Mint & Ingredient Math

I got a 5 on my AP BC Calc exam way back when, but here’s a math problem I just can’t solve: How do I buy exactly the right amount of ingredients such that I have enough but no more than I need?

Mint ice cream calls for two cups of loosely packed mint, six egg yolks, two cups of heavy cream, one cup of milk, and 3/4 cups of sugar.

Fresh Mint

Left: A batch of mint after 2 cups have been used, Right: Mint and detrious after 4 cups have been used

A batch of fresh mint from Whole Foods comes with way more than two cups of loosely packed mint (and more than four cups, too). I have no idea what to do with mint other than make ice cream with it. I don’t know how long I have until it goes bad, because fresh produce doesn’t have the expiration date handily stamped on the side.

Eggs come in packages of 12. Ice cream recipes generally call for five or six yolks, unless they have none. Again, I don’t cook, so what to do with the remaining eggs? I like omelets, but mostly only when they’re served with a large side of bacon and mimosa included in the cost of brunch.

Heavy cream half-pint or pint size containers. This is great for recipes that call for one or two cups of heavy cream. But sometimes a recipe sneaks in that calls for one and a half. The smallest container of milk you can buy is a quart. That is usually three cups more than I need.

Thankfully, sugar can sit on the shelf for long enough that I don’t have to worry about it going bad.

If you can figure out the exact combination of recipes I need to make so that nothing is left  spoiling in my fridge, congratulations! You win the recipe for mint ice cream that I made this weekend in an attempt to use up the mint in my fridge. This second, hodge-podge batch of mint ice cream came out better than the first, recipe-following batch. Everyone who couldn’t solve the math problem, stop reading now. No, really! Stop!

. . . Okay, so, everyone can keep reading. I guess those lucky winners can just enjoy feeling smarter than me (or is it smarter than I? Maybe I’m not that smart after all.).

Mint Ice Cream
Adapted from Serious Eats
Makes about 1 1/2 Quarts

Mint Ice cream

6 large egg yolks
2 cups fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups 2% milk (because my grocery store was out of whole milk)
3/4 cup sugar

1. Whisk together egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar
2. Heat milk, mint leaves, and the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a saucepan until steaming, but not boiling.
3. Remove from heat and pour about half of the hot mixture into the eggs, whisking while you go if you have an extra couple of arms, otherwise immediately after.
4. Pour egg mixture back into saucepan with the other half of the milk & mint leaves combo. Put back on stove over medium-low heat. Keep on stove for 5-6 minutes, stirring constantly. Don’t let it boil.
5. Whisk heavy cream a little bit. Put bowl with cream in an ice bath.
6. Pour warm mixture into the heavy cream through a sieve, straining out the mint leaves. Stir the custard to make sure it’s mixed. Put saran wrap over the surface of the mixture so that a film does not form. Put the whole thing in the fridge until cold.
7. Freeze as directed.
8. Eat!

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