weather marks the end of oyster season on the North Carolina coast,
which might cause ice cream-maker Karel Blaas to scratch his head and
from-scratch ice cream, made with local ingredients, is known far
beyond his downtown Wilmington-based Velvet Freeze shop. He’s played
with lots of interesting flavors: herb concoctions made with leaves
grown at Leland’s Shelton Herb Farm, bourbon bacon chocolate pecan and
olive oil with toasted pine nuts.
restaurant owners ask for custom flavors, like the beer chocolate
toffee ice cream Blaas recently churned for a commercial brewery.
One of the oddest ideas Blaas encountered was oyster ice cream.
oyster ice cream flavor stemmed from a conversation between Blaas and
Chef Mark Scharaga. Scharaga was planning a multi-course wine dinner at
the Asian restaurant Tamashii, which Scharaga once operated in
used local seafood at the restaurant, where Blaas had been supplying
Asian-inspired ice cream flavors such as ginger apple and sesame honey
banana. The two men were joking about off-beat flavors they could serve
for the dinner’s dessert when oyster ice cream came up, Scharaga said.
“As crazy as I thought it was, it wasn’t really so far-fetched,” Scharaga said.
ice cream is popular in Japan, but when Blaas researched the idea, he
was surprised by the American food history connection.
“People actually ate this,” Blaas said. “It was once a big deal in America.”
cream, which probably originated in China, started appearing in
American colonies in the first half of the 1700s, according to the
Colonial Williamsburg Journal. The treat took off after Thomas
Jefferson in the late 1700s sampled ice cream in Paris. Jefferson
brought a recipe home, built an ice house at Monticello and then one at
the White House when he became president, the Journal reported. On
Independence Day 1806, Jefferson tasked a servant with making ice
cream, starting a summertime tradition that probably earned Jefferson
credit for bringing ice cream to America.
strawberry, raspberry and apricot were popular flavors. Coffee, tea,
pistachio, spicy chocolate and parmesan cheese were other flavors.
“Perhaps the strangest flavor is found in Mary Randolph’s cookbook—oyster ice cream,” the Journal reported.
Randolph wrote The Virginia Housewife in 1824, one of that century’s
most influential cookbooks and the first American cookbook with an ice
cream section (by the way, Randolph’s son married Jefferson’s
daughter). Her oyster ice cream recipe was really strained, frozen
claim First Lady Dolley Madison served oyster ice cream at the White
House. Oyster ice cream is also mentioned in Mark Twain’s The
Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
One story historians agree is a myth claims that oyster ice cream was George Washington’s favorite flavor.
early oyster ice creams were probably more savory than sweet, as
Randolph’s recipe suggests. Blaas made his version sweet. He poached
oysters in cream, added sugar and a couple other ingredients before
freezing the blend.
resulting ice cream provided enough oyster flavor to let diners know
this was not Blaas’ usual rich, silky, oh-so-creamy vanilla. The ice
cream, with a swirl of Texas Pete, was served with fennel panna cotta
and chocolate ganache cake.
didn’t get another request for oyster ice cream, and Scharaga didn’t
move much of it after the wine dinner. However, the men’s collaboration
continues. Blaas scoops flavors these days at a new Velvet Freeze
location in a space Blaas shares with the sushi take-out shop, Mega
Maki. Scharaga runs Mega Maki with business partner Josh Thaxton. The
shops are at 10B N. Front St. in Wilmington.
Make It at Home
oyster ice cream at home is not difficult. Simply do as Blaas did by
poaching fresh shucked oysters in a vanilla ice cream base. The amount
of oysters will dictate the intensity of oyster flavor. A chef at
54twenty Guestaurant in Hollywood, Calif., demonstrates a slow cooking
process called “sous-vide” in an online video
Mary Randolph’s efforts were simpler, as evidence by these recipes, shown as written, from The Virginia Housewife.
Make a rich soup, (see directions for oyster soup), strain it from the oysters, and freeze it.
and drain two quarts of oysters, put them on with three quarts of
water, three onions chopped up, two or three slices of lean ham, pepper
and salt; boil it till reduced one-half, strain it through a sieve,
return the liquid into the pot, put in one quart of fresh oysters, boil
it till they are sufficiently done, and thicken the soup with four
spoonsful of flour, two gills of rich cream, and the yelks of six new
laid eggs beaten well; boil it a few minutes after the thickening is
put in. Take care that it does not curdle, and that the flour is not in
lumps; serve it up with the last oysters that were put in. If the
flavour of thyme be agreeable, you may put in a little, but take care
that it does not boil in it long enough to discolour the soup.
story is provided courtesy of Coastal Review Online, the coastal news
and features service of the N.C. Coastal Federation. You can read other
stories about the North Carolina coast at www.nccoast.org.)
comments powered by