I don’t think it qualifies as a normal Filipino childhood if you have never eaten any so-called “dirty ice cream”, more fondly called sorbetes, as a kid. This kind of ice cream is sold on the streets in these colourful ice cream carts that are pushed around by foot all over the city by sorbeteros. The carts roam the streets all day long (or until ice cream supplies last, I guess) but they normally hang around schools or parks, places children frequent. Every afternoon, as the bell signalling the end of the school day rings, students pour out of the school gates and are met with another kind of ringing outside. A line of Mamang Sorbeteros will be lined up on the curb with their carts and brown and pink ice cream cones.
Typically, the carts have three deep tunnel-like compartments which contain three different flavours to choose from. Usually there’s chocolate, strawberry, avocado, ube, and my favourite, queso (cheese)!
Saying queso ice cream is my favourite Filipino ice cream flavour is quite a proclamation, considering I don’t even like or eat cheese at all if I can help it. Guess there are some things that are just too good not to let fall through the cracks.
I wonder if the term “dirty ice cream” comes from the fact that this kind of ice cream is dirt cheap. When I was a kid, I would get 3 scoops of ice cream on a sugar cone for 5-pesos, and then double that amount in a plastic cup for double the price too. These days sorbetes on cones sell for 10-pesos, and the ones in cups sell for 15-pesos. Still pretty cheap considering commercial ice creams in bars or cones sell for at least Php 20 each.
When I was a kid, I ate it all the time– In a cone, in a cup, as a sandwich, you name it! It was like an after-school reward. In high school, some vendors would sell through my school’s barred windows in one of the locker rooms overlooking the outside, and as much as all the kids know it would get us in trouble if a teacher ever saw us, we reach through the bars and buy ourselves ice cream during recess all the time. So even when I went off to university, every time I hear the tinkling bell and see a colourful ice cream cart pass by, I get a hankering for it.
I must admit it’s been a while since I’ve eaten sorbetes. Luckily, I now know how to make ice cream and can replicate any flavour the sorbetero ever sold- with even better quality, I might add.
So obviously I gunned for my favourite flavour.
Now you have to be careful with this recipe and use only mild cheddar cheese, especially if you want to add whole bits of cheese into the ice cream after churning. I had used regular cheddar sold in the supermarket- as in the sort sold in bars and sprinkled on Filipino-style spaghetti- and I have to tell you it’s just too strong.
It’s great for sandwiching between bread because the bread tames the salty flavour of the cheddar somewhat, but if you’re planning on eating it as ice cream alone, it will be difficult to eat over a scoop. The cheese flavour will be overwhelming, and if like me you don’t like cheese in the first place, you probably will end up not enjoying it much. So remember, go with mild cheddar and everything should be perfect! If you don’t like cheddar, you can go with the original recipe and use goat cheese instead.
Queso Ice Cream (Cheddar Cheese Ice Cream)
makes 750 mL
- 1 1/2 cups 375 mL whole milk
- 2/3 cup 130 grams sugar
- 8 ounces 230 grams mild cheddar cheese
- 6 large egg yolks
- Before beginning the recipe, remember to chill your ice cream maker's bowl as per manufacturer's instructions.
- 1. Warm the milk and sugar in a medium saucepan. While the milk is warming, grate 6 ounces (about 170 grams) of the cheddar cheese into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. Prepare an ice bath.
- 2. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks. Scrape the warmed egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan.
- 3. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spatula. It should be thick enough that your finger leaves a definite trail through the coating on the spatula that does not flow back together. Do not let custard boil.
- 4. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cheddar cheese. Keep stirring until the cheese is melted. Transfer the bowl to an ice bath and stir mixture until cool. Slice the rest of the cheddar cheese into small cubes and refrigerate as well.
- 5. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Scatter the cheddar cheese cubes within the ice cream as you remove it from the ice cream maker. Chill in the freezer for at least 4 hours before eating. Serve with homemade pan de sal.
Oh the childhood memories ice cream pan de sals bring back…
This is one of the very few cheese-flavoured food I truly love, and coincidentally, another is the cheese pan de sal! I’ll be looking for a recipe to make those soon, but for now, I hope my Filipino readers who share the same kind of memories with me will find good use for this recipe. 🙂