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When fruit is perfectly ripe, sunshine is bountiful and warm breezes define the day, I know that summer is around the corner. I think of the summers I spent in Venezuela, knocking sweet and juicy mangoes from the trees in our backyard and getting fresh passion fruit smoothies at the beach. It is a time in my life that I will always cherish, with flavors of summer I have since then tried to recreate. My biggest challenge? The coconut ice cream my grandmother makes. Could I make it myself? Challenge accepted!
Before going to the source (my grandmother, Mama) I spoke to my mom, who spent her childhood enjoying Mama’s fresh fruit and cream based ice creams. When I let out that I was trying to recreate Mama’s coconut helado, ice cream, the first thing she asked me was, “well do you have the coconut?” The short answer was no. The slightly longer answer is that even though I know Mama makes it straight from the coconut, I knew that buying canned coconut milk would be much safer for my clumsy self. Needless to say, my mother was steadfast in saying that it wouldn’t come out the same- but it could come close. Close I can do.
She explained the original recipe. First you knocked down a coconut from the backyard. Incredible right? My mom said she was usually given that task, which she happily completed as any child would. What kid wouldn’t want to throw sticks and rocks up a tree because their mom told them to? Mama would break that coconut in half, reserve the milk and cream and shred the inner flesh. The shell was reserved for serving. To keep the flavor as fresh and natural as possible she didn’t add much. Some whole milk, sugar, vanilla and salt rounded out the liquid portion. The shredded coconut was added to the mixture and set in the freezer. Every half hour Mama would vigorously whip the ice cream. After three to four hours it was ready to serve, with a creamy, smooth texture that was irresistible. A few scoops were added to the reserved coconut shells and served with a smile. Imagine the wonder.
After a lot of trial and error sans using a whole coconut, the best results came from the most natural, wholesome recipes. They always do, don’t they? Using a mixture of light coconut milk, plain coconut milk, organic sugar, vanilla, rum and a pinch of guar gum the consistency was just as smooth as Mama’s. Don’t forget the shredded coconut that is toasted in a skillet until golden and fragrant, adding that bit of crunch.
Although I didn’t have coconut shells to serve the ice cream, once the ice cream maker did its job I scooped that velvety coconut goodness into a small dessert glass, sprinkled it with a few berries and a sprig of lemon leaf and dug in. It wasn’t what I grew up with during my summers in Venezuela, but it was delicious, a little more grown up and all my own. I will never replace Mama’s recipe for Helado de Coco, all I have done is create my own recipe to contribute to the family’s recipe box. Oh yes, and I get to eat a lot of coconut ice cream now. How great is that?
Try out this recipe for an everyday coconut ice cream and add it to your recipe treasure trove. Once summer fever kicks in you will be glad you did.
Helado de Coco
1 can of light coconut milk
1 can of coconut milk
1 cup of shredded coconut, toasted
1 ½ TB of rum
¾ cup of organic sugar
1 tsp of vanilla
1 pinch of guar gum
1. In a bowl mix all ingredients except for the toasted shredded coconut. Whisk until sugar has dissolved and mixture has thickened, about 2 minutes. Cover with plastic cling wrap and place in freezer for 1 hour until cold.
2. Follow directions of your ice cream maker.
Add mixture to ice cream maker. Mix until the mixture thickens and has the appearance of a thick milk shake.
3. Add coconut shreds to mixture in ice cream maker and continue mixing until the mixture resembles soft ice cream.
4. Scoop out ice cream and transfer to an airtight container. Keep in door of freezer until ready to serve.
5. Allow ice cream to warm up for about ten minutes so it may regain its smooth, creamy texture before serving. (This applies when serving from freezer. It is at its best fresh)
6. Serve topped with fresh berries, shredded coconut, walnuts, carob chips or naked. Naked Helado de Coco is always a good way to go.