PawPaw Ice Cream
Well, here’s a recipe that’s been waiting patiently in the draft pool for awhile now. It’s a real winner though and deserves its moment in the spotlight, even if the season for pawpaws has come and gone back in the earlier days of autumn. Pawpaws? Is that a typo? Nope, that’s the featured local – and highly unique – ingredient in today’s post.
Pawpaws (Asimina triloba) are the largest edible fruit (a berry to be precise) native to North America. I foraged mine from a small grove in the woods that I happened to find thanks to the directions of a friend. This fruit grows on small trees that are native to the Northeast, though with the disappearance of our natural woodlands with development, there aren’t so many around anymore. The trees tend to spread about, forming groves with both mature trees and saplings, all of which are easily distinguished from the other trees in the woods by their enormous leaves that come in groups of threes (thus the “triloba” in its botanical name). My mom knows an old song from when she was a girl about going picking in the pawpaw patch so I think this fruit was much more popular back in the day when there were plenty of rural areas still sustaining large numbers of native trees.
Ironically, the pawpaw today is once again in vogue, being touted as the next big thing in local fruit production. A few passionate folks have even taken upon themselves the task of planting entire orchards of pawpaws. This is a rather selfless act as these trees take nearly 20 years to mature and bear enough fruit to make them a viable commercial venture. In other words, you’d best be young when you plant your pawpaw trees. All joking aside, pawpaw trees are beautiful in the home landscape and should be consider if you are looking to plant a native tree in your yard or even city parks.
The fruit is well worth the wait. It’s completely unexpected in its flavor and texture, both of which are quite tropical. The texture, when ripe, is nearly identical to that of a banana. The flavor is a good deal harder to pin down with an easy comparison. Some people claim they taste like mangos, others like pineapple, still others think pawpaws taste like any old ripe banana. I can only say that in my opinion, they are delicious, sweet and “tropical”, but not really tasting like any of those other fruits.
The oblong fat green fruit begins ripening in mid September and is best shaken off the tree a little under ripe and set on a kitchen counter to soften. If you let the fruit ripen on the tree, it’ll fall to the ground and be immediately gobbled up by any and all woodland critters who are smart enough to realize that pawpaws are a real delicacy. Once harvested, pawpaws should be left on the countertop to ripen for just a few days until they get brown and squishy. That’s right…brown and squishy! That’s when the sugars really develop and the softer texture makes it easier to push out the large seeds from the flesh. Be careful though, they have a very short “shelf life” (one of the reasons they aren’t more common) and can quickly go past their prime.
Now, I’m sure I’ve piqued your interest. I wish that I could tell you all right where to go to get some of this delicious fruit next September. Sadly, I can’t. There’s a slim chance you’ll find it at a farmers market. There’s an even better chance that if you have some woodland near you that hasn’t been disturbed in many years that you can forage a basketful for yourself. The demand is certainly increasing for them and I hope that, like the tasty ground cherry, they’ll show up more and more with the new interest in locally grown and unusual fruit.
So, should you get your hands on some pawpaws next year, I’d highly recommend using them in this luscious ice cream! In general though, you can treat pawpaws like bananas since there aren’t a lot of pawpaw specific recipes out there. Have you ever tasted a pawpaw? If so, what did you think it tasted like?
PawPaw Ice Cream
A Straight from the Farm Original
1 C. sugar
1 C. whole milk (raw if possible)
1/4 t. salt
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
3 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 C. pawpaw pulp*
1 T. lemon juice
2 C. heavy cream
*This recipe is really two distinct steps – the custard and then the rest of it – so don’t mash your pawpaws until you have your chilled custard ready to churn or else they’ll get a bit icky the way mooshed bananas do if left to sit for very long.
Combine sugar, milk, salt, and scraped vanilla bean and pods in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until the mixture just begins to steam and simmer. Place the egg yolks into a small bowl. Gradually stir in about 1/2 cup of the hot liquid to temper the eggs and return everything to the saucepan. Heat until thickened, about 5 minutes, but be careful not to boil. Remove from the heat, and pour into a chilled bowl and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.
Using a slotted spoon, fish out the vanilla pods from the chilled custard. Stir in the pawpaw pulp and lemon juice. Whip the heavy cream until it forms soft peaks and gently fold into the custard mixture. Pour into an ice cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.
When ice cream is done churning, scoop out into a container with a lid and place in freezer to firm up, about 3-4 hours.
(makes 1 quart)