When my fiancé and I first started dating a few years ago, we spent a lot of time exchanging our favorite childhood memories (as most new couples do). Not surprisingly, the majority of these stories often involved the consumption of food in some form or another – family dinners, holiday meals, trips to the local custard stand. The more we talked, the more I realized just how important a role food plays in shaping our personalities, our culture, and well, our entire lives, really.
(But I could be a little bit biased).
With a major American food holiday, Thanksgiving, under our belts (and on top of our waistlines), the idea of food and family has been at the forefront of my mind all this week.
This year, my better half and I spent Thanksgiving Day with his family in Michigan, just north of Detroit (and one state over from Ohio). His family is so much fun – playful and funny, loving and exuberant. Needless to say, I’m a pretty lucky girl to have inherited such a nice group of people as my future family.
After a few days with the fam (and the lovely Michigan), I felt inspired to create an ice cream that captured the vibrancy of his family while paying homage to the awesome state of Michigan – no easy task, as I was soon to find out.
As I feverishly Googled “Michigan food” on the car ride home, I quickly realized a few things: 1) it’s really hard for people with short, chubby fingers to type “feverishly” on an iPhone and 2) its difficult to pinpoint one or two flavors that are decidedly Michigan, because there is just so much delicious food to be had!
Michigan, although just one state over from Ohio, has an extremely unique cultural landscape that mixes industry with art, tradition with modernity. To boot, Michigan (and Detroit specifically) has this amazing emerging foodie culture, with fusions of Lebanese, American, and Mexican flavors (just to name a few).
For the people of Detroit, its awesome; but for a wee ice cream blogger in the heartland, it was an overwhelming amount of options that I just wasn’t ready for.
Then, for some reason, I started thinking about some of the stories that my fiancé had shared with me during those weeks when we were first getting to know one another. One in particular stuck out in my mind:
As a small child, my fiancé often drank Vernors, a ginger soda that was a favorite with one of his uncles. Even though his underdeveloped palate didn’t love the spicy ginger flavor at the time, he persisted in drinking the soda so that he could be “cool” like his uncle.
Little did I know, as I scoured the Interwebs searching for Michigan-inspired flavors, that this iconic ginger soda was actually a tried and true Michigan hometown favorite. Better yet, it even has its own special ice cream drink that was created in its honor – a Boston Cooler.
The Boston Cooler (which was actually created in Detroit, despite its name) is undoubtedly Michigan. It’s sort of the ginger soda equivalent to a root beer float, but much more unique and unexpected (just like Michigan!)
Fizzy and refreshing, this ice cream is my tribute to an awesome Michigan creation. For an extra boost of flavor, I also added a salty pretzel swirl, bound together by a few teaspoons of last week’s homemade caramel.
So to summarize: I have a Boston-Cooler flavored ice cream, inspired by Detroit, produced by an amateur food blogger in Ohio.
Okay..you got all that? Good.
Thanks again to my wonderful future family – and the awesome state of Michigan – for a fantastic holiday. I couldn’t have imagined a better place to spend my day and create (food) memories that I will remember for years to come.
What’s your favorite food memory?
Vernors Ice Cream with a Caramel Pretzel Swirl
Yield: Approximately two quarts
You will need:
Fine mesh sieve, placed atop a large bowl or container
For the ice cream:
5 large egg yolks
2 cups of heavy cream
1 cup of whole milk
¾ cups white sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 can of cold Vernors (or other ginger flavored soda)
For the pretzel swirl:
½ cup of crushed pretzels
2 tsps of caramel, homemade or storebought
- In a medium bowl, lightly break up egg yokes with a whisk. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, combine heavy cream, whole milk, sugar, salt, and ground ginger. Heat until the granules of sugar are melted and the mixture just begins to steam.
- Add the heated cream to the egg yokes, a little at a time, whisking the egg yolks constantly (you don’t want scrambled eggs!).
- Once all of the heated cream has been added to the yolks, add the mixture back to the pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat proof spatula or wooden spoon. After about ten minutes, the mixture will thicken (you will feel it start to “push back” against your spoon). Once the mixture covers the spoon, but leaves a clear path when you wipe your finger across, your custard is done!
- Pour the custard through the sieve and into the bowl. Add the vanilla, then stir to combine, and submerge into ice bath. Stir occasionally until mixture is cooled. Then add the can of ginger soda. Refrigerate mixture for 4 hours or preferably, overnight.
- Make the pretzel swirl: combine pretzels and caramel in a bowl, stirring until pretzels clump together.
- Make your ice cream according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once churned, swirl in the pretzel clumps (I usually use a loaf pan – add one layer of ice cream to the bottom, then a layer of pretzels, and top with a final layer of ice cream. When you scoop, it will leave a swirled effect!)
- Enjoy immediately for a softer ice cream, or freeze overnight. Make your own Boston Cooler by pouring ginger soda over two scoops of ice cream.