Pagoto Masticha

Mastic Ice Cream

THE GREEK equivalent of vanilla ice cream, this is uniquely flavored, scented with mastic—the crystallized sap of the wild pistachio shrub (Pistachia lentiscus), which grows only on the southern part of Chios. Exported to the Arab countries and the Middle East, mastic was the ancient chewing gum: hence the verb “masticate.” To this day, it is still chewed to clean and sweeten the breath, while the ground crystals add their elusive licorice-like aroma to many Greek breads and cookies.

The recipe for this ice cream was created by Jim Botsacos, who serves it with baked quinces. I also like to serve it on its own, simply topped with spoonfuls of Cherry Spoon-Sweet Preserves or any other fruit preserves. And it goes well with Almond and Yogurt Cake with Citrus Syrup.

I still remember the wonderful ice creams we used to make in the summers, when I was a child, using a rented hand-cranked machine, to which we added ice and coarse salt. In those days, the cream was thickened not with eggs but with salep, a starch produced by pounding the dried tuber of a wild orchid. Ice creams thickened with salep form strands as you dip into them. Today, such wonderful eggless ice creams are found only in Turkey.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • cups plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • teaspoons mastic (see Sources)
  • 15 large egg yolks

Method

In a large saucepan, bring the milk, cream and 1¼ cups of the sugar to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Grind the mastic together with the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar in a spice grinder.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mastic mixture and the egg yolks.

Gradually pour 1 cup of the hot milk mixture over the yolks, whisking constantly until well mixed. Return the remaining milk mixture to medium heat, pour the yolk mixture into the pan, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes; do not let it boil. To test it, dip the back of the spoon into the mixture and run your finger across the spoon; the line should hold.

Pass the cream through a fine-mesh sieve and transfer to an ice cream machine. Chill and then freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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