Blueberry ice creamApril McGreger photos

Ask me about my favorite foods, and I will inevitably list my favorite food experiences — all of which, by no coincidence, are cooked or eaten outside: boiled peanuts, barbecue, fried crappie, roasted oysters, boiled shrimp, watermelon, and homemade ice cream.

Everything tastes better outdoors. With sun on our face and a warm breeze on our skin, our senses are heightened and our appetites are primed, making even the simplest piece of ripe fruit taste divine. As an added bonus, eating meals outdoors means a free pass on customary table manners. No one looks twice if you eat with your hands, lick barbecue sauce off your fingers, spit watermelon seeds, or have ice cream dribbling down your chin. This sort of carefree attitude makes people happy.

It wasn’t until I moved away from my family that I realized just how much my life’s worth of outdoor cooking and eating was thanks to my father. I missed his fish fries and peanut boils so much that I asked for an outdoor cooker last Christmas to start similar traditions of my own. I still have only a small hibachi grill, so mastering the art of perfectly grilled, crispy-skinned, whole chicken or slow-roasted, hickory-smoked pork shoulder will have to wait another year.

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For now, I’ve turned my focus to ice cream.

After spending years as a pastry chef, I’ve made ice cream many times. However, until recently I was more familiar with Italian gelato machines than old-fashioned backyard ice cream freezers. A while ago, I inherited a little Cuisinart automatic ice cream maker for home use, but it did not inspire me, or satisfy my craving for the ice cream making experience. I wanted to go outside to churn my ice cream. I wanted to layer the ice and ice cream salt just so and wrap a towel around the top of the bucket to insulate it, just like I’d seen my father and my grandfather do. And I wanted to make enough ice cream to share.

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For that’s the other most important factor in the enjoyment of food: friends and family with whom to share it. Eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s alone is one thing, but eating homemade ice cream alone is just sad!

Unfortunately I won’t be spending this Father’s Day, next Sunday, with my father, but he’ll be my ice cream muse. I’ll gather some friends, honor the dads among them with a little homemade ice cream, and make wide-eyed and exuberant children out of all of us.

BlueberriesBlueberries are in season right now on the warmer coasts.

Blueberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

Here’s an ice cream recipe that makes use of one of my dad’s and my favorite summer fruits. Blueberries are showing up at farmers markets and backyards all over the Southeast and West coasts right about now. If they haven’t made it to your climate zone yet, consider yourself lucky to still be in strawberries, which make a very fine substitute in this recipe.

I prefer a cooked custard ice cream base, which is pretty simple to make but does take a bit of thinking ahead, as you’ll need to prepare your base and refrigerate it for at least four hours before you churn it. If you think that’s too much trouble or you’re more of a spontaneous cook, I’ve included a no-cook recipe for ice cream as well. Some also might prefer the pure fruit flavor to the richness of cooked eggs.

I love to add a little buttermilk to accentuate the tart fruit flavor in ice creams, but you can just use more half-and-half, or a little yogurt if you don’t have buttermilk on hand. I think lime has a particular affinity for blueberries and have called for lime juice in the recipe here, but lemon would be lovely as well. Feel free to experiment — that’s half the fun. Just remember to eat your ice cream outside!

2 pints blueberries
8 large egg yolks
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (I used raw, unprocessed sugar, with good results)
¼ teaspoon salt
3 ½ cups half and half
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 ½ cups buttermilk
Mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Place blueberries in a food processor or blender with half of the sugar and process to a chunky puree. (Reserve a few blueberries for garnish.) Set aside.

Place the half-and-half in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat.

Separate egg yolks into a mixing bowl; whisk in the rest of the sugar and the salt.

When the half-and-half mixture is steaming — but not boiling! — ladle a cup of the hot mixture into your egg yolks while whisking constantly. Then pour your tempered egg yolks back into your saucepan of hot half-and-half, whisking constantly.

Spoon testWith a wooden spoon, stir the ice cream mixture constantly while cooking over medium heat until the custard thickens and coats the back of your wooden spoon, or reaches 170°F. (Note: The custard should not exceed 175° F or your eggs will curdle. If this happens, all is not lost. You can strain your “scrambled” custard through a fine-meshed sieve, allow it to cool, and then process it in your blender until smooth.)

Immediately strain your custard into a heat-resistant storage container, or directly into your ice cream maker’s canister, unless it is one of the pre-frozen ones. Allow it to cool at room temperature for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then stir in the buttermilk, lime juice, and pureed blueberries. Refrigerate until very cold, or about four hours. The ice cream base can be made up to two days ahead.

Churn your ice cream following your ice cream maker manufacturer’s instructions. Garnish with mint.

Immediate Gratification Blueberry Ice Cream

2 pints blueberries
1 ½ cups sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
¼ teaspoon salt
3 ½ cups heavy cream
¾ cup buttermilk
Mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Puree the blueberries with the sugar in your food processor or blender until chunky, reserving a few for garnish. Mix in the rest of the ingredients, and churn according to your ice cream maker manufacturer’s instructions. Garnish with mint.