Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pure and Simple Pleasures

I love vanilla ice cream. But most of the store brands taste like someone massacred a bunch of vanilla wafers to get the flavor. An artificial sort of vanilla taste, sans the crumbs. The texture more like half melted cool whip. Real vanilla ice cream when melted down a bit smells like cream, with a hint of egg and vanilla.

Of store Brands I like Blue Bell (from those years living down south with the annoying Texas Longhorns). It's not totally natural, but it is, in my opinion, one of the best store ice creams for the price, hands down.

Trader Joe's vanilla is pretty good. But Trader Joe's is an hour's drive away.

My brother always has some Tillamook in his freezer. The Marion berry flavor is my favorite. It has corn syrup but it doesn't feel like a visit back there if I don't eat some.There are others that have the little specks of vanilla bean, but specks don't always translate into flavor. Breyers at one time used to be really good, almost like a fresh gelato, but since they were taken over by Unilever, they removed the "pledge of purity" which used to be on every carton and added some gums and chemicals. The label now? MILK, CREAM, SUGAR, CORN SYRUP, EGG YOLKS, NATURAL FLAVOR, NATURAL GUAR GUM, SALT, ANNATTO (FOR COLOR), NATURAL CAROB BEAN GUM.

I don't care if it's "natural" I don't want "carob bean gum, guar gum and corn syrup in my ice cream. The taste? It shows.

Hagan Daz is good but still, for the price, has a strong alcohol and vanilla odor. If you take a sniff after it's melted it smells sour. They have a new one that is five ingredients only. The vanilla and coffee flavor of those are excellent.

Ben and Jerry's? There was one that I liked that was some chocolate brownie thing but it's off the shelf now, at least at my local store. For the most part I like my ice cream pretty simple That's strictly a personal thing. I want my ice cream plain not with chunks and monkeys and granola, gummy bears or ground up hippies in it. But Ben and Jerry's IS a high quality ice cream for those of you who like the add ins.

Everyone should gave a great recipe for Vanilla Ice Cream in their repertoire. Here's my favorite, which comes from The Perfect Scoop (Ten Speed Press)

It's not super quick to make and real vanilla beans and the pure extract aren't cheap, vanilla being most of the most labor-intensive of all crops, but it's worth it.

The three most common cooking vanillas are Bourbon, Tahitian, and Mexican. Bourbon vanilla, from Madagascar has a bold, very-pronounced flavor. Tahitian is more floral, and a rare find. Real Mexican is strong, yet creamy-tasting. But don't buy the cheap Mexican impostors. They can contain coumarin, which is toxic and banned in the U.S. True Mexican vanilla will be similarly priced to the best stuff (not cheap, and worth it).

I know it's winter, but take yourself back to summer with a bowl. What's the fun of being an adult if you can't be a kid every once in a while. - Brigid


  1. If you got some chocolate syrup to go on that I'm heading your way. Looks yummy !!!

    Well, now I got to go out and get some ice cream.

  2. Living in "God's Country" I've got ready access to Blue Bell and have some in the freezer all too often. I root for the Colts on Sundays, you can at least give the Longhorns a perfunctory cheer as they battle 'Bama for the National Championship. Longhorns aren't obnoxious, just inordinately proud.

  3. Growing up in a 3rd world country we always made our own ice cream...whatever add ins we used we had to make those first! But it was always yummy! And nothing else since has tasted as good...

  4. Blue Bell Creamery is but an hours drive away. Makes the drive worthwhile to bring a whole bunch back of assorted flavors. Course, it get delivered here to the stores.
    I like vanilla and all it's derivatives.

  5. I love ice cream also, my favorite is Coffee flavored

  6. I agree...nothing like a good scoop (or three!) of plain old vanilla ice cream on a hot day!
    Or in a glass of good Root Beer to make a 'Black Cow" as we called them in the midwest.

  7. After working as a $1.65/hr. ice-cream scooper at a Swensen's for a couple years (that long?) in High School, I became entirely immune to the charms of the stuff. I ate my share and don't begrudge anyone the pleasure but it just doesn't call to me anymore.

  8. HA! Always like a good dig at Longhorns - Saw `Em Off!

    Bluebell is one of the best big-brand versions out. No trip eastward is safe from a stop at the Brenham facility if its open. You cannot beat the price for giant "single" scoops.

    Interestingly, the tubs are filled upside down - that way no air gets between the lid and the product so no frost damage.

    Trooper wished he could get under the Moo-lennium (sp?) spigot with his mouth open for a long while.

  9. This time of year, I like a little vanilla ice cream on a couple of slices of Claxton Fruitcake. A few second in the microwave to warm the fruitcake and then 2, 3.. or 4 scoops of ice cream.

    Ice cream is kryptonite.

  10. Have you ever tried Mayfield's ice cream? Always loved eating it when visiting family in east TN. Now available in my part of TN.

  11. I share your opinion of Blue Bell and the Longhorns (best team mney can buy). The Blue Bell plant in brenham still gives tours fro free, I believe.

    Enjoy your articles. Greg, KE5LDO

  12. If you know of anyone heading to Haiti for a mission trip, ask them to pick up pure vanilla extract for you. It is the best I have ever found and costs about five bucks a pint.

  13. Mmm. Remembering having vanilla ice cream with my Grandma's apple pie. That was special.

  14. Frankly, I don't care much for "store-bought" ice cream. I like home-made. Made at home on the patio or garage, or like my wife, right in the kitchen sink and then frozen. There's nothing like cutting a curl of home-made ice cream with the edge of a spoon.


  15. Hey! No disparaging Longhorns...:)

    Blue Bell rocks. Even if it is made in enemy territory close to College Station. Every other store-bought ice cream is a pale imitation. Try the mint chocolate chip sometime.

    Hook 'em Horns!

  16. The best is to make your own ice cream out of the cream from your own Jersey cow.

    Has anyone ever made their own vanilla extract from vanilla beans and vodka?

  17. Tillamook makes pretty darn good ice cream. Those Southerners can keep their Blue Bell. Tillamook chocolate and peanutbutter is my personal favorite.

  18. I've found coffee to be like ice cream - once you've had the real honest stuff, the awful stuff you get everywhere else just doesn't cut it.


    PS - I happen to like Cherry Garcia, ground-up hippies in it or not :P


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