Mastic makes for a refreshing flavoured ice cream, giving it its Aegean tones. For my generation, it reminds us of the Greek summers of our childhoods, when after swimming in the sea, we would enjoy this mastic ice cream. The cool taste of the mastic would take away the heat from the playful hours under the hot Mediterranean sun. Back in those days, ice cream was a rare treat. And as such, it added to the excitement of the Greek summer holidays of the 80’s, now filled with nostalgia; for the sandy beaches were still quiet, nature was dominant and if you were lucky, you could sail with a dolphin playing under your boat.
I can’t bring back the dolphins for my children to experience what it felt like to grow up in a country with such a beautiful, wild landscape. But I can compensate for all the lost flavours I had the chance to enjoy as a child. Making this mastic ice cream at home is a worthy compensation. Because although nowadays, nothing store-bought tastes the same anymore, from the ice creams which are made with palm oil instead of cream, to the bread which has more ingredients than a shampoo, we are still lucky enough to find pure, high quality ingredients, the prosperous Greek soil still gives us.
Mastic is one of these rare ingredients. It is the pure resin of the Mastic tree and has a unique taste. The extraordinary thing is that this taste exists only when the Mastic trees are from a specific region of Chios island, where its cultivation has taken place for centuries. There have been efforts in the past to cultivate Mastic trees in other regions of the world, but the resin did not have the characteristic mastic flavour.
Mastic Ice Cream recipe
Mastic – what you should know before using in this recipe
When choosing mastic ( AKA mastiha ), you have to be sure that it originates from Chios island, Greece. Choose mastiha resin tears, which is its natural form. Another option is pure mastiha oil but it is rather expensive. This is the exact brand I buy and trust:
But you can trust any sources from The Chios Gum Mastic Growers . A little goes a long way when you use the real stuff, so resist the urge to add more; if you use too much, it starts to taste bitter.
Special Equipment needed:
Ice Cream Machine
Freeze your ice cream machine’s container at least 24 hours before the time you plan to churn the ice cream.
Make the ice cream base 12 hours before the time you plan to churn the ice cream.
Let the ice cream sit in the freezer for 3-4 hours after churning, before you serve it
This batch is for an ice cream maker of 1.5 liter/quart capacity.
1/2 teaspoon Chios mastic resin crystal tears ( 4-5 medium sized crystals; those labelled as medium sized have a diameter of 1 cm / 0.4 in. ) other options
or 3-4 drops of pure mastic oil. If using mastic oil, you will not need the vegetable oil, which is only used to dissolve the mastic crystals
100 ml + 300 ml fresh whole milk ( total 400 ml; about 13.5 fl. oz.; 400 gr )
2 Tbs. corn flour
2 large egg yolks ( about 36 gr; 1.2 ounces )
180 gr regular white sugar ( about 6.3 ounces; 3/4 cup and 1 Tbs.)
400 ml heavy cream ( 13.5 fl. oz.; 1 and 3/4 cups )
pinch of salt
Step 1 – Prepare the Ice Cream Base
Put the egg yolks in a large bowl, and whisk them lightly to break them down. Slowly pour 100 ml milk (about 3.4 fl. oz.), whisking well. Keep the whisk in the bowl.
In a cup, put the corn flour and add a few tablespoons of the 300 ml milk, whisking with a fork for the corn starch to dissolve. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, lightly heat 2 tsp. of sunflower oil with the mastic crystals, stirring constantly until the mastic melts (omit this step if using mastic oil, in which case it will be added in Step 4). Slowly add the rest of the 300 ml milk (it is crucial that, in the beginning, you add the milk slowly, or the mastic will harden again) the sugar, and salt.
Warm over medium heat, stirring often with a silicone spatula, until the sugar dissolves. When the milk is hot, pour some hot milk into the corn starch slurry. Whisk with the fork to remove any residue corn flour from the bottom. Pour it back to the saucepan.
Increase the heat to high. Stir the milk constantly as it comes to a full boil, counting 30 seconds from the moment it bubbles up. Remove from the heat, and immediately start pouring it in a steady stream into the egg yolks-milk with one hand, while whisking them vigorously with the other. Without hesitating, return everything to the saucepan and back onto the heat and keep stirring it constantly with a silicone spatula until an instant-read thermometer reads 82ºC. (about 180ºF).
Now pour everything back into the large bowl. Add the heavy cream and stir to combine.
Step 2 – Cool the Ice Cream Base
Place the bowl over an ice bath and let cool completely. Stirring always helps it cool down faster.
How to prepare an ice bath
You will need a large bowl, larger than the bowl with the prepared ice cream base. Put in some ice cubes and cold water. Carefully nest the bowl with the ice cream base in it. Pour more cold water from the sides, till it reaches the ice cream base in the inner bowl in height. Take extra care not to spill any water into the ice cream base.
Alternatively, first nest the bowl with the ice cream base into the empty larger bowl. Fill the sides with ice cubes and cold water, taking care not to let any water spill into the bowl with the ice cream base. This is my preferred method, as sitting directly on the bottom of the bowl, rather than sitting on ice cubes, is more stable.
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When the ice cream base has cooled, put a mesh strainer over a container and pour the ice cream base through the mesh strainer into the container.
If using mastic oil instead of mastic drops, add it now and stir well. Cover with a lid and leave in the refrigerator overnight to cool.
In a hurry? Here is how to speed things up:
If you want to bypass the overnight refrigeration process and churn the ice cream immediately, you can put the ice cream in a sealable bag, place it in a large container, fully cover it with ice and let it chill for a few hours ( it may take up to 3 hours to properly cool ).
The downside of this method is that you will need lots of ice. You will need a thermometer to check if the temperature has reached the desired 4º C (about 39º F) it would have reached should it have stayed in the fridge overnight.
Step 3 – Churn the ice cream
Prepare the ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Give the ice cream base a stir and with the machine running, pour it through the canister and into the ice cream machine. Leave the mastic ice cream to churn until nice and fluffy.
Remove the machine from the container and place the container, covered with a lid, into the freezer. Leave for 3-4 hours for the ice cream to set properly, before serving or removing to another container.
Storing the Ice Cream
This ice cream, like all artisanal ice creams, freezes hard in the long term.
To soften it before serving, remove from the freezer and put it in the refrigerator for half an hour.
It is at its best for one week in the freezer. After this, its texture starts to deteriorate. Discard after one month.