Brian Shaw: Pumpkin ice cream recipe packed with fall flavor

Pumpkin ice cream.

Pumpkin ice cream.

What do San Francisco’s Chinatown, Honolulu’s Kalakaua Street and New York’s Union Terminal have in common with Virginia City’s C Street?

All were recognized as “Great Places in America” by the American Planning Association.

When I saw this, I don’t know which was more surprising — that we were mentioned in such distinguished company, or that an association even exists that is devoted to this sort of thing. Either way, we’ll take it.

According to the APA’s website, these places “represent the gold standard in terms of having a true sense of place, culture and historical interest” as well as “resilience and noteworthy character.”

Resilience certainly applies to Virginia City, as it has weathered the booms and busts of the mining industry, tourism and the economy over the past 150 years.

And if it’s character you’re looking for, you should see Virginia City on Halloween.

Once again, VC will be a ghost town for Halloween night. According to paranormal experts, complete with real ghosts.

There will be a parade, of course, along with witches’ trains and ghost walks at St. Mary’s, the Washoe Club and the Silver Queen. The cemetery will be open for visitors, and the Fourth Ward School is having self-guided candlelit tours with readings from the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Best of all is trick-or-treating at the downtown shops. Go to for details.

Given that everywhere you look this time of year you are surrounded by pumpkins, we thought we’d put some to work in this pumpkin pie ice cream.

Essentially, this is the same recipe we use for the cinnamon ice cream at the restaurant, with the addition of a few more spices and a can of pure pumpkin. Same for the caramel except we’ve added a little bourbon.

A couple of points of caution. When cooking the custard, don’t let it boil. If you get nervous or unsure at this point, it is better to undercook than overcook. And when you add the bourbon, make sure the caramel isn’t too hot, or you will cause the alcohol to cook out. You want it to have that little burn.

Food & Wine had a recipe this month in which it used some melted ice cream plus a few eggs to make a bread pudding. If you add four eggs and another half-cup of sugar to our recipe, you can make a pretty decent pumpkin bread pudding.

So if you don’t have the money to hop over to Honolulu or the time to travel to New York, you can still be in the same distinguished company by visiting Virginia City. Happy Halloween.


Makes about a half-gallon

1 pint whole milk

1 pint heavy cream

1 15-oz can pure pumpkin

1 t cinnamon

1 t ground ginger

½ t ground nutmeg

¼ t ground cloves

½ t salt

10 egg yolks

1 cup packed brown sugar

½ cup sugar

1 t vanilla

In a small sauce pan, bring the milk, cream, pumpkin and spices to a simmer, then turn off the heat. Place the yolks and both sugars in a mixing bowl and beat until thick and pale.

Temper the egg yolks by adding about a half-cup of the hot mixture to the yolks while stirring constantly. Continue adding the hot milk a half-cup at a time, stirring, until about half of the milk has been incorporated. Pour this back into the sauce pan with the remaining milk, turn on medium heat and heat the custard, stirring slowly with a non-metallic spoon , until it begins to thicken. It should coat the back of your spoon. Strain it into a clean non-porous (not plastic) container. Refrigerate overnight.

Place in an ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.


1½ cups sugar

½ cup water

1 cup heavy cream

2 T bourbon

Big pinch of sea salt

In a small, heavy-bottom sauce pan, combine the sugar and water over high heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Once it’s clear, stop stirring and cook undisturbed over high heat until the syrup starts to turn an amber color. While the syrup is cooking, use a pastry brush dipped in a little water to brush any sugar crystals that collect on the sides of your pan back down into the syrup.

Once your syrup has started to turn amber, you can stir it gently to pull the caramelized sugar into the syrup until all of the syrup is amber. At this point, start adding the cream by small amounts — an ounce or so — while stirring constantly. Continue stirring and cooking until the caramel is smooth. Remove from heat, allow to cool somewhat, then stir in the bourbon and salt.

Plan B: Heat a jar of store-bought caramel sauce in a pot of warm water, then add the bourbon.

For garnishing, a little whipped cream is practically essential, and a little shard of baked pie crust dusted with cinnamon and coarse sugar completes the “pumpkin pie” theme.

Brian Shaw and his wife, Ardie, own Cafe Del Rio in Virginia City.


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