Los Cubanos se inventan and I invent Lime ice cream

10 Comments 23.Sep, 2012, 16:52

Los Cubanos se inventan (Cubans invent).

Cubans are the hijos (children) of that great Madre, (mother) necessity.  While I’ve not been able to find the exact recipe for their inventiveness I do think it involves a whole lot of imagination, a large dollop of ingenuity, a pinch of Cubano confidence, all simmered in the Caribbean heat. Resourcefulness permeates every aspect of life here.

Need some porch furniture? My neighbour Jorge, whipped up some pretty nice chairs and a table from a couple of pallets and a lick of white paint. Ta dah! As I don’t have a porch, I use his space frequently for hanging out with my girlfriends. Jorge accepts payment for the ‘rental’ in dulces (sweet things) and coffee.

To keep a car running whether it’s an Almendron (old American car) or a ‘modern’ Lada from the Soviet era, any Cuban lucky enough to have a car is a master at invention.  Held together with recycled or adapted car parts, along with a wing and a prayer these vehicles are mechanical miracles.

Inventing also applies to selecting a name for your baby. With a competitive desire to be unique, Cubans frequently concoct first names.  So you might get Yaneymi, a merging of Yanet and Mijail, or Leydi, a Cubanised version of the word “Lady”.

An altogether more serious and life-changing example of Cuban invention is the drug Heberprot-P, developed by the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB). Faced with a lack of basic drugs as a direct consequence of the US blocade, the development of propriety medicines has been a necessity.  And this drug for the treatment of diabetic ulcers is nothing short of a breakthrough.  Click here to watch a short video about Heverprot-P.  

Despite the much-lauded ability to invent, it struck me as strange then that Cubans are not very inventive when it comes to food.  A recent visitor to this blog, a Cuban now living in Canada, sums it up precisely; “being so isolated in Cuba makes people nervous about trying new things, the scarcity of food in general, couple that with the fact the most of us are not very open-minded and can be very stubborn and you get the same food over and over”.

My skills in the invention department were not all that bad before coming to Cuba, I have to admit.  I learned them from my Dutch grandparents who lived through the war. My Opa (grandfather) taught me never to throw anything out, to repair or recycle and to generally be inventive.  I have definitely been influenced by his McGyver tendencies. But my invention skills are being really honed in the food department in Cuba.

So in spirit of invention I’ve been trying to make ice cream using ingredients available here. Yes I know my last post was about ice cream and the best place to buy it in Havana, but I wanted to be able to create a creamy concoction at home, mainly for midnight snack purposes. Essential after a night on the tiles.  Click here to listen to more about late night snacking Cuban style!

However in terms of ice cream,  getting your hands on milk is a tricky task. And I’ve never even heard of cream here! So I needed to be pretty ingenious to make ice cream, needless to say I love a challenge. But when pondering the ice cream making dilemma I remembered a cross between a sherbet and ice cream that I had in Maui, Hawaii years ago. I couldn’t Google the recipe (limited access and dial-up speed internet before you ask!) so I had to play around a bit with what I recalled from memory. And it turns out it’s VERY simple. So here you go a recipe for three ingredient ice cream that can be made using easily sourced Cuban ingredients.

Recipe notes  If you have an ice cream maker this recipe is child’s play. Stick all the ingredients in the machine and follow the manufactures instructions! Do let me know how it works out in the machine? – I don’t have one in Cuba so I used the method below. 

If you wanted you could make this even more simple, a two ingredient ice cream, just leave out the lime.  However, personally I think it needs the acidity of the lime to cut through the sweetness of the other ingredients.

Three ingredient Lime ice cream

  • 1 can (330 mls) of lemonade
  • 1 can (397 g) of Condensed milk
  • Finely grated rind of 2 Limes
  • Freshly squeezed juice of 1 Lime
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Pour into a large freezable plastic container and freeze for 1-2 hours.
  3. Remove from the freezer and fork through until it’s a creamy texture.
  4. Freeze again for another 1-2 hours, remove and beat again.
  5. Repeat at least one more time as it ensures a really creamy textured ice cream.
  6. Freeze overnight and then it’s ready to serve
  7. I’m guessing this could keep in the freezer for up to a month. But it’s never lasted more than a few days when I make it!!!

If you’ve never made proper ice cream and indeed if you have, I encourage you to give this invention a try. This simple recipe makes a wonderfully creamy ice cream with just enough tang from the lime to give it a slight sharpness on the tongue.  Enjoy!

Other Cuban inventions

Building a train from a bus

A crop spraying machine from scrap metal

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  1. Caroline@Bibliocook 25. September, 2012, 5:29

    Sound like the lime would be just the thing to cut through the sweet milk.

    Resourceful you certainly are. Not just ice cream inventions, but being able to post the recipe and lots of pictures via dial-up!

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  2. dany 28. September, 2012, 23:45

    Hi! I have a copy of an old Nitza Villapol book (you know, the Cuban Julia Child lol) the one before ’59, and there is a chapter dedicated to iced desserts and has some ice cream recipes. Of course, back then they had heavy cream in Cuba and other ingredients but I found some recipes that are doable if you can find evaporated milk.
    Helado de mantecado
    6 yolks (right there you have a problem lol) 1/4 tbs cinnamon
    1 cup milk 2 tsp vanilla
    1 cup white sugar 3 egg whites
    2 tbs flour 4 tbs sugar
    1/4 tsp salt 1 can evaporated milk
    Let the evaporated milk cool on the fridge overnight until almost frozen. Whip the egg yolks with the sugar. On a blender mix flour, milk, salt and cinnamon. Add to the yolks.Strain and cook on the stove on low in a water bath (Bain de marie, baño de Maria), stirring constantly until it thickens. Add the vanilla and let it cool. Whip the egg whites into a meringue, adding sugar little by little. Add the cooled egg cream. Let it cool on the fridge. Pour the almost frozen evaporated milk on a bowl and whip until it thickens and turns creamy. Add the egg cream and whip it until they mix throughly. Put it in the freezer for 2 hours
    It has more recipes using evaporated milk: chocolate ice cream, strawberry, caramel. Others use jell-o: orange ice cream, pineapple.

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    • TheCubanFoodBlog AUTHOR 29. September, 2012, 6:20

      Dany, thank you so so much for sharing this recipe with me. I’m going to try it out and let you know how I get on. I’m lucky regarding the eggs, I have a good regular supply and friends have a finca and each time I go I bring some organic, free-range criollo eggs home. Yummy. The flavour is amazing, so I’ll bet the ice cream made with them will be flavoursome too. Nitza is an idol of mine, so I’m doubly excited to try this recipe. Abrazos a ti, Tanja

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  3. Joanne 02. October, 2012, 8:52

    I actually have a bag of limes hanging out on my counter and this looks just perfect for using them up!

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    • TheCubanFoodBlog AUTHOR 02. October, 2012, 9:08

      Yes, those limes are perfect. If you were feeling very adventurous you could candie some lime slices and use it as a garnish. Let me know how you get on with it, especially if you use an ice cream maker. As I’ve not tried making it that way.

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  4. canalcook 31. October, 2012, 12:54

    My knowledge of Cuba is quite limited, is the difficulty in getting milk and cream due to the blockade, or just simply they’re not very popular there?

    Reply to this comment
    • TheCubanFoodBlog AUTHOR 31. October, 2012, 13:13

      Hi – thanks for stopping by and commenting first of all! Dairy in general is in short supply for a few reasons. My reading of it is that old antiquated production systems and a small number of cows post the revolution has meant that dairy products are in short supply. Couple that with poor logistical infrastructure and it means that city dwellers like me find it difficult to source dairy supplies. The blockade certainly means difficulties for dairy production (and all areas of life here) – you can’t just go out and buy equipment like tractors on the open world market for example. Cream is not available in Cuba. Milk is kept for the rations supplied to the under 6′s. Yogurts are generally soya based, which I actually prefer. Though if you live in the countryside and have a small-holding and a cow – then it’s dairy-tastic. Fresh milk daily and creamy, homemade cheese and yogurts. Yum. Can see how my necessity to ‘invent’ ice cream may have come about? :-)

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  5. mikanqueen 12. November, 2012, 3:27

    I am living in Morocco right now. A combination of preference for cheaper, locally grown produce and therefore a lack of demand, means I have never seen limes on the market like the ones we import to the UK. The lemons, however, are often green and sometimes look like limes. Although the flavour is less intense, I make my Mojito with Moroccan green lemons and it tastes just fine! (Havana Club, perhaps surprisinglyt, *is* available in Morocco!!)

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    • TheCubanFoodBlog AUTHOR 12. November, 2012, 4:37

      Well it sounds like you have got all your priorities right. Rum and limes. In Havana in the markets I find it hard to get big juicy green limes. It seems to be more the little yellowy green ones that are available. They still have lots of lime flavour but you have to juice a few to get enough for a mojito!! However my friend has a big lime tree at his house out near the airport, so whenever i’m visiting I strip his tree bare!!!

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