Two weekends ago I spent the morning at the Cherry Creek Farmer’s Market. It was my first visit despite living here for eight years. I’ve driven by countless times and enjoyed looking at the multicolored portable tents with crowds of meandering shoppers. My sister was visiting from Ohio, so I felt it was time to stop in. It would give us an opportunity to spend quality time together.
It was the perfect sunny morning and parking was a breeze. The Market is held in the Cherry Creek Mall parking lot at the southeast corner of University and 1st Avenue. We had a full day planned: Cherry Creek Farmers Market (“top farmers market in Denver”), then off to the Denver Polo Classic, (“the nation’s largest charitable polo tournament”). I was excited to show my big Sis some of Denver’s best stuff.
There were plenty of fresh vegetables and potted plants to purchase, of course. But we were surprised to find purveyors of honey, bread, fresh yoghurt, wine, clothes, dried pasta, and a very large travelling biscuit van! We entered at the perfect point – at the wine booth. What a great way to start a shopping adventure. Three tastings and we were off. Just about every vendor offers a free tasting. So skip breakfast on Saturday mornings and head to the farmers market instead.
My favorite vendors for the day were:
- Two Mile Creek and their Habanero Hot Pepper Jelly made with whiskey infused apricots
- Cottonwood Creek Farms and their free range chicken (plan to visit them soon to do a video)
- Colorado Mountainview Lavender (“Colorado’s first commercial lavender farm”) and their lavender oil
We weren’t able to finish the circuit because our hands were full and I had a newly-acquired frozen chicken to get home as well as a polo match to get to.
The culinary inspiration of the day came from the lavender oil.
It’s hot. It’s summer. And it’s time for home-made ice cream. All you need is a small bottle of culinary lavender oil, a few fresh lavender blooms, basic dairy ingredients, and an inexpensive electric ice cream machine (available at Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table in the mall), and you can easily make your own. No salts or hand cranking needed.
Lavender and Walnut Ice Cream
An original TPP recipe — Makes 1 ½ quarts ice cream
Electric ice cream machine and one frozen tub (freeze the tub for at least 24 hours before using)
1 cup whipping cream
2 cups nonfat milk
1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved
6 egg yolks
1 cup super fine sugar
4 drops culinary lavender oil (www.coloradomountainviewlavender.com)
½ teaspoon freshly bloomed lavender flowerettes (no green parts)
1/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
In a two quart sauce pan, combine the cream, milk, vanilla pod, and the vanilla seeds. Bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, vigorously whisk the egg yolks and the sugar until thoroughly blended and pale in color.
When the cream comes to a boil, turn off the heat. Temper the eggs by ladling about a half cup of hot cream over the egg mixture. Quickly whisk the cream into the eggs. Repeat. Transfer the egg mixture into the sauce pan. Turn the heat to medium and constantly stir the custard until thickened. (A flat-edged, slotted wooden spoon works well.) The custard needs to be hot enough to cook the egg yolks without scrambling them. It’s best to cook just under the boiling point. The mixture will swell and become thick.
Use a wire mesh sieve to strain the custard into a mixing bowl. Stir in the lavender oil and the lavender flowerettes. Place the bowl over another bowl of ice and stir constantly to cool. For best results, the custard should be thoroughly chilled.
Pour the chilled custard into the frozen ice cream tub and churn about 20-30 minutes or per your manufacturer’s instructions. Add the nuts and mix until incorporated. Cover the ice cream with cling wrap and store in the freezer until firm.
- The ice cream will not set if the custard is not thoroughly chilled or the ice cream tub not thoroughly frozen. Both conditions must be met if you want success on the first try.
- Never boil a custard. A custard will curdle if over heated. If you see this happening, simply remove the pan from the heat and whisk vigorously to help cool things down. You can save the custard if you catch it soon it enough. Return to the heat and keep stirring.
- Over mixing may cause the custard to liquify again. So keep an eye on it. The frozen tubs usually become too warm after 30 minutes and your ice cream just begin to melt.