Lemon Ice Cream

This is my unabashed favorite ice cream, a silky light ice cream alive with the taste of lemon. It is to my adult tongue what the Italian lemon ices on the Bradley Beach, New Jersey boardwalk were to my kid tongue—happy addiction, almost a reason for living.

Commercial supermarket lemons, as long as you scrub them zealously before use, are fine here. If you’re living in California, also try this recipe with the indigenous Meyer lemons; they’re super.

This ice cream holds its flavor for two to three days. The unfrozen mixture can be refrigerated for a day or two before freezing.


  • 4 to 5 very large or 6 to 8 smaller lemons with smooth, unblemished skin (to yield 1⅛ cups strained juice)
  • About 2 cups sugar
  • 4 cups half-and-half
  • pinch or 2 kosher salt


  1. Scrub the lemons vigorously in a basin of warm water dotted with a bit of dishwashing liquid. Use an abrasive scrubber to clean the rind until it no longer feels waxy to the touch. Rinse the lemons thoroughly; pat dry. (Even if you’re using organic lemons or lemons straight off the backyard tree, scrub them well.)
  2. Put 2 cups sugar in a food processor. Using a sharp vegetable peeler or zester, remove the zest from the lemons in thin strips; take care not to remove any of the bitter white pith. Let the peel fall directly into the food processor.
  3. Halve, juice, and strain the lemons to obtain 1⅛ cups juice; set the juice aside.
  4. Run the food processor until the peel is finely ground and the sugar is liquidy, 3 to 4 minutes. Old machines with worn blades take a bit longer and require several pauses to scrape down the bowl. Add the juice and process to blend.
  5. Scrape the sugar-lemon mixture into a large, non-aluminum bowl. Add the half-and-half and the salt, and stir to combine. Set aside for 15 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. It will thicken slightly. At this point, the ice cream mixture can be sealed and refrigerated for a day or two before freezing. Don’t worry if it separates; simply stir to recombine.
  6. Just before freezing, stir and taste the mixture. Adjust, if needed, with a dash more lemon juice, sugar, or salt to achieve a flavor that is very zippy with a nice undertone of sweetness. The mixture should taste a bit too sweet at room temperature if it is to taste balanced once frozen.
  7. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Store with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface. Let soften slightly before serving.

Serving Suggestions: If you like chocolate (what a question!), try this ice cream with one of Amy’s chocolate cookies.