After college, I became fascinated with Boston. A few good friends moved there for school and work. To me, a Californian, Boston was the smaller version of New York. It had everything of an East Coast city—the excitement, the winter, the changing color of the leaves, the easy public transit. Most importantly though, it had J.P. Licks.
I can’t remember the exact moment of having cucumber ice cream. Most likely, it was during a summer break from graduate school in Pittsburgh. I must have been walking from Cambridge across the bridge to Newbury Street. I was dying from the humidity (I prefer dry summers or better yet summers of San Francisco). J.P. Licks must have risen out like an oasis welcoming a friend and me. My friend had never been there and the sight of ice cream called to me…I rushed over lured by the many colors inside.
The word “cucumba” amused me on the list of flavors. And that’s what I had the first time. I only remember the surprise of the flavor—perhaps it was on a sample spoon or cone. The sweetness contrasted with the refreshing taste of cucumber like an ice cube sliding down your throat after having walked half a mile on summer asphalt in flip flops. Since then, when I visit Boston, I must always stop by J.P. Licks.
But as I learned years later, it’s only offered during the summer. So be prepared! Or make your own at home.
Adapted from Food 52:
1 large English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
2/3 cups packed mint leaves (remove the stems)
3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 large egg yolks
1 generous pinch kosher salt
1 small lime
Puree the cucumber in a blender or food processor. The result will consist of a liquid and some solids. To my surprise, this is how one would juice a cucumber! Set aside.
Either in a mini food processor or mortar and pestle, combine mint and sugar. Process until the result is a fine mint sugar.
In a medium pot, combine milk and heavy cream over medium heat until steaming. Remove from heat.
In a separate large bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Add the mint sugar. Then whisk thoroughly until combined.
Temper the egg/mint sugar mixture by pouring one cup at a time of the warmed mixture. Whisk after every cup. Return the contents into the pot. Then at medium heat while constantly stirring, put the pot at medium heat. The custard will thicken. Remove from heat when the mixture coats the back of a spoon.
Strain out the cucumber solids with a strainer. Mix in lime juice. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Chill completely overnight in the refrigerator. Churn in an ice cream maker based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
Written in August 2012