Aw, nuts! A recipe for Walnut Cream Ice

Ernest Miller in action, making the ice cream base.
Ernest Miller in action, making the ice cream base.

This past weekend, the Homestead held a Victorian ice cream workshop as part of our Homemade at the Homestead series. It’s always a treat to have chef, historian, and educator Ernest Miller join us, and this weekend was no exception! Read on for a little background on Victorian ice cream and walnuts, followed by recipes to churn away at home.

Victorian ice cream

Although ice cream goes back many centuries and has taken many forms, it was during the Victorian era (1837-1901) that the hand-cranked ice cream churn was invented. As home ice deliveries became more commonplace, making and storing ice cream at home became more convenient. Further, molding ice cream into elaborate shapes like vegetables and small animals was quite trendy and would have made for an impressive dinner party display.

Why walnuts?

Employees outside of the Blue Diamond Walnuts packing house in Puente, CA, in the 1920s.
Employees outside of the Blue Diamond Walnuts packing house in Puente, CA, in the 1920s.

The city of Walnut as well as Nogales (“walnut” in Spanish) Street might sound familiar to our local readers. The California black walnut tree was native to the area and used by the Native people as a food source. As land use shifted from cattle ranching to agriculture in the mid-to-late 1800s, walnut- and fruit-growing dominated the scene. The area that is now Hacienda Heights and La Puente was once a major walnut producer for the state. La Puente, in fact, had the largest walnut packing house in the world into the 1930s. Walnuts continue to impact on our lives today, as almost all of the walnuts produced in the United States today come from California!

Have we whet your appetite yet? Without further ado, here are two recipes for your enjoyment!

Walnut Cream Ice

Yield: Approximately 1 quart

2 ½ cups shelled English walnuts
2 ½ cups cream
4 egg yolks
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Chop walnuts in a food processor until smooth. Add a little of the cream if necessary.
2. Beat together the sugar and egg yolks until lightened in color and achieving the ribbon stage.
3. Whisk cream and walnuts into egg yolk mixture and heat in a double boiler. Stir constantly until mixture thickens to coat the back of a spoon – approximately 175° – 180°F. Do not boil.
4. Strain custard through a chinois or strainer and cool – preferably overnight. Reserve walnuts for making of Walnut Topping (recipe follows).
5. When cooled, add vanilla and freeze according to directions for your ice cream machine.

Walnut Topping

Yield: Approximately 2 ½ cups

2 ½ cups walnuts, covered in ice cream base (reserved from Walnut Cream Ice)
½ cup granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 250°F.
2. Mix walnuts and granulated sugar.
3. Spread walnut and sugar mixture 1 layer thick on a sheet tray covered with a Silpat, non-stick aluminum foil, or parchment paper.
4. Bake mixture until crisp (approximately 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes).
5. Crumble and use as a topping for ice cream.

Thanks to Ernest Miller for these tasty recipes!

Leave a Reply