Dallas County Master Gardeners said farewell to summer with an outside dessert buffet at our monthly meeting, Thursday, September 27th. Beautiful weather that morning teased us into believing that fall was only a whisper away.
Earlier in the summer we harvested gallons of blackberries from the vines in our north garden. Mid-summer peaches were purchased from local growers. Carefully packaged, our bountiful berries and fruits were sent to the freezer for a brief storage. And then, the cooking began.
Our dessert buffet featured some long-standing favorites:
*Old-Fashioned Blackberry Cobbler
*Old Fashioned Peach Cobbler
*Fresh Peach Pound Cake
*Blackberry Pie Bars
*Fresh Peach Drop Cookies
It was the surprise dessert, however, that took center stage…Lemon Verbena Ice Cream. If you already know about Lemon Verbena but aren’t growing it, now’s the time to reconsider. This ice cream was a real crowd pleaser based on some of the comments we heard as each spoonful was savored by our members:
“Lemony goodness is filling my senses. I want more.”
“Those tiny, little bits of candied lemon rind are popping in my mouth. So refreshing.”
“Creamy texture, divine flavor…please make this again.”
Lemon Verbena Ice Cream
1 cup milk
1 cup fresh lemon verbena leaves
1 ¾ cups heavy cream
¾ cup sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
5 egg yolks
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
*¼ cup chopped candied lemon zest
In a saucepan set over moderate heat bring the milk just to a simmer. Gently crush the lemon verbena leaves in a bowl and add the hot milk. Cover and let steep until milk is cool.
Strain the milk through a sieve into a saucepan, pressing hard on the leaves to extract all flavor. Add the cream, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, stir once, and remove pan from the heat.
In a bowl whisk the egg yolks, add half of the hot cream mixture, whisking, and pour the egg mixture back into the remaining hot liquid. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until mixture coats the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil. Stir in the lemon juice and candied zest.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl, let cool, and chill, covered with plastic, until cold.
Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.
Yield: about 1 quart
*Candied Lemon Zest
4 lemons, well scrubbed
2 cups sugar
1 cup cool water
Remove zest from lemons with a vegetable peeler, keeping pieces long. Remove white pith using a paring knife. Cut into a fine julienne using a very sharp knife. Place julienned zest in a small bowl; cover with boiling water. Let stand 30 minutes; drain.
Bring sugar and the cool water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When sugar is completely dissolved, add julienned zest, reduce heat to medium low, and cook 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand overnight. Drain before using.
Yield: 8 servings
Here’s some information about a well-loved herb, lemon verbena:
Lemon Verbena, Aloysia triphylla syn. Lippia citriodora, is a member of the Verbenaceae family. It is a shrub-like herb with woody stems and bright green, rough-textured pointed leaves, from 1-3 inches long. Leaves grow in whorls of 3 to 4 with an intense lemon scent.
The bush generally grows around 3-6 feet tall. Plant in full sun in good garden soil. Give it plenty of room to ramble off in different directions or trim slightly, if desired. Either way, you will have an abundance of leaves to use starting in early spring and continuing into fall. In winter lemon verbena will lose its leaves.
Once springtime arrives, you’ll notice tiny little leaves popping out up and down the stems. Your lemon verbena has come out of its dormant stage and it is ready to welcome the new season. This might be a good time to give it a shapelier look.
Enjoy its crisp, clean lemon taste as a substitute in any recipe calling for lemons. Use its fresh leaves chopped up in cakes, cookies and glazes. Drop a sprig or two in your tea and relax with a delightfully lemon-scented herb that should be in everyone’s garden.
The next Dallas County Master Gardener meeting will be October 25 at Walnut Hill United Methodist Church and don’t forget our fall garden tour on October 13th. Tickets can be purchased ahead online for $15 or for $20 on the day of the tour at any of the garden locations. More information here.
All members of the public are invited to both events!