Choose large, plump, smooth, dark fruits – the darker the cherry, the sweeter the flavor. Avoid cherries that are rock hard; once picked, cherries do not ripen further.
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups fresh Bing cherries, stemmed, pitted and halved
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, 3/4 cup of the sugar and the cherries. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and let the cherries steep for 30 minutes. Drain the cherries and discard the syrup or reserve for another use. Transfer the cherries to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.
In a food processor, process the cream cheese until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, cream and the remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, until bubbles form around the edges of the pan, about 5 minutes.
Add about 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture to the cream cheese and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the remaining milk mixture and process for 30 seconds more. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Add the vanilla and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours.
Transfer the cream cheese mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When nearly frozen and the consistency of thick whipped cream, add the cherries. Churn or stir just until mixed. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours or up to 3 days, before serving.
YIELD: Makes about 1 quart.
SOURCE: Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Ice Cream, by Mary Goodbody (Simon & Schuster, 2003).