which to experiment. We never grew our own herbs and we usually only cooked with dried herbs. Looking back on it now, what a world we were missing out on.
When I moved into my place, a quarter of a mile from where I grew up, and planted my own garden, I began growing herbs: the basics of parsley, basil, rosemary. But I also ventured into unique varieties like pineapple sage, tarragon, and curry. With eight years under my belt (yikes!), it’s safe to say that herbs have become a mainstay in my garden, and now in my mom’s as well. Thankfully, we’re now able to say that dried herbs are a thing of the past.
Lemon thyme is a variation of thyme, an herb I love to use. The flavor is bright, sharp, and full. It’s still thyme, but so much better. Now, if you don’t grow your own herbs, lemon thyme may not be easy to find. That’s why this variety is the obvious inspiration for this lemon thyme ice cream recipe. If you can’t buy it and you can’t grow it, why not just make ice cream that tastes just like it? ☺️ I’ve deconstructed the individual flavors, though, by using regular thyme paired with fresh lemon which creates a refreshing ice cream.
Does citrus work in an ice cream?
Citrus is usually reserved for sorbets and gelatos. The sharpness of the citrus works well as an icy sorbet texture, but I love to use it in ice cream. There is something special about blending the citrus with a creamy, smooth base. It’s just contrasting enough that it works.
To really taste the lemon, it would take a lot of lemon juice and zest. So much that the ice cream would likely become hard and icy – just what we’re trying to avoid. To help amplify the lemon flavor, a little lemon extract goes a long way.
Be warned: too much extract could leave a tannic, bitter flavor. But just a few drops are perfect.
How do you keep the thyme flavor?
In testing this ice cream, I found that the lemon flavor was coming through loud and clear from the fruit and oil. But I also wanted there to be more of a true thyme flavor.
When I use thyme in cooking, I hate to take all of the leaves off. Yes, you can strip them and sometimes that’s easy. But oftentimes the stems are too weak to make a quick swipe with your hand and you end up individually removing the leaves. Instead, I throw in entire sprigs of thyme, let them cook or sauté, and then remove them. The oils infuse into the dish and the sprigs are easy to remove.
This same technique is perfect for flavoring the ice cream base as well. When steeped in the hot base, the oils are released and the sprigs are subsequently easily removed. You’re left with a smooth ice cream that contains both a pungent thyme flavor along with those lemon notes.
These flavors are simple, fresh, and great for a summertime ice cream!
Watch how to make this lemon thyme ice cream
Lemon Thyme Ice Cream
- 2 cups + 2 tbsp whole milk
- 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 tbsp corn syrup
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 ½ tbsp Mira-Cleer
- ¼ tsp lemon oil
- ¾ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp lemon zest (approximately one lemon)
- 2 small sprigs thyme
- In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the 2 cups milk, heavy cream, corn syrup, and salt. Whisk to combine and place over medium heat.
- While the milk mixture is heating, in a separate bowl, combine the reserved 2 tablespoons milk and Mira-Cleer. Whisk until smooth and set aside.
- Bring the milk mixture to a rolling boil and continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the Mira-Cleer slurry. Return to heat and bring back to a rolling boil. It is essential the mixture comes back to a rolling boil to activate the thickener.
- Remove from heat and add the lemon oil, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and thyme sprigs. Stir to combine and steep for 20 minutes.
- Once steeped, remove the thyme sprigs and pour the ice cream base into an airtight container. Cover and chill for 6-8 hours. The ice cream base can be stored for up to 48 hours.
- Once ready to chill, follow the manufacturer’s instructions with the ice cream maker. Churn approximately 25 minutes. Enjoy immediately as soft serve or pour into an airtight container and place in freezer 4-6 hours for a hard serve.