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Recipes and Stories

25 May 2012 Lavender Ice Cream

Lavender Ice Cream, a Provençal delicacy for celebrating the season, photographed by John Carrington
Never mind that the summer solstice, the official calendar beginning of summer, is still almost a month away: for Americans, Memorial Day Weekend is the real beginning of the season. White bucks, seersucker, white muslin, and straw hats all come out of storage, along with the charcoal grills, wicker picnic baskets, and ice cream churns. Of them all, the latter may be the most welcome sign of summer.

There is nothing like a dish of homemade ice cream to cool and lift the spirits on a hot summer evening. It doesn’t much matter what kind it is, either. Traditional Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry, and – in our neck of the woods – peach all quite rightly have their places of honor, but one of my personal favorites is an intoxicating delicacy from the South of France, Lavender Ice Cream.

Launched into popular culture by the mature romantic comedy “It’s Complicated,” this heady delicacy is actually an old, old specialty of Provençal cookery, originally made with the region’s lavender-scented honey. I flavor the cream with dried culinary lavender flowers and use just a touch of honey for a lovely golden color and delicate flavor. Using all honey will keep the ice cream from getting firm.

Lavender Ice Cream

Make sure the lavender flowers are culinary lavender (grown without spraying) and not dried flowers meant for soap or scented sachets.

Serves 6-8

1 rounded tablespoon dried culinary lavender
3 cups half-and-half or 2 cups whole milk and 1 cup heavy cream
7 egg yolks
1½ cups sugar
¼ cup honey, preferably lavender
½ teaspoon salt
Fresh Mint or fresh lavender flowers (only if unsprayed) or candied violet petals or slivered toasted almonds


1. Tie the lavender in a tea ball or cheesecloth. Scald the half-and-half and lavender in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Let simmer gently 3-4 minutes. Remove and discard the lavender. Beat the egg yolks in a separate bowl until light and lemon-colored. Beat 1 cup hot milk into the yolks and then slowly stir them into the remaining milk. Stir in the honey and salt and cook, stirring, until it coats the back of a metal spoon.

2. Remove the custard from the heat and stir until slightly cooled. Pour it into a metal bowl, let cool to room temperature, and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

3. Freeze the custard in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s directions. Pack it into a freezable container and put it in the freezer for at least 4 hours or overnight.

4. Serve garnished with mint, lavender flowers or candied violet petals (or both mint and flowers).
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