The Fourth of July always reminds me of being a barefoot kid in Laurel, Mississippi, sweating in the heat and humidity with the symphony of smells that filled the air. Smoking barbecue grills, fresh-cut watermelon, gunpowder from gross after gross of bottle rockets — all of these scents take me back a bit. I get nostalgic for the simple pleasures, but the one thing I miss the most from those days had no scent at all, save the warm metallic odor of the electric motor. Of course I’m speaking of homemade ice cream.
It’s by far my favorite treat of the summer. I place a high value on ice cream as it is, but I’m insanely crazy for homemade. As a kid I was partial to the double-Dutch chocolate my mother adores, as well as anything with fresh peaches. As I grew older I found a greater appreciation for vanilla. Truth be known, I wouldn’t turn down anything that came from that churning cylinder and the noisy bath in which it turns.
I remember a hand-cranked manual machine at my grandmother’s. It worked, but it was quite the chore for an underdeveloped preteen in the sweltering climate of Indian Springs. I was good for a minute or two before I passed it on to someone else. So you can imagine I felt like we were in high cotton with the electric motorized version in the big city of Laurel, the wooden one that looked like a mini keg split in half with an eagle decorating its side. America.
If you’ve never made your own ice cream, the ceremony itself is worth experiencing. Bagged ice is poured around the turning cylinder and rock salt is used to help it melt. The rock salt lowers the melting point so you get a nice bath of water as cold as ice enveloping the outsides of the freezing vessel. It was a treat to grab a tiny pebble of the salt and let it melt under my tongue. I’m surprised we weren’t on prepubescent blood pressure medicine back then.
When purchasing an ice cream maker, you’ll find it is a brave new world. Some of the change is for the better, but I need that technology that predates my existence. You’ll find quick makers that can have single servings in a jiffy or two-quart models with built-in compressors that need no ice or refrigeration. But the type of ice cream maker I’m speaking of keeps it low tech with low-tech prices. Your average 4-quart machine is usually found in the $40 price range, and I have seen 2-quart models for under $20. I’ve spent more than that in a week at Old Dutch, so you really aren’t breaking the bank for hardware.
The next step is deciding on a recipe. To egg or not to egg is the question. You will find arguments on both sides of this coin. I have had vanilla made with eggs (you must cook it first) and without, both with good results. Generally we MacDonalds avoid the egg recipes for simplicity, but are not afraid to branch out. Anything that calls for raw eggs should be avoided.
Here is the simplest version of an eggless recipe. It’s the Dutch chocolate version I mentioned earlier. You’ll memorize it in no time.
2 quarts Borden’s Double Dutch chocolate milk
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
That’s it. Often my mom finds this recipe too sweet and cuts the sweetened condensed milk down to a single can. Let the chocolate do the work.
Egg versions of ice cream require a bit of careful cooking, as you must temper the eggs so you don’t get some kind of custard. This usually involves yolks only and can stretch your ice cream making to about eight hours, prep to finish. It’s not difficult and there is a lot of down time, but I would prefer to shorten the event by skipping the tempering. Here’s a vanilla recipe that still requires a bit of cooking, but much less waiting around.
2 cups of heavy cream
4 ½ cups of whole milk
1 ½ cups of white granulated sugar
¼ cup of vanilla extract
Stir the sugar into the cream and milk in a saucepan over low heat. You’re only looking to dissolve it. Once it gets hot, the mixture should be removed from the heat. Add the vanilla extract and chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. That’s it.
In both of these recipes, the final step is pouring the mixture into the ice cream maker and flipping the switch. In about 25 minutes you’ll be experiencing one of the culinary world’s greatest treasures that would have been an immense luxury just a few generations ago. Don’t be afraid to add to these base mixtures. Consider them the mother sauces of the frozen world.
Fruit, nuts, candy and syrups can be your personal calling card. So have fun with these and find a billion other ideas online.