Saffron ice cream in Primrose Hill park


A complex series of events led Peter’s 1/2 gallon freezer to live in London for several months. This resulted in a reduction in Peter’s icecream making activities, since it takes quite a sizable gathering the polish off a 1 gallon freezer (or a heroic personal effort). So I planned a trip to visit my lovely friends and collect the machine at the same time.

It was glorious blistering weather an Shiv suggested we go to Primrose Hill park to meet up with some friends for a picnic and play rounders. The White Mountain Freezer was made for moments like this.

Foad decided we should flavour it with some fabulous Iranian saffron of his (which I was delighted at since I’ve always found it to have a much better flavour that the Spanish saffron). He prepared a concentrate with a good pinch, ground up to a powder in a pestle and mortar whilst dry (I usually grind it with a little sugar to assist the process) and the hydrated the powder with some warm water and left it for a few hours to let the flavours steep out.

We agreed a time and place and Foad brought the machine and saffron concentrate and I brought the other ingredients (the classic Peter Gerard recipe) .

Making icecream al fresco presents some interesting (to me anyway) logistical problems. The most obvious is preventing the ice from melting until its time to crank. The following strategies may help:

  • Make your own ice by filling large bottles of water and freezing them yourself several days in advance. Large blocks of ice encased in plastic bottles melt more slowly than ice-cubes and make less mess.
  • Bring more ice than you need, especially if your using ice-cubes (I brought 6kg of ice for this batch)
  • Wrap the ice in insulation to prevent conduction of heat to it – bubble wrap is great.
  • Make the wrapping as close to airtight as possible  to reduce heat transfer via convection.
  • Wrap the whole ice package in reflective material to reduce heat transfer by radiation (a silver “space- blanket” is ideal)

One of the other issues is the mix. Double cream has a tendency to get whipped if it gets shaken around in transport. When you try and make the mix with the whipped cream you can get grains of fat in the ice cream. Also transporting whole eggs is a pain, as is trying to measure and dissolve sugar. For all these reasons I think its better to make up the mix in advance.

This icecram batch turned out to be a bit nerve-racking. To start with Foad forgot the Saffron, but showed true dedication to the cause and cycled back across town to fetch it. In the course of which he had an accident on his bike. You can see the cut on his leg in the photo below.

Then 5 minutes into cranking all the water suddenly drained out the bottom of the bucket! At this point I remembered that Peter always presoaked his machine to make sure the wood was expanded and the joints tight. Unfortunately this machine was bone dry and the ice was busy melting in the hot sun. Everytime we tried to top up the bucket with water it just ran out of the bottom, washing away the salt and melting the ice.

There was no way the icecream was going to freeze with just ice-cubes alone packed around it so in desperation I removed the whole cannister from the bucket, poured the ice into a bag, lined the inside of the bucket with a plastic bag, put the cannister back in and re-pack the bucket with ice, salt and water. I also had to take care to puncture the bag at the level of the overflow hole so the level of the brine didn’t overflow into the mixture. It was a good job my paranoia led to bringing 6kg of ice otherwise we would certainly have run out.

Foad contemplating

Foad's legs and the aftermath

In the end I was a fabulous batch. The prefect pre-amble to rounders.

Many, many thanks to Vanessa for the pictures. Vanessa, incidentally is ice cream royalty being of the famous Boni family of ice cream makers in Edinburgh. I remember going to their shop on Fountainbridge (sadly now closed) for a 21st Birthday party of a friend where we all sat around in children’s party hats and ate kids portions of burgers and chip followed by adult sized ice cream sundaes.

Thanks again to everyone for a great weekend (in no particular order): Shiv, Miriam, Foad, Emma, Andy, Jane, and everyone at the picnic.

Dr Big D

As the ice cream doctor, Big D is the scientist among us, obsessing over the chemical properties of ingredients and the balance of sugar/fat/ice ratios. His experimental drive brings exciting and challenging new flavours to our bowls. Big D has a 2-quart and a 6-quart freezer. His 2-quart freezer is particularly unique with it's iron bar for a crank, which he built after breaking the old one in determination to make the perfect ice cream.

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4 Responses

  1. Peter Gerard says:

    Way to think on your toes! There are few things worse than an unsoaked bucket…

    And thanks for bringing it back up. I made a delicious batch of seasonal Scottish strawberry ice cream on Saturday morning that went great in crêpes. Mmmm!

  2. sue says:

    just took delivery of some greek saffron, so you might like to try that next time you are round this way?
    The passion fruit of your last visit is still giving us (your father and I) much enjoyment. Creamy but tangy (as grandma would have said!)

  3. shiv says:

    the memory still lingers on….

  1. 30 July 2009

    […] have the great pleasure of a houseguest from Hannover. Franzi is an old friend of Shiv (see Saffron icecream in Primrose Hill park) and is staying for a few weeks to enjoy to fabulous weather an sophisticated culture of the north […]

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