Dig in: Backyard Mint Ice Cream

A DIY frozen treat that tastes just as good as the scoop shops. Seriously.


Jeni's Backyard mint ice cream recipe - 1

Mint makes a flavorful frozen treat, but any herb will work when making ice cream.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Jenis' Splendid Ice Creams

Image courtesy of Jenis' Splendid Ice Creams

Mint makes a flavorful frozen treat, but any herb will work when making ice cream.

As much as I love to cook, there are a few things I won't make at home: Indian food, sushi and ice cream. I feel no shame about the first two, but on sticky summer nights when we have a bunch of friends in the backyard, childhood memories return and I think well…maybe. 

Then we head to the local ice cream shop for a scoop of strawberry instead.

Even Jeni Britton Bauer, founder and creative director of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, says she preferred chain cream over homemade as a child. "My grandparents had an ice cream maker, but the ice cream was icy, too soft and messy to make," she says. "We had a Häagen-Dazs down the street and I always felt special going there. I feel terrible telling you that story, but I never know why we glorify the old homemade ice cream recipe." 

Now that Britton Bauer has her own shop (or 13), she's sharing her secrets for making ice cream with the same taste and texture of scoop shops. One of her favorite summertime recipes is Backyard Mint, which involves tearing the mint leaves and soaking them in the cream base overnight. "Tearing the mint bruises the leaves and opens the oil pockets, releasing the scent into the cream," she says. 

Britton Bauer uses a varietal called 'Robert Mitchum' mint, but any herb will do. "If it grows in your garden, you can incorporate it into ice cream," she says. "Or you can chop the herbs finely with berries, sugar and fruit for an aromatic 'salsa' on top of your ice cream."

Try Britton Bauer's tips for fabulously frozen ice cream at your next backyard barbecue: 

  • Mold homemade ice cream into a terrine shape and pre-slice it. Britton Bauer serves them with whipped cream and fresh berries. 
  • Find a glass container that fits into the canister of your ice cream machine. After you finish making the cream, store it in the container while you wash and refreeze the canister for a day or two. Then use the canister to insulate your ice cream. It'll keep it frozen long enough to scoop it—even outside!"

Backyard Mint Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart 

  • 2 cups whole milk 
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch 
  • 1 and 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened 
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt 
  • 1 and 1/4 cups heavy cream 
  • 2/3 cup sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup 
  • A large handful of fresh mint from your backyard or farmers’ market, leaves roughly torn into small pieces.

Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry

Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heat-proof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the mint. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes. Refrigerate to steep for 4 to 12 hours.

Strain out the mint. Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy.

Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

Britton Bauer suggests pairing Backyard Mint with chocolate fudge cookies for ice cream sandwiches or adding rum or whiskey and some seltzer for a fun float.

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