Real talk: Pumpkin is a very broad term. Like peppers or beer, there’s a breadth of varieties, each with its own style, flavor, and ideal use. For example, if you’re going to bake a pumpkin pie you might reach for a little round sugar pumpkin. If you want to make a savory soup, a butternut squash is definitely your friend.
But if you’re going to create a rich and flavorful pumpkin ice cream as we do, you need pumpkins that turn impossibly nutty and sweet, and even a little creamy, when roasted. So we turn to our longtime farm partner, Mike Hirsch of Hirsch Fruit Farm in Chillicothe, Ohio, to grow pumpkins just for us. (Mike also grows all the sweet potatoes we roast and blend with fragrant cinnamon to make Sweet Potato with Torched Marshmallows ice cream.)
Overall these years we have worked with many varieties of heirloom pumpkins to make Pumpkin 5-Spice ice cream, finally settling on the sweetest one of all with the sweetest name: buttercup. Freshly cut buttercups smell like a fragrant cucumber. But when roasted they become sweet and creamy. It took years of growing and trial to finally decide on our pumpkin, and that’s why we love to make ice cream as a community. Because when we are all accountable to each other, we know we make better ice cream.
Jeni has been making Pumpkin 5-Spice ice cream this way since her early days in the mid-’90s at the North Market (find the recipe on page 108 in Jeni’s first cookbook). Back then, she’d spend her free hours browsing the shelves of the neighboring spice stand searching for inspiration. This is where Jeni smelled Chinese 5-Spice for the first time. It conjured memories of Thanksgiving and her grandmother’s pumpkin pie. At that moment, Jeni knew she had to pair these spices with pumpkin.
To make Pumpkin 5-Spice, we blend roasted pumpkins with five fragrant spices—ginger, fennel, cinnamon, star anise, and white pepper—which taste like an awesome, exotic pumpkin pie spice. Then add cream and grass-grazed milk. Find our Pumpkin 5-Spice ice cream in scoop shops and online now.