Spiced with Tradition

Pumpkin Ice cream

Ice cream has an important place in my family.  When I was in elementary school my mom started the tradition of Ice Cream Night.  Every Thursday evening since then family and friends have gathered around her dining room table to share in a homemade vegetarian dinner followed by a bowl full of one of the many ice creams that fill the freezer and toppings like homemade whipped cream and chocolate sauce, and a variety of candies in little glass dishes.  My sisters and I spent many nights around the table warm with laughter and thousands of shared stories, lit with candles and shining faces.  On Thursday nights friends and and friends of friends would join us to share food, games, and eventually the small community that has grown around Ice Cream Night.

I write about Ice Cream Night as I’ve been thinking a lot about flavors and tastes, connections and changes, family and tradition.  Now that my sisters and I have grown up, some of us married, some pursuing vibrant careers, some doing both, the five of us are rarely all in the same room, let alone the same state.  But I think about where we began, what we shared and what still might connect us now.   We have sometimes brought Ice Cream Night with us to other places but the dining room table is still a place that we come back to, on a Thursday or a Sunday or any day that we can be there

The coming year is going to bring a lot of changes for everyone in my family.  Nearly all of us will move to a different state but we won’t be living any closer to each other.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the past and our present and how to stay connected as we are scattered around.  As I continue on my own path I  also wonder what traditions I will create or carry on.  I don’t yet have many traditions of my own, but I do return again and again to the kitchen, to create and taste flavors both familiar and new.  I love that this experience is shared through a recipe that can be made in your kitchen and mine.  We can both sit down to a bowl of ice cream and connect with something or someone who is far away in distance or time.

So, I’m sharing this recipe for Pumpkin Ice Cream with you.  Its just exactly what I hoped home made pumpkin ice cream would taste like — the flavors of sweet autumn, pumpkin pie, cinnamon, a hint of thanksgiving and a gathering around a table sharing connections with each other.  I’ll have a spoonful (or more likely a bowlful) and wherever you are you’ll make it and taste the same flavors spiced with your own traditions.

Pumpkin Ice Cream
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma 

1 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
5 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Mix the pumpkin puree and the vanilla until fully combined.  Refrigerate while you work on the other steps.  In a heavy saucepan, heat 1 1/2 cups of the cream and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar until bubbles start to form around the edges of the pan.  Stir to dissolve the sugar.  While this is heating, combine the remaining cream and sugar, egg yolks, cinnamon, ginger, salt and nutmeg.  Whisk until smooth, evenly blended and the sugar begins to dissolve.

When the cream and sugar are heated, remove from the stove.  Whisk 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture until smooth.  Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the heated cream and stir constantly over medium heat.  Keep this custard at a low simmer for about 4-6 minutes until the mixture begins to coat the spoon or spatula.  At this point, strain the custard through a sieve into a bowl.  Fill a larger bowl with ice water and place the custard bowl in it, stirring to help it cool.  Whisk the pumpkin mixture into it until totally combined and smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap on the surface (to prevent a skin from forming on the custard) for at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours.  

Freeze in an ice cream maker according to its instructions. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, here is a way to make ice cream in your freezer.




  1. Anonymous

    November 12, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    I'm so glad you decided to make and write about pumpkin ice cream for your blog. I really wish I had a saucepan so I could make this, but all I have is a rice cooker and a microwave. Maybe you could write a recipe for me for anything that I could make in a rice cooker or the microwave. 🙂 Eat LOTS of that pumpkin ice cream for me! -Jamie

  2. El

    November 13, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Now I want to start my own ice cream night. Looks delicious… And how festive to make it with pumpkin!

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