It occurred to me last week that, just maybe, it would have been better to have started my Great Bacon Odyssey in, say, November. It’s hard not to think of that when you’re standing in your way-smaller-than-you’d-like kitchen sweating because you’re tending your deep-fryer and it’s 95 degrees Fahrenheit outside, so that even with the air conditioner on you’re burning up.
So that should just go to show you, faithful readers, how dedicated I am to my geek quest. I will soldier on despite the heat and humidity of the midsummer Washington, D.C., area weather. I will admit, though, that the weather did influence my choice of recipe for this week: bacon ice cream.
The idea of bacon ice cream was first suggested to me back on June 8 in response to my inaugural Great Bacon Odyssey post. The person who sent me the idea, one Susan McKay, mentioned the dark chocolate bacon ice cream served by a local (to her) creamery. She didn’t say anything about making it at home, but it definitely put the idea in my head, so that the several people who have since suggested that added emphasis to the notion. Even though the reward for bacon ideas hadn’t been announced at that time, I think Susan still deserves it, so she’ll be receiving a $25 gift certificate from the awesome folks at ThinkGeek. Keep those ideas coming, folks: There are more gift certificates available!
I’m a pretty good cook, if I do say so myself, but I’ve only made ice cream a dozen or so times and hadn’t made it at all in at least eight years. So I knew I needed a recipe to guide me. A few Google searches turned up a surprisingly large number of recipes, out of which I settled on this one, mostly because it sounded like the ice cream base itself would be tasty — with vanilla and rum, how could it not be? So I put the freezing chamber of my ice cream maker (a Krups La Glaciere that was a wedding present nearly 11 years ago, and which are no longer made) in the freezer a few days ahead of time, acquired the ingredients, and set to work.
Step one was to candy the bacon, which was going fine until I got distracted by the Comic-Con w00tstock recap on Wil Wheaton’s blog and let the strips go a bit longer than I should have, resulting in them being somewhat burnt. I considered starting over with a fresh batch, but the ice cream was already going to take a while to make, and besides, I thought the bacon tasted pretty good despite the charred flavor. So on I went to the custard.
The custard-making was uneventful, unless you count the inevitable (in my case, anyway) thoughts about how you’re cooking cream, butter, sugar and egg yolks, and planning to add bacon to it later. What could be better?
So, after making the custard and chilling it in the fridge for about 45 minutes, I decided the time was ripe to make it into ice cream. I set the ice cream maker up, and, with my kids helping, poured the custard into the freezing chamber. Then of course came the hurry-up-and-wait part of the process, because there really is no good way to accelerate the process unless you have access to liquid nitrogen, which I alas do not. About 20 minutes after starting the freezing, it was looking close enough to ice cream that I called it good and poured in the bacon bits. Then it was time for the sampling!
My wife, my kids and I all tried the ice cream and we all pronounced it good (though not spectacular)! The savory and salty flavor of the bacon contrasted nicely with the sweet richness of the ice cream, and I actually think the burnt part of the bacon flavor might have helped a little (though my wife disagrees). It was hard for me to eat more than a few spoonfuls of it, though, mostly because my palate quickly grew bored of the contrast and it started tasting less like bacon ice cream and more like good ice cream with bits of bacon in it, if that makes any sense.
So we reach the question: Is bacon ice cream worth it? After much consideration, I think the answer is yes, but only once. It’s good, and it’s cool to be able to say I made and ate bacon ice cream, but making homemade ice cream consumes a fair bit of time, energy (both personal and electrical) and ingredients, to say nothing of the dishes it creates. In my opinion, homemade ice cream is really only worth making if you’re making something wonderful, and the bacon ice cream simply wasn’t. The ice cream base was good, and might have risen to the stature of “wonderful” with some other ingredient besides bacon mixed into it, but as it was it definitely didn’t. I had a small bowl of the ice cream the following morning for breakfast to see how it held up after a night in the freezer, and it turns out it did pretty well. It needed a bit of softening in the microwave before I could scoop it, but once scooped, it tasted much as it did the night before.
So, yeah, if the idea intrigues you, you should do it. It’s tasty enough and unusual enough to warrant making once. Unless you’re very different from me, though, you probably won’t want to make it again.