Southern Recipes: Georgia Peach Ice Cream

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By Damon Lee Fowler

“We just had peach ice cream,” a friend shrugged, relating the end of a dinner party she’d recently given on a hot summer evening.

“Just” ice cream.

There was a time when no one would have been so cavalier about something as rare and sublime as frozen cream on a hot summer evening. Before the development of manufactured ice in the mid-nineteenth century, frozen treats were possible only so long as the ice harvested over the winter lasted in earth-insulated ice houses.

Even after manufactured ice became common, until recently ice cream in summer remained a luxury with no equal. Perhaps we take it for granted today partly because of the thousands of cartons of commercial ice cream stacked, like concrete blocks, in every supermarket’s freezer. But being common as ants on a picnic isn’t all that makes them seem ordinary: most of them just can’t compare with the frozen creams from our past.

“For making ice-cream,” wrote Georgia’s own Annabella Hill in 1867, “genuine cream is, of course, preferable.” The author of one of America’s most influential cookbooks until well into the twentieth century, Mrs. Hill considered custard base an inferior substitute for making frozen cream, especially when it came to peach and most any other fruit-based varieties, and she was absolutely dead-on.

While custard is a fine base for vanilla, chocolate, caramel, and cinnamon, for fruit there’s just nothing to compare with pure, unadulterated cream.

In Mrs. Hill’s day, ice creams were often set in decorative tin molds, which can still be had from antique stores and restaurant suppliers. But while fanciful molds may be fun for a dinner party, most of us would rather scoop it right out of the churn, the way we used to do on those soft summer evenings, when at last the ice cream was pronounced ready. As we left off chasing fireflies in the twilight and settled in with a bowl, for a few fleeting moments, the world seemed safe and perfect.

Georgia Peach Ice Cream

Before you begin, heating the cream before chilling and freezing it may seem like a contradiction, but before pasteurization, it was necessary to temper the cream. Today even if it’s pasteurized, heating it is still necessary for infusing the flavorings. It also helps the sugar dissolve and improves the frozen cream’s texture.

Makes about 1½ quarts, serving about 6

1 quart heavy cream
1¼ cups sugar
Salt
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, optional
4-6 ripe, juicy peaches
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Bring the cream almost to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring often to prevent scorching. Off the heat stir in 1 cup of sugar and a tiny pinch of salt until dissolved. Add the nutmeg, if using, and let cool. Meanwhile, peel the peaches over a glass or ceramic bowl to catch all their juices. Halve, pit, and roughly chop them. Put half of them in the bowl with their juice and puree the remainder. Add the puree to the bowl, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar and lemon juice. Let stand 30 minutes.

Stir in the cream and chill at least 2 hours. Prepare an ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s directions, and freeze the cream until almost set—a little stiffer than soft-serve ice cream.

Pack it into a mold or covered freezable container and freeze until completely solidified. To unmold, wrap the mold with a towel heated in the clothes dryer. Loosen the edge with a knife, invert over a serving plate and lift the mold away. If it won’t budge, reheat the towel and rewrap for a minute more. To avoid last minute fuss, unmold at least an hour before serving, cover, and keep frozen.

– From Classical Southern Cooking, 1995.

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Reader Comments:

54321

FANTASTIC! It was more like a sweet cream than icecream but everyone just loved the results! The texture was fantastic! Thanks Paula! Jenn P.

By Jenn Piltawer on September 03, 2011

54321

I made this for a family get together and talk about a hit! I was a bit hesitant but boy, was I rewarded! Made a bit too much to fit in my counter top freezer, so I used the left over with a little milk the next day for a drink.

By Christy Youngblood on September 01, 2011

54321

Where was this recipe a month ago when I had fresh Georgia Freestone Peaches!!! Would have loved to try it then. I guess I will have to wait another year. :( Thanks for the recipe!!

By Patty on August 25, 2011

54321

HI PAULA, SURE WOULD LIKE A RECIPE FOR KEY LIME ICE CREAM,HOMEMADE PLEASE.ALSO KEY LIME COOKIES TO MATCH. HOPE YOU ARE DOING O.K. STAY SAFE

By MARY FOSTER on August 24, 2011

54321

IT IS SO FUNNY THAT YOU ARE GIVING A PEACH RECIPE. ON A RECENT TRIP TO GEORGIA, MY DAUGHTERS AND I THOUGHT THERE WOULD BE PEACHES EVERYWHERE SINCE IT IS THE PEACH STATE. WE EVEN FOUND VERY LITTLE PEACH ITEMS ANYWHERE. AT A HILTON IN ATLANTA THEY HAD PEACH COBBLER, BUT PERSONALLY MINE IS BETTER. NO PEACH DRINKS, ETC. I THOUGHT WE WOULD BE FLOODED BY PEACHES. IS THERE A PARTICULAR PEACH SEASON IN GEORGIA??

By SUSAN SMITH on August 24, 2011

54321

By Victoria Hudson on August 23, 2011

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love the table paula would look good on my new patio. so glad you are back. I hope to get there to see you in person one day.i will start tomorrow to find the patern form the tablecloth.
Gladys Rainesl in Savannah Style: A Spring Table for Two on April 13, 2014 at 7:45 pm

I just want to say this I don't even know if is the right page all I ever wanted to say to Paula Deen welcome back I have missed you. You are my favorite home down girls keep your head up and hang on and feel the love. P.S. from a woman of color.
in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 13, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I just love love love the table and flowers and am so glad that I can still access all of Paula's recipes, her family life, Bobby's lighter versions and Brandon's beautiful work. Truly thankful to see such beautiful tablescapes. You guys are my heros.
Patricia in Savannah Style: A Spring Table for Two on April 13, 2014 at 9:14 am