Rum-Raisin Ice Cream
The return of a familiar (yet long-lost) favorite
For many years, vanilla has been the most popular ice cream flavor in America, and maybe because I don’t live there anymore, no one asked me. Don’t get me wrong, I love vanilla ice cream. It’s my fail-safe choice to go with pie, cobblers, and crisps, but for just plain eating, anything with chocolate in it gets my vote every time.
Well, almost… When we were in the Languedoc on vacation last summer—which was only six weeks ago, but now that it’s cold and raining in Paris, it seems like it’s been forever since we sat by the sea and ate oysters with cold rosé—we stopped in the little épicerie in our village, which had a freezer full of ice creams from a local producer. Scanning the flavors, Romain voted for coffee, but I saw rhum-raisin at the bottom and insisted on that. And when he tasted the scoops I served for dessert, he admitted I’d made the right choice.
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To be honest, I hadn’t had rum-raisin ice cream in a while, as in not for at least a decade. My first introduction to it was when I had Häagen-Dazs rum-raisin ice cream, which felt very adult to eat. It’s a little hazy when I first had it, but this website said it was introduced in the “early 80s” when I was on the cusp of drinking age.
(In related news, the woman who wrote the article at that link makes a case for why it’s time to give rum-raisin ice cream the respect it deserves and is listed as the Associate Sex Editor at Cosmopolitan on her Twitter page. That alone is enough of an argument in favor of rum-raisin ice cream!)
In other news, I’m still getting used to my induction stove. Like Dropbox, which has Smart Sync and Selective Sync (I still haven’t figured out the difference…) and Folders vs Smart Folders vs Albums vs Collections in the Lightroom photo editor (which I never figured out after eight years of using it), my induction stove is requiring me to—yes, read the instruction booklet. And not just read it but refer to it often.
It has all these zones, and even the repairman, who’s been here three times, hasn’t figured out how to change the zones, or what those zones mean, or why one zone doesn’t work when the one next to it works, or how the four squares that are burners become rectangles but what is the connecting zone between those, and why does the stove sometimes beep and turn off when I haven’t done anything, and why do I basically have to cook everything on the highest temperature, known as “boost,” to cook anything?
I often wonder if people who design all these things have ever actually used them? Or talked to people who have? But the repair guy and I are on very good terms since I gave him a jar of homemade fig-pineapple jam…
…and he’s coming back a fourth time next week to help figure things out, or to let me know if my stove is defective and needs to be replaced. I bought it in March, and the woman we called from the company said on the phone, “Did you save all the packaging?” Um…she’s obviously never renovated. I don’t know if anyone saves all the packaging from their appliances in the mess and madness of renovating, but it’s been nearly two months since I’ve been trying to get my rebate on my e-bike, which I’m told is still “in process,” so I don’t expect the replacement (if necessary) to move quickly.
I love rum-raisin ice cream, and no one’s gonna rain on my raisin parade. I’ve heard that some people don’t like raisins. But please, let’s all agree to stop saying “eeewww!” online if we don’t like something. If I did that every time someone posted a squid or octopus recipe, I’d have carpal tunnel syndrome.
Just like when someone offered me a raw turtle egg, which I politely declined, you’re welcome to make a substitution. One would be to chop up some pitted prunes and use those. And if you don’t like rum, swap out Armagnac. Then you’ll have to call it prune-Armagnac ice cream, which isn’t a bad thing at all. But some of the substitution stuff online is getting a little out of hand, and when someone asked what they can sub for the peppers in a roasted peppers recipe I posted a while back, I didn’t quite know how to answer, and the best you can say is, “…maybe make another recipe?”
Even if you don’t remember rum-raisin ice cream from the ’80s, it’s still popular in France today, likely due to the popularity of rum. The French are big quaffers of rum; it makes up 8.7% of the spirits consumed in France due to their connections to (and colonizations of) rum-producing countries.
Even at the supermarket, you can buy bottles of rum that have up to 70% alcohol. Quite a few French people find cocktails too strong—most cocktails average between 12-17% alcohol—so I’m not sure where all that very high-proof rum is going, but someone must be drinking it.
(If you want to know more about rum, in Paris, A’Rhum is an emporium of all things rum, featuring bottles from around the world.)
So, naturally, the question of “Which rum should I use?” will come up around now. The general rule to using wine or spirits in cooking is: If it’s something you’d drink, you should use it in cooking and baking. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a bottle, but if it’s something you’d drink, then you’d probably want to eat it.
Our second crop of figs is coming to a close. The first crop of figs, back in the summer, mostly fell to the ground, hard as a rock, victims (I’m told) of the drought in France. However, the second crop gave us a tree loaded with figs that were ripe ’n’ ready for the picking, and baking.
With them, I made Yotam Ottolenghi’s Fig, Yogurt, and Almond Cake for the first time, using some hazelnut flour that I had, hence the darkish color. But rum-raisin ice cream is really good just on its own since you’ve already got a few things going on in each scoop: plump raisins, rum, and rich, creamy custard, so you don’t really need anything else. It’s a grown-up ice cream anyone will love.
Rum-Raisin Ice Cream
About 1 quart (1L)
I like to let the raisins sit overnight, or longer, in the rum. They can really be made even weeks in advance, but a day or two is generally all I can wait before making this ice cream.
1 cup (125g) raisins
9 tablespoons (140ml) dark rum
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
To prepare the raisins, in a small saucepan, warm the raisins with the rum. Let simmer gently for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand overnight. (You can prepare the raisins a few days ahead and let them steep at room temperature.)
To make the ice cream, pour the milk and 1/2 cup (125ml) of the heavy cream into a medium saucepan and add the sugar and salt.
Pour the remaining cream into a medium bowl. Set the bowl with the cream in a large bowl partially filled with ice and some cold water. Set a mesh strainer over the top of the bowl with the cream.
Warm the milk and cream mixture in the saucepan. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. When the milk is warm, gradually pour it into the eggs, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, over medium heat, until the mixture begins to thicken. Pour the custard through the strainer, into the heavy cream, and stir until cool. Refrigerate the custard overnight.
When ready to churn, strain the raisins, keeping the rum. Measure the rum and add more, if necessary, so you have 3 1/2 tablespoons (50ml). Stir the 3 1/2 tablespoons of rum into the custard and churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When the ice cream has finished churning, quickly fold in the rum-soaked raisins. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container and freeze until ready to serve.
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I loved Haagen Daz Rum Raisin Ice Cream; thank you for this recipe, David. You have such turmoil with trying to make your home a place you can work and be happy in; I hope you can get it all resolved! I am also soldiering on with my own restoration projects in Southern CA. I appreciate what you are going through. Cheers. Jeanie K.
I haven't had rum raisin ice cream in ages. Looks delicious.
I always cooked with gas until I moved to Rome. Here induction is what one finds in most apartments (if it actually has a kitchen). As a professional chef, how are you liking the induction vs gas or electric?