One of my favorite beverages in the world is honey mead.
Admittedly, that sentence comes off as a bit pretentious. And it doesn’t help that Bud Light commercials with their “dilly dilly” nonsense make fun of people for liking the way their drink tastes and throw mead-lovers into the dungeon or whatever.
But the bottom line is this: honey mead is literally just fermented (and therefore boozy) honey water. It’s like the simplest form of alcohol you can get, and also the sweetest and most delicious. It’s about the same alcohol by volume as wine, so you can drink it by the glass or just put a few ounces in a Glencairn sipper for dessert if you find it overly sweet for a whole serving.
Or…you could make it into an ice cream.
I realized a few weeks ago that it’s pretty much always accessible at any well-stocked spirits store in Scotland, and decided that this joyous discovery called for a celebratory new flavor. It was a bit of an experiment, as any boozy ice cream tends to be, but it worked out exactly as I had hoped it would.
Just like with wine ice creams, the high water content requires that it be reduced a bit by cooking it down with a little sugar — which is a super easy process, all it requires is simmering it on the stove for about 15 minutes (give or take). Using a sugar substitute in any capacity can always be a bit iffy when it comes to texture, but subbing out a third of my normal cane sugar for honey seems to be just right to both create a solid texture and still really make the honey flavor pop.
The addition of the honey to the base, combined with the slight boozy flavor of the mead that also adds just a hint of a toasted note to the sweetness, makes for a wonderfully smooth and even flavor that’s plenty delicious to be its own dessert dish, but also simple enough to complement to a cake or other pastry.
- 1 pint (475 ml) milk
- 1 pint (475 ml) heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cup (300 ml) raw cane sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla extract
- 4 eggs
- Pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cups (350 ml) honey mead
- Combine the milk, cream, 1 cup (240 ml) cane sugar, honey, vanilla extract, and salt in a medium stockpot or saucepan. Stirring frequently (especially until mixture is fully combined), bring to 160˚ F (71˚C) over medium-high heat.
- At 160˚ F, turn off the heat. Crack the 4 eggs, separating the egg yolks into a small bowl and disposing of the whites and shells. Whisk together the egg yolks with 1/8 cup (30 mL) of the cane sugar.
- Using a ladle or measuring cup, temper the eggs by slowly pouring about 1/2 cup of the hot base into the eggs, while whisking constantly, until the egg/sugar/hot base mixture loosens up. Then pour the mixture back into the base, whisking constantly.
- After the egg mixture has been fully incorporated into the base, turn the heat back on at medium-high heat. Stirring frequently, bring the base to 170˚F (77˚C) and turn off heat.
- Pour the cooked based through a fine mesh strainer and into a heat-safe bowl. Place bowl in refrigerator and allow to chill, uncovered, until the base is cool to the touch, stirring occasionally to decrease cooling time.
- While the base is cooling, mix the mead and remaining cane sugar together in a small saucepan. Simmer over low heat until the mixture has reduced by about 1/3, to equal around 1 cup (200 ml). Pour the mead reduction into a jar or small bowl and place in refrigerator to cool.
- When the base and the mead reduction are both cool to the touch, pour the mead into the base and whisk. Cover and place in the refrigerator, and allow to set for at least 4-5 hours.**
- After allowing the base to set, stir it with a spatula or whisk.
- Set up your churner.
- Pour the base into the churner and turn the cycle on. Allow the ice cream to churn and freeze until it has the consistency of thick soft-serve throughout, 15-30 minutes depending on your churner.
- Pour the ice cream into a freezer-safe container and cover. Allow the ice cream to harden to a consistent texture throughout, roughly 6-8 hours depending on your freezer.
** If you are pressed for time, you can get away without not this long, though the texture might not end up quite as creamy. Just make sure that everything is fully chilled, or else your churner is likely to have problems freezing the base.