I was most intrigued when I came across a recipe with the ingredient Mastic, something I never heard of. Apparently Mastic or Masticha is the resin obtained from the mastic tree produced exclusively on the Greek island of Chios. The sun-dried resin is tear shaped and it has a yellow or orange hue.

Mastic gum was the first chewing gum, the word masticate means to chew. When chewed, the flavor is bitter at first, but after a short time this bitterness goes away and the only thing that remains is its special aroma. In Greece mastic is used to prepare mastic liqueurs mastic like Mastichato, a spoon sweet known as “vanilla”, beverages, chewing gum, cakes, pastries, sweets, desserts, breads, and in cheese production.

Different countries have different uses for it. In Lebanon mastic is used in ice cream, sauces and seasoning. In Egypt mastic is used in the preparation of different vegetable preserves, as well as jams with a gummy consistency, and in meats and soups. In Morocco, mastic is used in the preparation of smoked foods. In Turkey it is widely used in desserts such as Turkish Delight, puddings, soft drinks and also in the preparation of Turkish Coffee on the Aegean Coast. In the Maghreb countries mastic is used mainly for cakes, sweets, pastries, and as a stabilizer in meringue and nougat.

Mastic has an interesting property where it can replace cornstarch and gelatin in desserts while adding its unique flavor.  Mastic can be a bit hard to find: your best bet is a Middle Eastern grocery store and Ebay. Good news is you do not need a lot in most recipes. In my research I came across many ice cream recipes with mastic (I am an ice cream nut after all) so once I got my hands on this ingredient I had to try it out.

I read in a few places that Mastic gives a certain chewiness to the ice cream when you eat it. That was a pleasant texture I really enjoyed. It is still ice cream but it is ever so slightly gummy. Very cool. And the taste? Best comparison I can give you is spruce bear soda. You have to try it to believe it. I love spruce beer so I loved the ice cream.

≡ Mastic Ice Cream ≡

1/2 teaspoon mastic resin crystals
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
4 egg yolks
1 pinch of ground vanilla (optional)

1. Grind the mastic resin crystals in a mortar and pestle along with some sugar.
2. Heat the cream, milk, sugar and mastic in a sauce pan until it almost boils, about 5 minutes.
3. Reduce the heat to low.
4. Temper the eggs and stir them into the cream.
5. Cook at low heat until it thickens and can coat the back of a spoon.
6. You may want to strain the mixture at this point to remove any bits that may have formed while warming.
7. Chill the mixture in the fridge.
8. Freeze according to the instructions for your ice cream machine.