Verma was our live-in house help for all our childhood and probably for all my teenage life. My mother would tell us that he came to live with us when I was 6 months old and was there until I left for college. We would call him Ganga. Ganga is a part of many of mine and my brother's childhood memories. One of them definitely has to be him picking up a tall stainless steel flask every evening. He would take out his bicycle (or bike as you may call) that my Papa bought for him, would have my brother sit in front, me in the back on top of the carrier and all of us would ride up to the local dairy a couple kilometers from our place. He would hold both of our hands, patiently answering all our stupid questions while waiting in line for our turn. Sometimes the guy who owned that dairy and other times times his wife would milk the cows in front of us. We would get a liter or two, as mummy would have directed Ganga to do and then head back home. We come back home and very soon two glasses of steaming hot milk mixed with a little sugar would be in front of us two. My brother was a milk lover and he would finish his share up in a single breath, me, not so much! "Drink it bhaiya, its good for you", Ganga would say. Not convincing enough for me. "If you do I might let you ride my bicycle", he would promise. And I would hold my breath and take biggest gulps as I could and finish the milk.
I just never liked the smell of that milk. The smell of warm, organic cream topped milk. Fresh milk from grass fed cows living free out in the farm. That was almost as good as it can get. Now I wish I wouldn't have held my breath back then and would have appreciated what I had, because today when I go out looking for milk for my daughter I search for that aroma.Then after looking for it for six years here in the US, some 6 months back I finally found a milk which smelled and tasted if not the same, but very close to that milk.
I discovered Straus milk at one of my local grocer's. I ended up buying Straus milk that day because the store had run out of the brand that I would usually buy. In the whole dairy section that milk stood out because it was in glass bottles. I thought of giving it a try mostly because I did not want to drive around looking for my usual brand and I have to say that after that I never went back to my "usual" brand again. Straus Family Creamery is a family owned organic dairy farm located in the north of San Francisco. I did a fair share of research on the company and their believes and practices made me trust them and their product. I will not lecture you on what they are and who they are (you can learn so by visiting their website) but if you do believe in organic and sustainable practices then you might want to check them out.
Recently people at Straus found out about my love for their products and asked if I would be willing to develop or share some recipes for them. I happily agreed! I found this as a great opportunity to pull out the ice cream maker that sadly sat in my storage throughout summer and thought of trying this recipe for ice cream... Gulkand (rose petal jam) ice cream.
Rose petal jam or gulkand is a sweet preserve that I believe originated from Pakistan and is very popular in North of India. Wild rose petals are layered with sugar and placed in air tight containers and left in sunlight for a few weeks, being stirred after every few days until it turns into a thick and chunky jam like preserve. Its used for many Ayurvedic purposes but very commonly used as a mouth freshener wrapped in paan (betel leaf). I stirred it into an ice cream and a magic happened! It turned into one of the most addictive ice creams I have ever eaten. I taste tested it with a couple blogger friends of mine as well and I
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons gulkand (rose petal jam)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp rose water (optional)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds
Heat milk and cream in a saucepan for a few minutes just below the boiling point. Set aside.
Whisk together egg yolks, sugar and vanilla extract until its smooth.
Now whisk in the mixture into the mixture of milk and cream stirring continuously so that the eggs don't scramble.
Turn the heat to low and keep whisking until the mixture thickens.
Turn off the heat and whisk in gulkand and rose water if using. Let it sit for 15- 20 minutes and then transfer it into the refrigerator until it cools completely.
After a couple hours pour the mixture into an ice cream maker (if using) and follow the instructions of the manufacturer. Add almonds close to the last 5 minutes when ice cream is almost done.
If you do not have an ice cream maker pour the batter into a flat 2-3 inches tall dish. Freeze the mixture in your freezer. Keep an eye and after a few hours just before the ice cream is hard, take it out, blend it in your blender and freezer again. Repeat the process again and this time mix almonds before freezing. This process might be a little longer than using an ice cream maker but results are very much the same.