I came home from the farmer's market last week with a bag of peppermint and no idea what to do with it. Yes, I am the world's most boring impulse shopper. But then I looked around the garden and realized I probably didn't even need to buy it in the first place, as I have boatloads of spearmint and chocolate mint just waiting to be harvested. Then, I realized I hadn't made ice cream in, like, 48 hours - forever! - and was looking for a new flavor to try out.
I consulted several recipes online and in my cookbooks, and ended up taking the easiest and most impactful bits from two. The recipe is mainly from my Williams-Sonoma cookbook (including a fantastic tip for creating those little shards of chocolate), but the notes and general approach are from David Lebovitz's recipe (including, for example, the significantly longer steeping time).
Mint flavor from steeped leaves (as opposed to extract) is a whole different animal. Less medicinal and toothpaste-y, more herbal and soft. Subtle, but still cooling. It took a minute to get used to, actually, but from now on I think I'll be taken aback by the sharpness of extract-based versions. And I was pleasantly surprised at the light pistachio color that the cream took on after being infused with the leaves. Just like "real" mint ice cream!
And, even though I used three kinds of mint (and two kinds of chocolate, actually - bits of milk and dark varieties I just already had), this is a recipe that's totally flexible and open to tweaking. I wondered what lemon balm or orange mint ice cream might taste like (minus the chocolate) - or even what a handful of basil would've done to finished product. (I say that, as I now have a giant bag of purple basil from the mid-week market sitting on my counter...)