An essential part of making real food ice cream is knowing how to cook down fruits to be mixed into the base. This definitely takes some practice, but here’s a basic rundown and a few tips to keep in mind:
- The reason for cooking the fruit is to cook the water out; water makes ice, and ice makes for bad texture in ice cream.
- After putting your cut fruit in a small stock pot or sauce pan, cover it with sugar (typically this requires about 1/4 cup for my standard batch size), and toss the fruit and sugar until it’s evenly coated. The sugar prevents the fruit from burning.
- Turn the stove on medium-low heat and let it ride. There’s not much to do until the fruit is nearly cooked. Usually it will be 15-20 minutes before you need to do more than occasionally stir to make sure the heat is even distributed.
- 10 or 15 minutes in, the water will begin cooking out of the fruit. As the fruit heats, the water will begin to pool and gather in the bottom of the pot and eventually boil. If you haven’t cooked fruit before, this can be a bit disconcerting. But don’t worry! That’s what it’s supposed to do.
- When the fruit comes to a steady boil, turn the heat down slightly. Water boils at 212˚F, so the goal is to keep the fruit sitting at this temperature, which allows the water to boil out without getting too much hotter. If you have a nice immersion thermometer to keep track of things, that will make the process a little less guess-and-check.
- At 220˚F, fruit begins to release pectin, which will give the compote a gelatin-like consistency. We want the fruit to eventually get to this point (this is the basic process of making jam, too, which is basically what we’re going for), but if you allow it to sit at that temperature for too long, the pectin will start to get a burned smell and alter the taste as well.
- The water is cooked out and the fruit is ready to come off the heat when you can move it around and it holds its shape for a moment before returning to an even level (see picture above). Once you’re done, just put it in a small bowl or jar and throw it in the fridge. (But be careful, it’s around 220˚F!)