Up North: Black Cherry and Pecan Ice Cream

We were a family of boaters and when I was younger we spent part of every summer on the Great Lakes, Georgian Bay and in the Little Traverse Bay area. The latter meant we saw a lot of the busy summer resort towns of Petoskey, Charlevoix and Harbour Springs. There are several restaurants and hotels in those three towns owned by Staffords and over the years we've enjoyed eating and staying at every one of them. When I go up now, I usually stay in Petoskey at Stafford's  Bay View Inn. 

A candy and ice cream company you may be familiar with named 
Kilwins (which has been around since the 40's) used to make a very special ice cream only for the Stafford establishments: Black Cherry. Staffords became famous for it. It was ambrosial and we always saved room for dessert when we visited any of their restaurants. Still do. As far back as I can remember, everyone in my family looked forward to a dish of that ice cream (particularly my dad).

A few years ago, when my sister and I were lunching at the Stafford's Weathervane restaurant in Charlevoix, we got into a conversation with the manager and asked why we had never been able to buy a cone of that wonderful ice cream at Kilwin's in town. He told us that Kilwin's, after many years, asked the same question; indeed, they wanted to offer it to their customers, who had been asking for it for ages. Of course, I have no idea what Stafford's contract with Kilwin's was, but we were informed by the manager that the Kilwin/Stafford black cherry ice cream arrangement was over. Staffords turned to a company in the Traverse City area and asked if they would make it for them. Perhaps Staffords owns the recipe? I have no idea. As far as I know, the Traverse City company still does the supplying. And it's every bit as fabulous as it ever was.

So, if you happen to be up north near a Staffords establishment, be sure to order their black cherry ice cream for dessert. If you're near a Kilwin's, you can now buy their version of  it, but I'm quite sure it's not the same as the black cherry Stafford's serves. 
Because Florida beggars can't be choosers, when Kilwin's opened in my area, I kept my fingers crossed; their black cherry was perhaps close enough to the original.....satisfaction might be at hand. Or so I thought. Guess what? They don't carry black cherry in their Florida stores at all!  Ever.  :(  

Lately I've been experimenting with different recipes and finally came up with one I really like, but trust me when I say....it's just not the same. Could it be nothing tastes as good as it does when I'm in northern Michigan? After all, we must factor memories in with that ice cream and Stafford's black cherry has many years of happy memories attached to it. At any rate, this is as good as it's going to get until I  visit the north country again.

Black Cherry Ice Cream with Toasted Pecans

For the cherries:
1 pound fresh black cherries
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
a squeeze of lemon juice

For the ice cream:

1  cup half and half
2 cups heavy cream
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1 cup cherries, prepared as directed below
3/4 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped
red food coloring, optional

Stem and pit the cherries and place in a saucepan with the water and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for 25 minutes. Stir frequently. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice.

Cool. You can keep refrigerated for a couple weeks if you wish.
When ready to use, let the cherries drain in a sieve. (You can use the leftover syrup in drinks.) Chop the cherries.
In a bowl, whisk the creams and sweetened condensed milk well. Add the chopped cherries and pecans and, if you like your ice cream a definite pink, a drop of food gel.

Freeze according to manufacturers directions.


  1. What a lovely resort. Kilwin's has a shop in Highlands, NC and every time we visit, the line is out the door and around the corner.

    You're making me wish I had an ice cream maker with that good looking bowl filled with black cherry goodness and topped with pecans.

  2. A fabulous ice cream! That combo is awesome.

    What a nice inn. Dreamlike.



  3. That resort, and your ice cream, are both gorgeous!!!

  4. I hadn't heard of Kilwin's, but if ever I find our ice cream maker (or get ticked and go buy another!) I'm going to try this.

  5. Wish I can test your ice cream, it look so yummy!

  6. What a great ice cream flavor combination.

  7. It does look so delicious.. Pretty spot!

  8. Nice memories and such lovely photos.

  9. The resort looks like a magical place to stay, I'll add it to my (ever lengthening) bucket list!
    I'm not an ice cream lover myself (shock horror) and so have great admiration for any domestic goddess who takes the time to create her own!
    bon dimanche ma cherie!

  10. I so know what you are talking about. I found the recipe for Frango Mint pie from Marshall Fields and it was close... but the topping wasn't quite right... it was really good but I have such a clear memory that it tasted like the inside of a heath bar and it just didn't.

    Is the memory real? Do we scatter it with gold dust and think it was better than it was (like wine shared on romantic evenings that just doesn't taste as good shared with friends)?
    Your recipe looks fabulous to me and I still haven't made ice cream this year... would it be terribly evil to make it with some of my freezer-full of sour cherries???

  11. Sometimes nothing can compete with childhood memories. This ice cream looks pretty close, though!

  12. Sweet Barbara!

    Oh your kind comments reach me out here in Minneapolis dearest! THANK YOU...quite frankly, I am enjoying the summer just quietly and slowly taking in new knowledge and ideas about my writing and I hope to make some strides this year. I have to come to the reality that what I hope for in my writing will not happen over night, but rather over the course of a journey starting with the first step.

    NOW FOR THIS RECIPE...OMG. I AM HOOKED ON FROZEN CHERRIES at the moment in my CHOCOLATE yogurt, GREEK STYLE. That combination with almonds, frozen raisins and raw oats have my head spinning! TO see this ice cream recipes confirms that cherries and nuts are a summertime treat that is to be savored and cherished as one of life's pleasures!!!!! Thank you sweet one for your visit today! Ohhh, I see you weather is similar to ours...just got in from a walk outside in the humid morning air!

    BLESSINGS, Anita

  13. I think you got it right when you said sometimes things don't taste as good as you remember them. Atmosphere has a lot to do with it, but your ice cream looks very, very good.

  14. I love Ice cream dear Barbara an dthis sounds delicious! gloria

  15. I love black cherry ice cream, it's such an old fashioned flavor. The addition of toasted pecans puts it over the top for me. I've been to Kilwins for fudge, but now I have to make a special visit for the ice cream. Great story.

  16. I have never had black cherry ice cream. This looks delicious.

  17. Last week while in Ontario I spens some time in Southampton on Lake Huron, but we used to have a place on Georgian Bay at Lion's head....good childhood memories.

  18. Now I want to be in that hotel...!!! I'll be in California in a few days, with my family!! I loved the ice-cream...very American !

  19. Oh gosh, this appeals to me more than you can imagine. Okay, I know its probably not the same thing by any stretch of the imagination, but I have a special fondness for the cherry nut ice cream at Publix. Have you ever tried it? It is so yummy.
    Have a wonderful weekend.
    *kisses* HH

  20. What a gorgeous inn, so unlike any architecture here and as for the ice cream, I am craving a bowl of that.

  21. Looks delicious, and maybe not the same but it brings you back to a wonderful time! Enjoy it!

  22. Sometimes food just tastes best in certain places! Your version of the ice cream looks fantastic just the same. Now, I'm thinking of reliving some ice cream memories when I visit Illinois later this summer.

  23. I think your version of black cherry ice cream with pecans is a rival. No doubt about it.


  24. wow what a great flavor and so sorry they don't have it in FL but yours looks better he he

  25. Though it didn't taste the same as the original, your ice cream looks delicious! Great attempt!

  26. Okay, love the background story of this ice-cream...some things just stay etched in the memory forever. I definitely want to try Kilwin's famous ice-cream now, but yours sound just as lovely!

  27. It sounds like the perfect summer!

  28. I want to be a boater! And I want to stay at that lovely inn, too. And while I'm wishing, can I have a bowl of that gorgeous ice cream?

  29. Black Cherry ice cream is my very best favorite! Toss in some pecans and beautiful Michigan memories and I'm almost there. Now, if I could just bring myself to buy an ice cream maker, I'd be set!

    Lovely post, Barbara. Thanks for sharing...I will make it back to Michigan one day:)

    P.S. Thank you so much for your comforting words. I'm on the road to feeling better:)

  30. Oh when i do go to Staffords i would sure dig in and think of u :-)
    Aww, they should in Florida too , shouldn they?
    But ur ice cream sounds so fantastically good and amazing !
    I would loveee to dig into some ....

  31. This sounds just lovely. I'm impressed at all your ice creams, you always have the best flavors!

  32. That resort looks absolutely beautiful! And so does the ice cream :) Happy August!


  33. It might not taste the same as the original but I am sure it represents the good moment you had with your family enjoying it in the past....

    For now, this is definitely a good treat that everyone should remember :-)

  34. what a gorgeous building and inn! I love the taste and crunch of nuts in ice cream.

  35. The Inn looks so beautiful! Love the little crunchiness in the creamy treat!

  36. Barbara, I know how you feel about trying to find the exact ice cream that you once had...and sorry to hear that it is not available in Florida :-(, although yours look great. I love black cherry ice cream, but have not had with pecans...my list of "to make".
    Hope you have a fantastic week ahead :-)

  37. The resort sounds amazing, and so does your ice cream, super delicious with the addition of pecans.

  38. what a gorgeous place to stay, i love it!

    the ice cream sounds sooo good, i love black cherry ice cream.

  39. There's just something irresistible about cherries in ice cream. It's such a winning combo of flavors. I guess that's why Cherry Garcia has always been a fave of mine. ;)

  40. You may have convinced me to head to Michigan just for the ice cream! I'm sorry this isn't exactly what you remember, but it still sounds absolutely delicious!

  41. That place looks amazing!!!!The ice cream sounds wonderful ......with those flavors!

  42. That inn is beautiful as well as is the ice cream. What a delicious combo!

  43. what a great and unique flavor to tie to a wonderful memory! toasting the pecans makes a world of difference, and that's the truth. :)



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