One late summer afternoon, my uncle had a bottle of really nice balsamic vinegar. The kind that comes with a rating system for quality. You know, the fancy stuff. Having spent the afternoon experimenting with putting Tabasco sauce on fruit, (it's excellent with watermelon and mango,) my uncle suggested that I try balsamic vinegar with my strawberries. I resisted at first. It seemed so strange. (Not like Tabasco!) But one berry and I was sold. The sweetness and acidity of the vinegar blended so well with the taste of the strawberry that I had to restrain myself from eating the whole basket. And, my uncle informed me, it also went great with ice cream.
I forgot about that advice until about a month ago, when we had vanilla ice cream and an unopened bottle of balsamic vinegar in my apartment. My last few caramel-making venture had ended in disaster--the lights in my kitchen are so bad that I have a hard time seeing the sugar as it melts, and then it burns--and I wasn't up for wasting another cup of cream. Balsamic vinegar to the rescue.
The taste is undeniably unexpected. The contrast is much more marked than it is with the strawberries; the smoothness of the ice cream seems almost jarring against the sharp vinegar. But after your first bite, it's addictive. Soon, though, it wasn't enough to just pour it over my storebought vanilla ice cream. Naturally, the next step was homemade balsamic vinegar ice cream.
The combination as an ice cream is much less shocking in your mouth than its predecessor's individual parts. It has a tangy, light taste, almost like yogurt. The smooth texture does wonders for the flavors, eradicating the strong taste of straight vinegar that comes with using it as a topping. I love this recipe. I absolutely, completely, and wholeheartedly love it. But to do so, you have to absolutely, completely, and wholeheartedly love balsamic vinegar. If you have your doubts, if you're on the fence, this might not be the recipe for you. (For example, my mother thinks that this ice cream is "interesting.") But if you're like me, you won't be able to stop eating it. Or thinking about it. Or wanting to make another batch. I don't blame you.
Balsamic Vinegar Ice Cream
8 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tablespoons regular balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
A pinch of kosher salt
In a medium bowl combine egg yolks, salt and sugar and whisk until pale in color. In a large pot or saucepan bring cream, milk, and vanilla extract to a boil. Slowly add the hot milk and cream to the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Add balsamic vinegar and chill for at least 2 hours. Once mixture is cold, run in ice cream machine in accordance with manufacturer's instructions and return to freezer for as long as possible (preferably 4-6 hours) before serving.