Today my colleague and fellow Stuyvesant HS alum, noted food writer Melissa Clark of the New York Times posted a Facebook query about thickening ice cream sans eggs. To achieve this, normally, I use a traditional gelatin like Knox brand for the purpose. It’s something I do when I don’t want the yolk flavor to dominate a more delicate profile like that of coconut.
But today Melissa’s query made me think.
In Trinidad–and Jamaica, Montesserat and Barbados for that matter–islands with a colonial history of Irish indentureship we have something called Sea Moss drink. It’s made using carrageen, or Irish Moss. In Ireland, a milk pudding called Carrageen Pudding is made with the stuff. The seaweed is dried and tossed into the scalding milk and sugar that is the first step to making the dessert. The moss contains a gelatin akin to agar agar, and when the milk mixture is cooled it becomes firms.
When I met the inimitable Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House a few years ago, she served me this treat, made from carrageen that she had gathered from the County Cork shores near her home and then dried herself. Later it occurred to met hat Sea Moss Drink, like our Christmas Black Cake, were the last remnants of the Irish influence on Caribbean culture.
So, today I decided to mash the two recipes together and give Coconut Ice Cream a go, using Irish Sea Moss or Carrageen as the thickener.
It worked just fine.
Coconut Ice Cream (Thickened with Carrageen)
4 ounces Irish Sea Moss (Carrageen) or 1 envelope unlfavored Knox gelatin
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon mixed essence or vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
Sweetened shredded coconut flakes, for garnish
- If using gelatin, Sprinkle the gelatin over the whole milk and set aside to dissolve.
- If using sea moss, place it with the cream and coconut milk in a saucepan along with the sugar. Mix well and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to stir until the sugar is totally dissolved.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the shredded coconut,, mixed essence and coconut essence. Add the gelatin mixture (if using Knox brand) and mix until totally dissolved.
- Allow the mixture to cool completely in the refrigerator, remove the carrageen stems, if using, then pour into an ice cream maker. Freeze, following the manufacturer’s directions.
- Pack ice cream into 2 quart containers and freeze overnight until solid. Serve garnished with coconut flakes, if desired.
4 10 ounce servings
To me, what’s most interesting about Sea Moss or Irish Moss drink is that it seems to be one of the few remaining connections to the Irish indentured laborers that were prevalent on Trinidad, Jamaica, Montserrat, and other English colonies in the Caribbean. On a trip to Ireland, I tasted Carrageen Pudding. made from milk, sugar, and thickened with dried Irish Sea moss. From the first spoonful, I noticed the resemblance to Sea Moss drink that is version of the same pudding using evaporated versus fresh milk with a shake-like consistency. Both the pudding and the drink is something of an acquired taste and is thought to be a constitution fortifier in both lands.
2 ounces dried sea moss (available in Caribbean markets)
Juice of 1/2 lime
4 cups evaporated milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons Angostura Bitters
1. Place the sea moss in a bowl with the lime juice and 1/2 cup of water. Allow to soak overnight.
2. Drain, place in a saucepan with 2 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the sea moss looks like a wad of jelly. Remove the pan from the heat and cool.
3. Place the sea moss mixture in a blender with the evaporated milk and sugar. Puree for 1 minute, or until smooth. Add the bitters and serve over crushed ice.