“I liked the makin’ it part, but I liked the eatin’ it part even better.” That is what my daughter, Lily, said when I asked her about making homemade ice cream at her Grandma’s house. I concur. But it is the making it part that I remember from 30+ years ago, not the eating it. Memories are a funny thing.
I have mistakenly assumed over the last 30+ years that all children grew up with a lake in the backyard, with a flag flapping in the breeze and that tell tale sound of an ice cream maker noisily crunching and sloshing salty ice around in circles until the sound of the straining machine finally out yelled the ice. I mistakenly assumed (and now it makes me slightly melancholy to think of it) that all kids had scraped the first ice cream off the dasher with a spoon and that all adults still remember from their childhood the sound that wax paper makes as it is ripped off the roll and is applied over the canister to keep salt out of the sweet frozen cream. I would have asked anyone, did your mom and dad cover up the tank with newspapers or towels to insulate it while the ice cream hardened? But apparently in this one aspect (and many, really) I had a charmed childhood. The memories that I cherish are funny…the sound water makes on the bottom of a boat…the way rubber fishing worms smell…and sunsets over water. And sunsets are gorgeous over water, even the chocolate brown water of Lake Wichita. These are summer memories, and summer ice cream is a delightful part of it.
If you did not grow up with homemade ice cream, I implore you to create this memory in your life as soon as possible. It only takes two moments to make a memory…one to do the thing and the next to savor having done it…so go get a machine. My mom found wonderful hand cranked ice cream machines. I have a huge one and now I also have a tiny one quart hand crank machine. They sell the electric kind but only if you want a massive 20 quart freezer. However, if you have a strong arm and a friend you cannot beat the crank kind for teamwork and pure nostalgia. This recipe is for 10 quarts of ice cream. It is a massive batch. We make it in a twelve quart ice cream tank.
|Homemade Ice Cream...and an all-American Ice Cream Maker|| |
- 16 eggs
- 10 pints of half-and-half
- 5 cups sugar
- 5 tablespoons vanilla
- 4 bags of ice
- 1 box of ice cream salt (not table salt)
- 1 container of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup (for a topping)
- Off the stove, crack the eggs into a large saucepan or stock pot. Beat them with a hand mixer. Add the sugar and continue to beat until it is well beaten. Add in about 4 pints of the half-and-half and mix again. Now move the pot to the stove and slowly and carefully begin heating the mixture, stirring constantly (imagine a giant pot of candied scrambled eggs if you go too fast and high with the heat). Using a candy thermometer, heat the mixture to exactly 160 degrees and then remove the mixture from the heat. Allow it to cool for about 10 minutes. Assuming you have enough room in your pot you can now stir in about 4 more pints of the half-and-half which will help with the cooling process. Also, stir in the vanilla at this point. You can now transfer the pot to the refrigerator to cool completely overnight or for several hours at a minimum. If you don’t want to heat up your fridge, you could also set the pot in the sink surrounded by a couple of inches of ice water for a while.
- Later, or the next day, prepare your ice cream machine for action. Clean the dasher, the lid and the inside of the tank before you start. Cool and dry all the parts before you begin. Mix your custard again to make sure it is well blended. Carefully pour the custard into the tank (set the tank in the sink for this part unless you are wildly confident about your pouring skills). Carefully lower the tank into the barrel of the ice cream machine. Now add in the remaining half-and-half and stir the mixture with a big spoon. You can add it beforehand, but this is a very heavy tank of liquid. Pouring it in at the last minute makes it just that much less likely that you will drop the tank as you put it in the barrel causing a giant milk shower and much usage of expletives which will sour the whole “happy summer time happy family happy kids” routine.
- Once the tank is positioned correctly in the tank, you can insert the dasher and put the lid on. Then secure the motor arm or the crank arm into place. Fill the barrel with ice around the canister. Throw in a little salt here and there as you add the ice, for a total of about 1½ cups to start. You want to fill the ice up to near the top of the canister but not all the way to the top. It is important to avoid salt seeping into the tank. The barrel should have a hole close to the top to ensure that the salt water runs off if it gets too high, but do use care. Begin cranking. If you are hand cranking make sure you are cranking in the proper direction and at a constant speed that is neither too fast nor too slow. The texture of the ice cream will be affected by how quickly it freezes. Do not add more salt until you have been cranking for at least ten minutes. Add more ice and salt as necessary. If you overuse the salt, the ice melts too quickly and the solution becomes too cold and the ice cream will freeze too quickly. The whole cranking process should take twenty to twenty five minutes.
- When it becomes difficult to crank, or the motor begins to struggle it is time to stop. Carefully wipe off the lid and sides of the tank. Again, your goal is to NOT get salt into your ice cream. You may now remove the lid and the dasher, scraping down the ice cream back into the tank. Have a few bites. Decide if you want to immediately eat this soft version, which is plenty good, or cover the top of the tank with wax paper, put the lid back on, cork the lid hole, drain a little bit of water from the tank, repack it with ice and a little more salt, cover it all up with newspaper or towels and let the ice cream harden.
Done best, this is a two day recipe. The eggs, sugar and some of the milk are carefully cooked to 160 degrees and then it is best to let the mixture cool completely before proceeding. So why not do it the day before and then ice cream day can be all about the fun stuff. The cooking routine is done to heat the egg mixture to a temperature where any potential bacteria in the eggs is destroyed.
Now for the truth of the matter. I added the cooked version to satisfy my fear of killing anyone based on the cooking advice on this website. But my family actually NEVER cooks the custard. We cooked it this time for all of you. Usually, we mix everything up cold and start cranking immediately. No one has ever died. We follow routine safety precautions like washing hands and buying good, new, clean eggs. So if you are cavalier about the safety of your loved ones…crank on! If you are serving ice cream to a bunch of non-family or anyone with a compromised immune system, the cooked version is a good idea. It is probably a good idea no matter what. I just don’t typically do it.
A few important tips: 1) do not dump your salt water into the grass when you are finished because your grass will be dead for years; 2) salt is corrosive so you might choose to set your barrel into a large plastic container to save your grass or countertops as there is inevitably leakage; 3) you can add things like crushed Oreos, but do it after the churning and then fold it into the ice cream before the final packing and freezing; 4) I have a pal who uses straight up cream instead of half and half…yum; What else? I don’t know…you need to make this into your own tradition so beyond this, do what you like. Just, for God’s sake, don’t put peaches in it…I always hated that. Or if you do, just don’t tell me, OK.
Our Freezer: our freezer was made in an Amish community and they are sold by a gentleman named Tom Graves. The brand is Country Freezers. It is an investment in a tradition, to be sure. But they are incredibly nice and quite beautiful. They are $300 to $400 dollars depending on the size. He also sells a giant machine powered by a John Deere motor, if you are really looking for something unique. Of course you can buy all kinds of models at Target and places like that for far less. I have listed a 4 quart electric and a crank model in my Amazon Store for you to look at also. If you clean them promptly and store them well, you will always have it ready to use for years and years. The difference between the Country Freezer models and the others is that, like a fine watch, someday your kids will be bugging you to give them the Country Freezer to use with their own kids. It is an heirloom, if you will. But the others do exactly the same job.
Gluten Free: I was talking to my gluten free friend, Adrienne, about ice cream…we seem to talk a lot about ice cream. She was testing homemade ice cream with gluten free chocolate cookies crunched up in it and she confirmed for me that technically, my ice cream recipe is gluten free. The only thing you have to watch out for is the vanilla extract you choose. Apparently things with caramel coloring are a hiding place for gluten. She told me that McCormick is gluten free, as would be my Homemade Vanilla. And, also exciting, Hershey’s Syrup is apparently gluten free as well. Again, my research is limited…so do your own homework, but I think my gluten free friends should be home free on this one. Please let me know if I am incorrect.