Splurge: mint chocolate chip ice cream: 34 cents/serving

A few words of warning: This is not the kind of all-natural, organic, wholesome and virtuous ice cream you sometimes see in those impossibly chic, soft-focus DSLR photos on other food blogs, the kind written by women who sew their own aprons and write 600-word ruminations on how their backyard heirloom pear tree looks against the winter sky. This ice cream uses artificial coloring—FROM GROCERY OUTLET (I bet you didn’t even know they sold artificial coloring, did you? That’s because it’s hidden away next to the 50-cent bottles of pre-ground spices that look like they spent the last decade in a moldy shipping container)—artificial flavoring, and For Maximum Value chocolate chips, otherwise known as the sub-store-brand brand. “Why is she doing this,” you might ask, “when she has a perfectly good mint plant in the backyard?” Reason No. 1: Because the chickens have stomped on most of the mint plant, which is now in the process of regenerating behind a shield of chicken wire. Reason No. 2: Because B. likes mint chocolate chip ice cream this way, and because he is the best husband in the entire world, it’s how I make it when there’s no real mint around.

And, finally, Reason No. 3: Because this is what I got all morning while trying to read the paper (translation: “Pay attention to meeeeeeeeeeee!”), which kind of sets the entire day off on the wrong foot and makes things like using artificial colors and flavors seem like a perfectly rational response.

This ice cream is just as good without artificial coloring and with chocolate flakes or chunks instead of chips, of course. As below it makes 6 servings.

Special equipment:
-Ice cream maker

• 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (or chunks, or flakes), to taste: 75 cents
• 2 cups cream: 60 cents
• 1 cup whole milk: 16 cents
• 2/3 cup sugar: 15 cents
• 1-2 tsp peppermint extract, to taste: 24 cents
• 1-5 drops green food coloring (optional): 10 cents
• 5 egg yolks (garden): $0
• Pinch of salt: 1 cent
TOTAL: $2.01/6 = 34 cents/serving

The basic custard technique in use here works for any ice cream, so you can use it as a template to substitute any flavorings or mix-ins you want. I’ve made it with everything from broken-up candy canes (red food coloring and peppermint extract), to vanilla ice cream with Sour Patch Kids and a lemon-curd swirl, to fig ice cream with “tobacco” flavoring from a cigar steeped in milk. (Strange at best, inedible at worst.)

Pour 1 cup of the cream into a medium-large bowl set in a larger bowl full of ice. Set a strainer over the top.

Whisk the egg yolks in another medium bowl.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, remaining cup of cream, sugar, and salt until sugar is dissolved (stirring occasionally) and milk is steaming, but not simmering or boiling. Once milk is steaming, pour slowly into the bowl with the yolks, whisking all the while. The goal is to temper the yolks, not cook them.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and, over medium-low heat, stir with a wooden spoon until just thickened enough so you can draw a line through the mixture that coats the back of the spoon. The camera steamed up when I tried to take a picture, but I’m using it anyway, because it’s helpful to see if you’ve never done this before.

Immediately pour into the strainer over the bowl of chilled cream, stirring as you pour to incorporate. There shouldn’t be too many chunks in the strainer; if there are, you had the heat up too high and your mixture thickened too fast. Your ice cream will still work, but it might be very thick and stick to the bottom of the maker.

If you’re going to use coloring (I don’t really have a choice here, because the chickens’ orange yolks turned the custard an unappetizing yellow), it’s best to add it before the flavoring—your brain is going to play tricks on you and make a white or yellow mixture taste less “minty” than it really is, since there’s a primitive part in there that most likely associates mint with green.

You can add as many drops of coloring as you see fit. Below is about 4 or 5, which I admit is a little extreme, but I forgot how many I usually add and by then it was too late. As for the flavoring, err on the side of over-flavoring, as the cooler something is, the more its flavors get dulled.

Put the mixture in the fridge to chill, preferably overnight.

Churn in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Add the chocolate chips during the last 5 minutes of churning.

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