Lemon Verbena Ice Cream

Lemon Verbena Ice Cream: Among all the fabulous herbal ice cream preparations, Lemon Verbena Ice Cream is a very subtle and unmistakably delicious one that is very unique.

Every year we put out several lemon verbena plants in the Beechwood Inn Culinary Garden  (Aloysia triphylla). It is native to South America and grows well in North Georgia, but it does not survive our winters outdoors. The Spanish brought lemon verbena to Europe where it was used in perfume. It has been a favorite for garden rooms in North America since its introduction in the 1800’s. It has a clean, sharp lemon scent that makes it the Queen of lemon-scented herbs. In Gone with the Wind, lemon verbena is mentioned as Scarlet O’Hara’s mother’s favorite plant. One whiff of the smell, and I predict you will not want to live without this luscious smelling herb.

Among all the fabulous herbal ice cream preparations, Lemon Verbena Ice Cream is a very subtle and unmistakably delicious one that is very unique.

Lemon Verbena Ice Cream

2 cups loosely-packed fresh lemon verbena leaves, rinsed & dried
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
6 large egg yolks

1 tsp grated lemon zest (we use a micro-planer
pinch of salt

Remove the lemon verbena leaves from the stalk. Place the milk, ½ cup of the cream sugar and salt in a saucepan on medium low heat, stirring to dissolve. When it begins to simmer, add the lemon verbena leaves and continue on a very low simmer for another minute. Remove from heat, cover and steep for about an hour

To make the custard, pour the remaining cream into a large bowl and put in the refrigerator to stay cold, and put a mesh strainer on top. Strain out the lemon verbena from the cream mixture, pressing against the leaves to extract as much liquid as possible.  Discard the lemon verbena. Re-warm the lemon verbena infusion, then whisk the eggs yolks together in a bowl and slowly pour in the warm infusion, whisking constantly to temper the eggs.

Scrape the warmed infusion back into the saucepan and cook, stirring continuously with a heatproof spatula, until the custard leaves a trail on the spatula when you drag your finger across it. (If using a thermometer, it should read about 175F, or 79C). Immediately strain the custard into the bowl of cold cream. Scrape the strainer to help the custard drain. Stir until cool. Discard the solids in the strainer.

Add the lemon zest and stir and and transfer to the refrigerator and chill completely. Freeze in ice cream-maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an air-tight container and harden in the freezer. Serve lemon verbena ice cream in chilled bowls and garnish with fresh Lemon Verbena leaves.

Lemon Verbena Ice Cream recipe by Chef David Darugh