I was telling a friend in Arizona the other day about my jalapeño-growing project and how they are the best thing on earth but mentioned that sadly, I can't eat enough salsa to use them all. Which is a complete and total lie, by the way - I can eat that much salsa, I just shouldn't. She told me a story about having dinner at one of those fancy schmancy resorts near where she lives and having jalapeño-infused ice cream there. She challenged me to come up with my own version.

Now, I'm not much of a cook and I've never been the type of chef who creates his own recipes, but two things intrigued me about this challenge: One, I am a master of one-offs and improvisation. No matter how little food we have in the house, I can generally find a way to put things together to make a meal, but I'm probably never going to repeat it again if you liked what I made. I once had a roommate who swore that I could make banana bread without bananas. And two, the only thing I love more than cheese (and now I know why I love it so much) is ice cream.

Challenge accepted.

I started by quartering a single jalapeño.

In my first attempt, I used two jalapeños. But if you'll remember from past days, home grown jalapeños are hottt. That was fine if I wanted ice cream that only I would eat. (Which is totally okay because... more for me!) But the final result was a bit too spicy for anyone else in my family... or the world... to enjoy. The Dormouse kept begging for a taste of my first batch and I told her no, that it was too spicy and she wouldn't like it. Finally, after about the thirtieth repeated request, I nodded my head toward my bowl and said, "Fine, have a spoonful." I turned my back and then looked over a second later to find her running down the stairs.

"Did you like it?" I called after her.

"Yes," she choked out.

"Want a whole bowlful, then?"


The kitties, who appear like cockroaches out of the walls whenever we're trying to eat something, were also unwitting test subjects and I let them lick the bowl after I'd eaten some. The bad news is they both learned you can't shake capsaicin out of your head after you've eaten it. The good news is they might stop begging for food for awhile.

So I'm telling you to only use one jalapeño. (But I shall continue to use two.)

I dropped the quartered jalapeño into three cups of milk and/or cream.

I know that some people really believe in using heavy cream to make ice cream. I'm not a purist. I actually like ice milk and I think that it's a bit smoother taste without all that milk fat in it. Plus, I almost never have cream in the house. So I tend to use any combination of 2% milk/whole milk/half and half/cream that I happen to have on hand to equal three cups. For this batch, I splurged. I bought a pint of half and half which I poured into a measuring cup. Then I added whole milk until I reached the correct amount.

I sealed this mixture in a Tupperware container and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. I am 95% certain that this step is completely unnecessary, but I got distracted and had to come back to it later. It worked, so I didn't mess with success and will just always do it that way. Like constantly wearing the same pair of underwear or rubbing the hair of a red-headed boy for luck.

The next day, I added three-quarters cup sugar (no picture, but I'm sure you can imagine that one) and heated the milk and jalapeño mixture in a saucepan.

Here's the important part: do not let it boil. It has to heat slowly and over a long period of time to infuse the jalapeño flavor. I heated mine for about fifteen or twenty minutes. So put on your patient hat and turn the heat way down. But remember that it is milk and will burn if you don't watch it. I am terrible about this kind of thing because I leave the room, forget what I'm doing, and don't come back to it until I start to smell the charred remains of my dinner. If you, like me, don't enjoy stirring constantly and have the attention span of a three year old, you're gonna have to use very low heat.

Heat the milk/cream until an almost-boil and then turn the heat down even more. Eventually, turn the heat off entirely. You're going to start letting it come down to room temperature... again... slowly.

When it cooled off mostly (I don't know how your ice cream maker works but if I put liquids that are too warm in mine, it won't set up), I added about a teaspoon of vanilla. I know this looks like I'm pouring some sort of brown vodka into the pan, but it's really homemade vanilla, I swear.

Next I poured the mixture through a strainer into my ice cream maker's freezer bowl to remove the fruit parts and seeds. I have one of those fancy cuisinart ice cream makers that makes ice cream in twenty minutes, but I would guess any kind of ice cream maker would do.

When we were kids, we used to make ice cream in old coffee cans - a smaller one inside a bigger one filled with ice and rock salt - and then we kids had to roll the cans back and forth on the back porch for what seemed like hours before the ice cream was ready. It was a lot of work to go to for ice cream, let me tell you. And then I'm pretty sure that the adults ate most of the ice cream on the back of the children's labor.

By the way, am I the only one who vividly remembers this scene from the movie Gremlins every time someone says the word Cuisinart?


Never mind, then.

Basically, the gist here is to follow whatever the directions for your ice cream maker say to do.

When it's finished, you have a lovely jalapeño-infused ice cream, which you may serve in a lovely bowl,

or if you're too impatient for that, you can just pour it directly into your mouth from the freezer bowl. Which I did.

Actually, if you want to get super fancy, it's nice with just a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

I'm not a big fan of chocolate, but it adds a dimension that kinda works with the spiciness. It's also interesting that even though you're eating something that's spicy, its delivery system is milk, so the milk counteracts the capsaicin that burns your tongue. Which means that you can eat more of it than you ever thought possible. Either that or one of my two working taste buds just stopped working.

My Tucson friend claims I could sell this for $12 a bowl and now I've given the recipe away for free.

Oh bother.