The last ten kilos of strawberries that we shall get this summer arrived at the kitchen this morning. Hermanus, a smallholder in Stellenbosch, grows them, and we get them at a (much) better price if we buy them through Franci, his friend, colleague and our herb and melon grower. He dropped them off at the kitchen with our mutual friend Jess, we had a great chat and he got to taste some of our ice creams for the first time, which was really exciting for all of us. It was also great getting his input on a new range of herb ice creams we are currently working on, since any we adore now we will ask him to grow for us next summer.
I guess it makes sense that, as a bespoke ice cream company, we use bespoke farmers who grow for us on spec, but it still feels immensely special every time he calls me up to ask what variety watermelon we want grown this year (sugar baby, in case you were wondering), or if we would be interested in some other herb or vegetable that’s come his way.
Anyway, Franci tasted our fennel pollen, basil and sweet marjoram ice cream custards (it was nice that everyone felt pretty unanimous: yes to the first two, and not-really-sure about the marjoram). Next week he will send us a red basil variety to try instead of the traditional green basil we are currently using, which should be fun to play with (will the ice cream go pink?? Not sure). We will be pairing all of them with a fruit swirl, possibly roasted peach in the fennel pollen ice cream, and probably strawberry in the basil ice cream.
Which brings us back to the strawberries. We have a bit of a love-hate relationship with them in the kitchen, because they are really delicious, but take a long time to wash, trim and quarter. I think it’s more love than hate, especially when they make the whole kitchen smell like strawberries. We roast them before pureeing them and adding them to custard for churning, because heating them on the stove kills a lot of the delicate strawberry notes, but raw strawberries make the ice cream just too icy.
At time of typing, I am half way through ten kilos of strawberries. I’ll do the rest after lunch. These late season strawberries are very different from the ones you see in the supermarket. They come in all sizes, and unlike the stereotypical ‘juicy strawberry’ are actually pretty dry and seedy – but with an amazingly intense strawberry flavour. And a dark, dark berry red, almost black in places.
This batch is destined for a range of ice cream destinations. Progress, our ice cream guy, has already started swirling the first batch into yoghurt strawberry swirl ice cream, the basil strawberry swirl is already safely tucked in the freezer, and there will also be four litres of pure-and-simple strawberry ice cream before the day is out.
All is good with the world, when there’s strawberries in it.