screaming about ice cream

I’ve written a lot about the consolidation of U.S. food markets, and have become jaded to facts such as: just four firms slaughter 83.5 percent of cows, and so on.

But I actually gagged on my ice cream when I read this bit in BusinessWeek:

The days of mom-and-pop parlors and local brands are fading fast. Today, the $59 billion ice cream industry is dominated by two global giants: Switzerland’s Nestlé (NESN.DE) and Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever (UN). Together, they control more than one-third of the worldwide market — and half of ice cream sales in the U.S. — and they’re looking to expand as they move into developing regions in Asia and Latin America. [Emphasis added.]

How did this happen? “Nestlé snapped up Häagen-Dazs, Dreyer’s, and Swiss brand Mövenpick. Unilever bought Breyers Ice Cream and Ben & Jerry’s. Today, Nestlé boasts a 17.5 % share of the world market, while Unilever is close behind with 16%,” BW reports.

My word. But there’s no need to succumb to all that oversweet, mediocre ‘scream made from industrial, hormone-laden milk. Forget about it. Here’s an easy way to make your own. Deconsolidate the ice cream market, one scoop at a time!

I’ve been an enthusiastic ice cream maker for years, and have churned out gallons of it for farm dinners here at Maverick Farms. The process for making classic, custard-based ice cream isn’t difficult, but requires lots of attention and patience.

And you’ve got to be pretty organized to pull it off. It requires that you own an ice cream machine, the cannister of which you typically have to have to freeze at least 24 hours in advance. And if you use an old-fashioned ice cream maker that doesn’t rely on a prefrozen cannister, you’ll have to deal with lots of chopped ice and rock salt.

My devotion to great ice cream caused me to soldier on despite these inconveniences — though I’ve occasionally crumbled under their pressure. And then I discovered the genius of semifreddo, the Italian ice cream preparation that tends to be overshadowed by gelato.

Semifreddo requires no special equipment, save for a whisk — although a simple electric beater will come in handy. And unlike classic custard-based ice cream, it needs no cooking. And yet its texture is perfect — smooth, creamy and rich.

What follows is my recipe for honey semifreddo, honey being abundant in farmers markets now. Note that such a simple preparation shines a bright light on the ingredients, so use the best cream, eggs, and honey you can get your hands on.

I love featuring local honey because it offers a direct way to taste the surrounding landscape.

Honey semifreddo
3/4 cup raw local honey
3 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
2 cups chilled heavy cream
A pinch of sea salt

With a whisk or electric mixer in a small bowl, beat the honey and yolks until thick and pale. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk egg yolks whites until they hold stiff peaks. In a large chilled metal bowl, whip chilled cream and a pinch of salt until cream holds soft peaks. Gently, carefully fold in the egg yolk-honey mixture until fully incorporated. Gently and carefully fold in the egg whites until fully incorporated. Transfer to freezing container and freeze for at least four hours.

Yields about a quart and a half of semifreddo.

Note: To adapt this recipe to other flavor schemes, replace the honey with about 3/4 cup raw organic sugar, whipping it into the egg yolks. Fold in other flavorings at the end: ground nuts such as pistachios, cooled, melted chocolate, loosened with cream, fruit purees, etc.