How do you turn jellyfish into ice cream?
Olenka Bazowski, the owner of Etobicoke chocolate shop and ice cream parlour Sweet Olenka’s (which recently opened a temporary Queen West offshoot), is surprised by the popularity of her miso-jellyfish ice cream. “It sells out like crazy,” she says. “It’s weird.” Bazowski invented the Cnidaria-spiked cone as a twisted form of payback after she was stung on the ear a few years ago in Cuba. “It was the most painful thing ever. It blistered and hurt for a month and a half. I thought I was going to die.” So, how do you turn a gelatinous sea mammal into a tasty frozen dessert?
Bazowski starts with dried jellyfish, which she rinses and then submerges in fresh water. “You don’t have to slaughter anything. It’s all pre-killed for you,” she says. She lets the jellyfish soak in the fridge for two whole days, to get rid of all the excess salt. Where did she uncover these esoteric culinary secrets? “I Googled it.”
Once the jellyfish is done soaking, Bazowski boils it for 20 minutes, then drains out all the water. At this point, “it tastes like salty nothing,” she says. “It’s just a texture thing.”
Next, she adds maple syrup and stirs, making sure to coat each gelatinous strand. “You can use cheap jellyfish, but use good maple syrup,” she says. Once soaked with syrup and chilled in the blast freezer for 20 minutes, the jellyfish strands stiffen up and become slightly translucent. “They look like sautéed onions,” says Bazowski. “Unless you look really closely and then they have hair on them. Hairy onions.”
Now it’s time to make the ice cream. Bazowski mixes milk, cream, sugar and a little bit of cream cheese in a pasteurizer (a big silver contraption designed to kill unwanted pathogens by heating and then rapidly cooling the ingredients).
After the pasteurizer spits out the milk, cream and sugar mix, Bazowski squeezes in a 345-gram package of Shiro Miso paste. “Just dump it in there. Get all of it. It’s $60 worth of miso soup.”
She pours the mixture into the batch freezer and sets it on a mix cycle, then switches over to ice-cream-churning mode. The ice cream base cools and solidifies while it’s churned, turning seven litres of fluid into 10 litres of ice cream.
Bazowski preps an insulated box to hold the ice cream when it’s done.
After 10 minutes or so, the completed ice cream is extracted from the machine.
Bazowski gradually folds in the maple jellyfish. (“Die, die!” she sings as she folds them in.)
The mixed ice cream is placed in the freezer for at least four hours. After that, it’s ready to serve.
The finished product comes in a waffle cone with a pretty chocolate garnish. “It’s the new salted caramel,” says Bazowski. “The jellyfish is disgusting but this is going to taste amazing.” And she’s right—the jellyfish adds an intriguing gummy-ish texture, and the whole thing tastes a bit like maple-walnut (with a mysteriously briny backbone).