Thursday, August 14, 2014

All scream

There were cactus pears at one of the fruit stands! Good thing, too, since I was already planning to make these (with the addition of black beans to the salsa and substitution of ricotta salata for the queso fresco, since according to Chris the Cheese Guy, Fairway is having a tiff with its Mexican warehouse and there won't be Mexican products for some time (???)). A creamy cactus pear ice cream felt like just the dessert to go with it.

No-churn ice cream can't beat the real thing; it has a slightly greasy post-prandial mouthfeel and goes from solid to oozy very quickly. That being said, it doesn't require extra equipment, and it is hard to mess up. It usually includes heavy cream plus coconut cream or condensed milk, so there's no egg custard base to curdle. Overbeating the whipping cream or overfolding the mixture are the only real potential barriers to fat-laden dairy goodness in the flavor of your choice.

Candied hot peppers

~1/2 lb hot peppers
1/3 cup vinegar
1 cup sugar, preferably turbinado
juice and zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons tequila

Slice the peppers about 1/4 inch thick, either lengthwise or widthwise. Discard the spongy stuff in the middle, but don't get rid of those spicy seeds!

Mix the vinegar, sugar, zest, and juice in a small pot and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to low and carefully add the tequila (it will spit and sputter). Add the hot peppers and simmer until the liquid is reduced a and the peppers are soft, about 5 minutes. Strain over a bowl, reserving the syrup. Put the pepper slices in a clean glass jar; how many seeds you include is up to you and your hardy palate! Add syrup to cover and tightly cap the jar. Cool completely before refrigerating.

Cactus pear and jalapeno no-churn ice cream

2 cups whipping cream, very, very cold
10 oz condensed milk
3 cactus pears
1/3 cup finely chopped candied jalapenos, plus some of the jalapeno syrup
1 small vanilla bean, or 1 tsp extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
optional: 1/4 cup fresh mint, gently torn

Peel and cube the cactus pears, and toss with the candied jalapenos. Be careful; if the pears aren't pre-cleaned, you will have to use gloves and thoroughly rinse them under cold water to remove the tiny furry spines.

Mix the condensed milk, vanilla, sea salt, and (optionally) mint in a liddable container. Whip the cream in a stand mixer until it holds stiff peaks. Stir about a cup of the cream into the condensed milk mixture to lighten it. Add a few tablespoons of the jalapeno syrup, titrating to taste. Gently fold in the rest of the whipped cream without deflating it. Cover the container and freeze the mixture for an hour.

After an hour has passed, gently fold in the cactus pear/candied jalapeno mixture, relid the container, and replace in the freezer. Fold one more time after another 30 minutes to one hour. Freeze for an additional 5-6 hours, or until firm.


  1. Did you accidentally or intentionally skip the step where you run the cactus pears through a food mill to remove all the terrible seeds? We got one just to try it, and ended up throwing it out after a mouthful or two since we had no way to remove the seeds.

  2. Intentionally, sort of. Since it's just Andy and I eating the ice cream, I told him to just swallow the seeds (they're not toxic) or spit them out. If one were to sieve the pears in order to make one's food presentable for guests, I can imagine blending the puree in with the condensed milk.