Sunday, May 4, 2014

Dairy-Free Maple Pecan Ice Cream

She:kon, sewakwe:kon! Wakatshenonni tsi wakatakarite tahnon i:kes nonwa wehniserate. Tahnon wakatshenonni tsi sewennanotha oh nahoten khyatons kentho. Akwah iken tsi kenonwes kekhonnis tahnon khyatons. Nonwa wehniserate, kekhonnis i:se Maple Pecan Ice Cream" skatne ya dairy. Niawenkowa tsi sewennanotha!

Translation (I think!): Greetings, everyone! I am happy that I am healthy and here today. And I am happy that you read what I write here. I really like cooking and writing a whole heck of a lot. Today, I make for you "Maple Pecan Ice Cream" with no dairy. Thank you so much for reading!

As you can see, I have started Kanienkeha (Mohawk) language immersion class. I've survived a month of instruction so far, and one exam, but I assure you it has not been easy! I have been wrong so many times and had my moments of frustration, but with it have developed an even more profound respect for Native language and language learners. I feel extremely humbled by the experience and am so fortunate to have the opportunity to learn with some really amazing friends and instructors. I'm looking forward to continuing on and building this vocabulary, meeting new people, and finding new ways to speak and use what I'm learning in my thinking and writing. I'm so very grateful and fortunate. It is good.

So this is why I haven't been around much, if you've noticed. Also, earlier in April, I mentioned we had our annual Storytellers Conference at UB and that I would be presenting on my experiences and research with Native diet and food. The conference was such a great time as we were lucky to have Taiaiake Alfred as our keynote speaker this year. We had so many interesting sessions to go to, new people to meet, Mohawk Beatles songs to sing together, and a meaningful sharing of experiences and dialogue about our work. My own presentation took a lot of courage as I talked about some of my background, which wasn't easy, and what has shaped my research interests and writing. I hope to develop this more into an essay here another time. The presentation and conference involvement helped affirm to myself that I am on the right path right now in doing what I am doing.

And now, the inspiration for this new recipe blog post -- maple season! Now I'm a bit behind in my writing, but back in March I had the opportunity to join the Seneca Nation cultural program to learn about their maple-tapping process and operations. While it was too cold that day to actual do any tapping or collecting, we got a good presentation on how it is done. It turns out there is a lot of work involved to get that little glass container of precious brown springtime gold! From tapping to collecting buckets of sap to cutting firewood to boiling it down in evaporators and calibrated equipment and filtering, I was tired just from listening! 2014 was a good season from what I hear since our consistently cool weather allowed for the trees to warm up and run, then cool down again. We even got to sample some of the batch they had just made and it was the purest maple syrup I had ever tasted! Thanks to Robbie and Jordan, and Penny, for having me join you all! Some travel plans kept me from full participation this year, but maybe next year I can get more involved and report my experiences here.

From the top left, clockwise: the "Sugar Shack" at the Cattaraugus Community Center; Firewood; Equipment;
Calibration Tool; Final Product. 
You might wonder how it is that a diabetic gets so excited over maple syrup since it's seen as a "no-no" food. I generally try to avoid most forms of sugar from my diet, but I make exceptions for maple syrup and honey since they are technically Native foods. I simply try to have them in moderation and/or try to increase my activity level around the consumption. I remember as a child having the opportunity to collect the buckets of sap in the forest around school and we would watch them boil it down over the fire. I'm grateful for that sense of pride instilled in me for producing something created by the earth, giving thanks for it, and working hard in the process. Every spring I think of the maples with this fondness and knowledge that the earth will be fully awakening soon after a long winter.

Thank you to the maples (you might remember these naughty trees here too) for this next gluten free and vegan recipe. I have made this several times now and most batches have been problem free. I'm no ice cream connoisseur so I researched several paleo ice cream recipes first and came across this basic Homemade Coconut Milk Ice Cream by "Mama's Weeds" blog website. I adapted mine based on this recipe. Listen to her advice though about coconut milk as she knows her stuff about the trial and error of it. Be mindful about your coconut milk's graininess and thickness and work accordingly. You could try it without an ice cream maker, maybe alternating between freezing and stirring, but I can't guarantee this will work. I will also warn you to only stick to making the portion below as I tried to double it and it turned out to be a mushy disaster!

Printable Directions

What You'll Need:
2 Cans of Refrigerated Full-Fat Coconut Milk (Refrigerate at least 24 hours in advance)
1/4 Cup of Coconut Sugar
2 Tablespoons of Maple Syrup
1/3 Cup of Chopped Pecans or Walnuts
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon of Sea Salt

1. Make sure your ice cream maker canister has been frozen for at least 24 hours prior to making this recipe. Do not remove from freezer until ready to pour. Also, refrigerate your coconut milk cans for the same amount of time.
2. Turn your coconut milk cans upside down and open them. The liquid should remain at the top while the fat sits at the bottom. Drain the liquid into a separate container and save for another purpose (smoothie or another recipe?). Scoop the creamy, thick fat stuff into your mixing bowl.

3. Stir in the coconut sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt. Let it sit for a few moments to allow the coconut sugar to dissolve, then mix well with a mixer. Stir in your choice of nuts. If it seems too thick, you might add some of the coconut liquid to thin it out.

4. Quickly prep your ice cream maker and pour the mixed contents into the frozen canister. Follow according to your machine's instructions, or churn for 10-15 minutes until thick and custard-like. Serve immediately, or freeze in an airtight container for about an hour. If you freeze any longer, it begins to turn ice-crystal-like and doesn't look pretty, but it might make a good smoothie later blended with a banana. This recipe made about 2 cups of ice cream, four 1/2 cup servings. Mmm... yahwehko! :)

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