Homemade peach ice cream is a tradition across the South, and it’s an incredible treat to savor before the peach season fully slips away. Growing up in Georgia, I have a soft spot for peaches and lots of memories of fresh, churned ice cream with peaches front and center. This was THE flavor ice cream to make in the summer, and I know plenty of people for whom this is still an important seasonal ritual.
As as kid, I didn’t fully appreciate it. In fact, I remember preferring flavors like Rocky Road or “Chocolate Ripple” or something studded with cookie dough or Snickers bars. Peach ice cream was boring and for grown-ups. I’ve come full circle, and thank God my kids have better taste than I did.
Homemade Peach Ice Cream
I left Georgia a long time ago, but my adopted state, Louisiana, is also awash in summer peaches. Last week, my kids and I picked up a bucket of fresh peaches from a Waterproof, Louisiana farmer who sells at our local farmers market. A couple of days later, when the peaches were perfectly ripe, we turned them into ice cream.
Unlike sorbet, ice cream demands an ice cream maker so that you can churn it enough to make it harden. You don’t need anything fancy or expensive. I use a 14-year-old electric Rival plastic bucket-style that’s a far cry from the pedigreed ones that sit on countertops. You can get a version like it for less than $50. I keep it in the garage in a box, and when I make ice cream, I usually do it outside because the machine is so painfully loud. Last week, I made an exception and brought it indoors because our temperatures were consistently in the high 90s.
Everyone has their favorite formula for ice cream, but a few consistent rules apply when making peach.
First, pureeing the fruit is a good idea. The pulp gives the ice cream a pretty pale peach hue, and it keeps fussy ice cream makers from clogging. But it’s also really tasty to leave about one-quarter of the peaches in a chunkier form. Small bits of frozen peach are coveted little bite-sized prizes.
Second, peach ice cream absolutely demands fresh peaches. No exceptions. But you already knew that.
Third, the peaches should be the same tender ripeness for ice cream as they are for snacking. Soft, and neither brown nor mushy.
Finally, if an ice cream recipe calls for milk, assume it’s whole for the benefit of flavor.
Here’s the recipe I use, slightly modified from the one recommended for my ice cream maker.
Peach Ice Cream
Makes 4 quarts
2 cups whole milk
1 ¾ cups sugar
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cups half and half
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 cups whipping cream
3 cups pureed fresh peaches
1 cup diced fresh peaches
Scald milk until bubbles form around edge of pan. Remove from heat. Add sugar and salt, whisking until dissolved. Stir in half and half, vanilla extract and whipping cream. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Just before freezing, add peaches to mixture. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. If you have issues hardening the ice cream, place it in a plastic container in the freezer, saving enough room so that it can continue to expand. It tastes great the next day, but will need to soften for about 20 minutes before serving.