Homemade Semi-Gelato with Summer Fruit: Only Slightly Cheesy

 Kentucky peaches glisten after skinning

Kentucky peaches glisten after skinning

I scalded these Blazing Star peaches from Boyd Orchards in Versailles, Kentucky, for 40 seconds in boiling water, plunged them into ice water, and skinned them, surprised to see their striking exterior blushes start right in the peach flesh. These fresh beauties are now ready for use in homemade semi-gelato, as described below.

I admit to lusting in my heart for certain kitchen tools, for a certain kind of naturally lit kitchen workspace, for certain kitchen experiences. For a time after I first tasted gelato (pear, at Quincy Market, Boston, Massachusetts, August, 1985), I wanted whatever it took to make gelato myself. At the time, that would have meant moving to Italy, given the unavailability of home gelato equipment. Even for the chilliest, best feeling, best tasting, most intense expression of PEAR imaginable, I was not ready to leave Kentucky.

Gradually home versions of gelato machines have become available. Although prices are drifting down, so far the reliable machines, according to user reviews, still cost several hundred dollars - more than I want to invest in a bulky single use tool.**

Gelato has not had much presence in Kentucky, but recently 6 Friends Café (Facebook page) opened across from Woodland Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Lovely front porch with swing, nice view of the Park - a good addition to the Woodland area - and a place to go for gelato (albeit not locally made). On recent afternoons, as Lexington has been run under the weather broiler, the 6 Friends case of gelati and sorbets sometimes suggests itself to me like an oasis, a little mirage of cooling, smooth textures and tastes. When the mirage begins shimmering in front of me, a peach gelato in the Café's front porch swing sounds like the most sensible next step.

So this leads back to my usual question: Is gelato something I can make myself with no special equipment, meaning I could save money, share with others, and select the flavors and ingredients I like best? Apparently smart cooks -- or these may actually be chefs -- have been working on ways to come close to gelato using only a typical ice cream maker, not the expensive, compressor-driven gelato processors.

Seattle Times writer Melissa Kronenthal recently wrote about English cookbook writer Liz Franklin's formula for mimicking gelato by adding mascarpone cheese and milk to a fruit base, and then freezing in a regular home ice cream maker. The idea is to use ingredients to produce the silky texture of gelato, while keeping the intense main flavors, so the high-end gelato machine becomes unnecessary. One key is the mascarpone cheese; another is the correct proportions of mascarpone, milk, sugar, and fruit.

The formula, roughly, is this:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup mascarpone
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 pounds (more or less) perfectly ripe fruit
  • Additional flavors as needed (such as lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, vanilla)

Readers who have shopped for mascarpone know well that it is both hard to find and hard to afford. Which leads to the perpetual question: Can I make this (mascarpone) myself, too? Yes. Use cream that is NOT ultra-high-pastuerized. See here, and here, and here.

I made mascarpone, and then I followed the Liz Franklin formula, using ripe Kentucky peaches and the juice of one large lemon. Result: delicious, smooth, sleek, but not gelato. I think of it is a kind of Semi-Gelato/Semi-Ice Cream. Worth eating, for sure, particularly just after freezing, when it's the freshest, thickest soft serve you have ever tasted.

Eat immediately, because the Semi-Gelato formula lacks the fat that makes recipes like Simple Vanilla Ice Cream freeze so beautifully. Freezing turns Semi-Gelato into Complete Brick.

Do you know what this means? When you try Semi-Gelato, round up enough friends to eat the whole batch just after freezing. This should be easy. Invite your friends for a lower-fat-than-ice-cream, gluten-free, egg-free, flavor-intensive dessert. If you can't round up enough friends - time to get out in the world and make new ones.

** For people who love even more detail, here is more about the two barriers: money and space.

Money: A friend who is an energetic, expert yard sale maven proved -- twice -- that cost can be taken off the barrier list if one is energetic and lucky enough to discover brand new gelato machines at a yard sale for $10 each. I shamelessly asked this successful Yard Sale Early Bird to put my name his long list of people who want him to keep repeating his $10 gelato machine discovery a third, fourth, fifth time. Even so, even if my name comes up and I scrape together the $10, I will face another barrier: Space. We would struggle to fit a gelato machine, with its essential built-in compressor, into our kitchen.

Space: Eight years ago, after a major kitchen cleaning, we sorted out any unused tools and found the best place for each remaining tool, dish, or piece of equipment. It was as if the kitchen gave a great sigh of relief. Cooking there became calmer, more satisfying. We made a rule: Nothing new unless something goes out and leaves a clear space. I'm afraid to think about the number of tools that would start their trip to Good Will if a gelato maker comes into the house. On the other hand -- these machines reportedly chill wine in a hurry. That means they are no longer single use machines, technically speaking. Hmmmm.

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The world is coming to visit central Kentucky this year for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. To help our visitors know more about Kentucky's food and food ways, Savoring Kentucky is rolling out 116 Savory Kentucky Bites, one for each of the 100 days before WEG begins, and 16 for the days during WEG, September 25 - October 10. Today's Savory Bite is number 49.