It seems like wherever you grow up there are stereotypes of what people from your state or region are supposed to be and act like. They are the kind of blanket statements that create the basis for those “You know you’re from Boston if…” jokes and or those quizzes that tell you what percentage Chicagoan or Texan or Floridian you are. Being from Minnesota it’s no different, as I’ve written about before.
Sometimes I fight the stereotypes, especially when people mock the accent á la Fargo, but other times I lean into it, feeling that it adds another dimension to my identity.
One of the generalities is that every Minnesotan has a cabin or a lake home where they spend the bulk of their weekends in the summer. It is certainly be an exaggeration to say EVERYONE does, but having lived other places I can definitely say that the concentration of people in Minnesota who have cabins seems higher than in Illinois or Massachusetts.
Growing up, my family was no exception, even if the cabin itself was a little outside the norm. While many of my peers’ cabins were situated in Northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan, ours was in Colorado. Theirs were often on the shores of a lake or a river, while ours was in the mountains. It was a little atypical, but well worth the 16 hour drive. Our trips were full of visits to Rocky Mountains and the local community pool. Other times we stayed closer to the cabin, playing imaginative games with our plastic cowboy and Indian figures or restaurant with our hand written menus, usually riddled with spelling errors.
One of my favorite memories from our trips to the cabin was picking raspberries. Just off the dusty road that lead to our cabin there were a couple of tatty, wild raspberry bushes. We’d pick them bare, our hands stained blush from the juice, trying not to eat all the berries instantaneously. Most of the food I ate as a kid, and still eat, was from the supermarket, so it was a rare treat to find something growing in the wild that you could pick yourself. Sure we went to U-Pick apple orchards and strawberry farms, but the wild raspberries were something different. It’s probably the nostalgia, but those berries have always held a sweetness in my memory that few cultivated varieties could match.
Our pairing of choice for the berries was a good, local vanilla bean ice cream. Again, nostalgia paints it in my mind as the creamiest, most vanilla-y ice cream I have ever tasted. Whether it is in actuality I’ll probably never know (especially since I have no idea what the brand name was), so I’ll continue to be convinced of its supremacy.
Recently when in the possession of some gorgeous black raspberries from the Green City Market I knew vanilla ice cream and berries were in order. I decided to whip up a simple Guiltless Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, my adaption of a Canyon Ranch ice cream recipe. Low fat milk, half and half, egg yolks, vanilla bean, vanilla extract and sugar are combined for a luscious ice cream that delivers unadultered vanilla flavor in a waist-friendly package. It is a tad bit icier than full-fat ice cream, but the texture is still smooth and lush enough that it’s a fair exchange for the reduction of fat and calories. It’s also a great starting point as a low fat ice cream base as it is infinitely customizable and yields reliably excellent results. It’s the same base recipe that my Low Fat Sweet Corn Ice Cream, which may have to make a reappearance once corn graces the farmers’ markets, is developed from. In continuing with my Splenda experiment, I used it in granulated form again with great results. I don’t see myself using artificial sweetners full-time as sugar for me is more of an occasional food so I like using the real thing, but I was satisfied with how well it sweetened the ice cream. There was no funky aftertaste or artificialness, just pure sweetness and vanilla. When in possession of an ice cream maker it is easy to overlook vanilla for sexier varieties, but making this reminded me that simple does still have a place in my kitchen and my spoon.
Yields 10 1/3 cup servings
Adapted from Canyon Ranch’s base Ice Cream recipe
Note: This ice cream can be a tad hard straight out of the freezer, for the best texture, I recommend thawing it at room temperature until slightly softened before enjoying.
-1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
-1/2 cup half and half
-1 vanilla bean
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/2 cup sugar or splenda
-1/4 cup beaten egg yolks
In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients except for egg yolk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Place egg yolk into a medium bowl. When milk mixture is scalded (about 165°), remove from heat and add 1/4 cup at a time to egg yolk. Mix well after each addition. Remove vanilla bean, slice lengthwise and scrape vanilla bean seeds into custard mixture. Mix well. Return to saucepan.
Place saucepan back on heat. Stirring constantly, heat to just under a simmer (about 170°). Do not boil. Immediately transfer to an ice bath and cool completely. Place in a homemade ice cream freezer and follow the directions to freeze the ice cream.