When I was in Ohio to research Ice Cream Travel Guide, I asked to visit Snowville Creamery (one of the dairy sources for Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream), because I had trouble getting in touch with Jeni. To my surprise, Warren (owner of Snowville Creamery) invited me to stay the night to get a “real experience” of the dairy farm and the dairy plant. During dinner, I mentioned my love of cheese and my expensive habit of buying a wheel of Mt. Tam from Cowgirl Creamery…but how to my dismay, when I visited the cheese stand at North Market (a public market full of local goodies) in Columbus, the cheese expert told me that good cheeses in Ohio are rare. The cheese expert directed me back to California where good cheeses are plentiful.
In response, to my delight, my wonderful host invited me to visit Integration Acres, local cheese artisans, where his daughter worked.
I was starstruck. In the back with the aging cheeses, I stood there in letting the smell of cheese waft over me. To wish me on my way, I got a slice of the pecorino cheese (or what seemed to be pecorino cheese…maybe it was gouda?). On its own, the cheese was strong and intense. It desperately wants to be paired with something.
And so this is how the pear came into play.
Recently, friends declared that their favorite fruit are pears. I responded, “My favorite Jelly Belly bean flavor is Juicy Pear!”
Beyond that, there’s just something special about pears. Like an apple, you eat directly through the skin. Round and round until you reach the core. Once at the core, you stop. You try to eat all the sweet bits. At some point, you have exhausted all attempts and you are done. The pear is more grainy (somehow I always wondered how Jelly Belly was able to capture that essence in a single bean) and it feels like sandpaper excreting each juice drop with each bite.
When paired with cheese, the combination of pear and cheese is a delight. When a cheese plate is done right, jams and fruits are welcome accompaniments. I love the cheese plate at Absinthe where with toasted walnut bread, each cheese is carefully placed across a jam, honey, fruit, nuts…or just anything appropriate.
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop
3-4 ripe pears, peeled and cored
1/3 cup water
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
About 4 ounces pecorino cheese (optional: with rind)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup half-and-half
2/3 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
fresh juice from one half of a lemon (split into approximately 1/4 teaspoon and 1 teaspoon)
Chop pears into small pieces (about 1/2 inch). Don’t worry about the uniformity since the pear mixture will be pureed later. I left some pears unpeeled to give the ice cream more texture.
Add pears, water, cinnamon and nutmeg to a medium saucepan. Cook covered under medium heat until the pears are generally soft, about 10 minutes.
In a food processor or blender, add the pear mixture with the lemon juice. Puree the mixture until smooth. Set aside to cool.
Chop up the pecorino cheese into small pieces. The original recipe calls for making them the size of rice grains (the smaller the pieces, the better it is so that it does not become frozen ice pieces in the ice cream), but I diced them as small as I could.
Reserve any rinds to steep the cream mixture. The cheese is not grated so that the ice cream has a stronger cheese flavor. Add the finely diced cheese and sour cream to a large bowl.
In a medium pot, heat the half-and-half and sugar until simmering over medium heat. Remove from heat. Place the cheese rinds in the pot and let steep in the cream mixture for at least 10 minutes.
Remove the rinds. Re-heat the cream mixture until simmering. Remove from heat.
In a separate large bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Temper the egg yolks by pouring one cup at a time of the warmed cream mixture. Whisk the mixture after every cup. Return the contents into the pot and place over medium heat. Stir frequently. The custard will thicken. Remove from heat when the mixture coats the back of a spoon.
Add the cream mixture to the cheese and sour cream in the large bowl. Mix in the remaining lemon juice and pear mixture. Stir until generally mixed.
Chill for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Churn in an ice cream maker based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
Written in November 2012