Family lore has it that my maternal grandfather, Erwin, loved-loved-loved ice cream. He made it regularly during Georgia’s hot summer months, out in the back yard with his wooden, hand-cranked ice cream maker. It looked very much like this. People who knew him considered him to be a very generous soul, but not so when it came to sharing his ice cream. He didn’t want to do that with anyone outside his immediate family (his wife and daughter). My grandmother recalled he would lower the blinds and draw the curtains in the house on the days he was making ice cream, to make it look like there was no one home. That way he could avoid any drop-in visitors who might catch him in the act and compel him to share his beloved frozen concoction.
I was fortunate to witness his ice cream making wizardry and to taste the finished product of his efforts just once (he passed away not too much longer after that). I was young, about 3 years old, and my family was visiting in the blazing heat of the summer. Sweet yellow peaches were on tap, and that is what he used that day in his ice cream recipe. Watching the whole production — the pouring of the mixed ingredients into the metal canister, the packing of the canister into the wooden bucket with chunks of ice and rock salt, and then the cranking of the handle to churn the dasher inside the canister — made a huge impression on my young senses. And most certainly, the explosion of peachy sweet, cold, creamy, custard-like ice cream on my young taste buds was a life-changing experience.
Part of the satisfaction of making your own ice cream is tailoring the ingredients to indulge your taste buds in ways that can’t be done with store-bought ice cream. (For example, my family once made lavender chocolate chip ice cream, having infused the cream with fresh lavender leaves — wow, what a taste sensation that was!) Also, hand-cranking ice cream is a fun activity to do with a group, partially because the work of cranking can be spread out among many (yes, elbow grease is required, especially as the ice cream mix thickens), but also because ice cream is a celebratory food and more fun to share with others. (Sorry, Granddad!)
You can purchase a brand new hand-crank ice cream maker. I just checked online and saw several brands. There are antique and/or used ones for sale as well, and you can even cheat and use an electric ice cream maker, if worse comes to worst. So, you have options, should you decide to get serious about this.
Here at DBRL we want to support you in this happy endeavor. On July 23, at the Columbia Public Library branch, children and their parents will have a chance to make their own ice cream, during the program Olympian Food: Ice Cream. While not using an ice cream-making machine, the method employed will still use ice and salt to help transform the ingredients into the blessed, calcium-rich treat. And, you can browse through books galore on everything ice cream, including books with basic and high-end designer ice cream recipes, dairy-free and vegan ice cream recipes, and other treats to make using ice cream, like sandwiches, sundaes and floats.
If you haven’t had the experience of making ice cream the old-fashioned way, don’t let this simple but exquisite pleasure pass you by. It really does yield the best ice cream there is to eat, and it can really help to deal with this summer heat. Bon appétit!