I discovered anise hyssop quite by accident last summer, when I picked up a small seedling of Blue Flame Hyssop at the local garden centre. I was lured by the promise that it would be tough enough to survive the combination of shade and neglect that is my garden, and its pale purple blooms.
A year later, my little seedling has grown into a sprawling metre-tall bush beside my front door.
For most of the summer, it cheerfully greets me each morning with a wave of its feathery spears of lavender-blue flowers, filling the air with the happy buzzing of the local bumblebees who can't resist its sweet smell.
Even then, it was only a couple of months ago that I realised exactly just how lucky I'd gotten with this little gem.
As I was snipping off a few sprigs of hyssop to use in the backdrop for a Blackberry-Verbena Soda, the air filled with a heady scent of black licorice. Immediately, a little voice in my head whispered "Something that smells THIS delicious has got to be edible, right?" (Because apparently my brain is always in search of new things to eat, even when I'm gardening)
Anise Hyssop: The Incredible, Edible Herb
A little research on the internet quickly confirmed my suspicions.
As it turns out, anise hyssop (or licorice mint, as it's sometimes called) is an indigenous North American plant that was appreciated by Native Americans as a breath freshener and medicinal herb.
It thrives in a variety of growing conditions, is a favourite with our friendly neighbourhood pollinators, and happily blooms from July through to the last frost.
But best of all, it's both the leaves and blossoms of the hyssop are completely edible, with a flavour that's best described as anise with a hint of mint, which means that hyssop can be used almost anywhere you'd use basil, mint or tarragon.
Giving Homemade Ice Cream an Herbal Spin
For this recipe, I've used hyssop leaves to infuse the milk for a blueberry ice cream that echoes the lavender-blue colour of the hyssop blossoms, adding a shot of bright green Pernod liqueur for an extra anise-scented boost.
It's a really lovely combination. In fact, the scent of the custard was so mouthwateringly licoricy that I found myself hovering over the ice cream maker with spoon in hand like an anxious bumblebee buzzing around a hyssop blossom, waiting for my first taste.
I'm not ashamed to admit that the bowl in these photos lasted all of two minutes after I finished taking my shots. It's seriously good stuff.
What to Do if You Can't Get Hyssop
Obviously, it would be silly of me to expect everyone to plant hyssop in their yard just to make this recipe (though I certainly wouldn't discourage it, either).
If you have an herbalist in your neighbourhood, you may be able to find some dried hyssop there.
And if not, you can also substitute another licorice-scented herb, like tarragon or Thai basil, for a slightly different flavour profile.
If you're interested in learning more about this under-appreciated herb, here are a couple of very informative posts over on Chow and Healthy Green Kitchen.
Blueberry-Hyssop Ice Cream
- Total Time: 3 hours 40 mins
- Yield: 10 1x
This brilliantly purple ice cream pairs fresh blueberries with anise hyssop, a native North American herb that has pale purple blossoms and a sweet licorice flavour. If you can't find hyssop, substitute any other licorice-scented herb, such as Thai basil or tarragon.
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup roughly chopped anise hyssop leaves
- 2 ½ cups fresh blueberries, washed and picked over
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¾ cup sugar
- 6 egg yolks
- 2 tbsp anise liqueur, such as Pernod
- In a small saucepan, bring milk to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Add the hyssop leaves, then cover and let steep for about 30-45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the blueberries and lemon juice in a second saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the blueberries begin to burst and release their juices. Puree with an immersion blender, then set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Once the milk is sufficiently infused, strain out the hyssop leaves and discard. Stir in cream, and bring to a simmer again over medium-high heat.
- Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar. Ladle in a small amount of the warm milk mixture, whisking vigorously to keep the eggs from curdling. Slowly pour in the remainder of the warm milk, one or two ladlefuls at a time, whisking constantly as you go.
- Once all the milk has been incorporated into the eggs, pour mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spatula (a silicone spatula is your best friend when it comes to custard-making - if you don't have one, get one. It's worth it). Remove from heat.
- Pour the blueberry puree through a sieve into a clean bowl, pressing on solids with back of a spoon. Stir in the custard and Pernod, then cover with plastic wrap. Chill custard in refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours to ensure it's thoroughly chilled before pouring into your ice cream maker and freezing as per manufacturer's instructions.
- Prep Time: 3 hours 30 mins
- Cook Time: 10 mins
- Category: Dessert
Most blueberry ice cream require the fruit and juice, but this recipe says to press the pulp into a sieve. Then what? Please explain and thank you so much for the creative, colorful rendition!
Isabelle Boucher says
Good question, Betty! In this case, you're only going to stir the blueberry juice into the custard, so that it gets all the flavour and colour of the blueberries without any noticeable chunks that would take away from the creamy texture.
Once you've pressed out all the juice, you can either discard the solids or save them to stir into yogurt or oatmeal for a nice breakfast treat. Hope that helps!
This post was not only informative it was luring me to continue reading how your new discovery brought you such joy.
The mouthwatering color and texture of this ice-cream is screaming to be elegantly spooned ;o)
denise @ quickies on the dinner table says
This is the most sophisticated ice cream flavour I've ever come across. The only thing I associate with hyssop is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ - never imagined it had culinary uses, though I think this is probably a different variety of hyssop?
The colour is unbelievable! I am so intrigued now about how it would taste..
dining tables says
Blueberry-Hyssop Ice Cream is the best ice cream flavor I ever taste. It is so yummy. I still can't forget the sweet taste of it and there is something so different of that ice cream that I can't explain.
Samantha @ The Savvy Soybean says
This looks fantastic. I love playing with flavors of ice cream, and look at that color! Gorgeous.
Fabulous! I did not see this before but will go update my anise hyssop post to include this link.
Thanks for the tweet to let me know about you lovely blog!
Spicie Foodie says
Congratulations on the Foodbuzz top 9! The photograph is just beautiful, such colors and it sounds delicious.
The color is over the top. So beautiful. Absolutely sublime ~~~~~
Pacheco Patty says
Beautiful ice cream and lovely photograph, congratulations on Foodbuzz top 9!
The Cilantropist says
Sounds like I definitely need to give hyssop a try, and it also seems like we were thinking alike this week. I posted ice cream infused with sage, and you infused with hyssop! ;) Lovely recipe, and I am dying for that beautiful blue color. Congrats on Foodbuzz top 9!
Tonya @ What's On My Plate says
Gorgeous ice cream and such a unique combination!
Congrats for the TOP 9! Those two ingredients are my favourite!
Magic of Spice says
Wow, I am in love with this ice cream...and the anise hyssop is such a fabulous herb! Beautiful use here :)
This ice-cream looks so good.
So unusual yet so intriguing!
Savannah, Acts of Sweetness Ambassador says
This ice cream is beautiful. It has such amazing, rich colour. I just tried making vanilla ice cream the other day (without a machine!) and I was so happy with how it turned out. I'll definitely have to try this recipe.
If you ever feel like sharing this post (or any others!) with our online baking community please do! You can visit us at: https://www.facebook.com/redpathsugar?ref=ts
We're always looking for interesting and new recipes to share (and photos, too!) .
We're also running a pretty awesome contest to win tickets to see the Cake Boss' Buddy Valastro live in Toronto! You can check it out on our facebook page that I've linked to above
looks delicious lovely colour
Chef Dennis says
this is a definite wow!!!!! your ice cream looks so very very good, and adding that gorgeous little flower was a stroke of genius! who knew it would be edible or tasty!! I need to get an ice cream maker, this just looks heavenly!
Phew... glad to hear I wasn't the only one who didn't know about hyssop before this. :) So glad I was able to share my discovery with you all!
Diva, do let me know how it turns out if you try it with basil. I haven't tested it out personally, but the other basil-based ice creams I've made in the past were unspeakably delicious.
Wow, hyssop. I've never even seen it...but the colour of your ice cream just grabbed me right out of my morning coffee hypnosis. Beautiful! and I imagine if the hyssop is anise flavoured that this cream tastes absolutely fantastic!
What a great color of Ice cream! It is fabulous and I am sure it tastes as great as it looks!
I love the flavor of Pernod, until now, I've only added it to seafood dishes, but I think it's going to make a visit to my ice cream maker once I find the hyssop! P.S. - I absolutely love the color of that ice cream!
Subterfuge Diva says
Hyssop sounds almost mystical to me, but I love what you did with it in this ice cream. Even the purple hue is mysteriously lovely! I might try this recipe with Thai basil, which we've got absolutely LOADS of in our garden. Thanks for sharing this!
Brie: Le Grand Fromage says
aww, i haven't seen hyssop in quite some time. yours looks beautiful. i love the way you've infused the ice cream and wish i could be enjoying a bowl right now with your lovely description. it looks amazing.
Wow, i've never herad of hssop before but this ice cream looks really lovely. I'd love to try some!
So creative! I've never heard of hyssop before, but I tend to sort of exist in my lil box of comfortable foods. You're definitely tempting me to step out of it here...this ice cream looks delicious!
penny aka jeroxie says
What a lovely colour! and I am intrigued with this hyssop leaves? Must explore.
Yayyyy, you posted the hyssop one first! Thanks for all the information about hyssop and I am quite intrigued by it. Gorgeous ice cream, simple and lovely. I'm sure the Pernod compliments the hyssop quite nicely. Yet, another reason why I NEED an ice cream maker!