Tuesday, May 3, 2011

We ALWAYS Scream for Ice Cream

Ice cream is, hands down, my favorite dessert of all time. Cookies are a close second in case you wanted to know or are ever invited to a birthday party for me and don't know what to bring. And in the realm of ice cream, there is one that reigns above all others: homemade ice cream.

Growing up, we always drank 1% or skim milk. So when I opened up the fridge and spotted the red cap on the top of a gallon of whole milk, I instantly knew homemade ice cream was somewhere on the horizon.

Sure enough, come Saturday afternoon, our big electric ice cream maker would find it's way to the kitchen counter. My mom would fumble through drawers and folders until she discovered a tattered index card with our family's beloved recipe on it, and then the process began.

In a white tupperware bowl, she would beat milk, sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla with her hand mixer. Of course, my brothers and I always fought over who got to lick the beaters and who got to the lick the bowl, the consummate prize. Meanwhile, my mom would pour the milky concoction into the metal canister of the ice cream maker, slide the canister into it's post in the middle of the ice bucket, and carefully begin layering the ice and rock salt around it. At last she would place the automatic churner on top of the canister and lock it into place, nodding to my brothers or myself to turn on the machine.

And then that heavenly hellish sound began.

The noise of an electric ice cream maker falls somewhere between nails scraping down a chalkboard and a jet engine. Without fail, every time we would make homemade ice cream, my mom would relay the story of when she was a kid and they would make homemade ice cream in an old, hand-crank machine. And somehow the physical labor of it all made the best ice cream a person could imagine, or so my mom said. I kind of think we endured a labor of our own, listening to the endless whining and grating of our electic machine, my brothers and I taking turns stirring the salty ice in the bucket with a long wooden stick.

Always, the wait seemed endless. I'd play Barbies for a while, then dash back to the kitchen to check if it was time.


I'd ride my bike around the cul-de-sac a couple times, ditch my Huffy in the front yard, and run through the front door, yelling, "Mom, is it ready yet?!"


So, I'd sit, elbows propped on the counter, chin on my upturned palms, and simply wait till at last the churning sounded more strained as the dasher in the canister struggled to turn through the icy cream.

"It's ready," Mom would announce, and my brothers and I would scramble to the
cupboard, each grabbing a pastel tupperware bowl, and then hover around the machine as my mom lifted the motor contraption off the top of the canister and slowy revealed the white slushy contents within. Like little orphans from a scene in "Oliver", we held our bowls high and my mom scooped a large pillowy mound for each of us.

Looking back, I think the end product of all this work and desire was probably closer to "ice milk" than "ice cream", but we loved it as if Haagen Daz had set up shop in our kitchen. It was all the sweetness of summer and childhood in an edible form.

I want to give my kids the same experience as I had, but modernity has gotten in my way. We've got one of those big, laborious electric ice cream makers somewhere in our garage, but it's so much easier to just use my little Kitchen-Aid attachment that does the same job. There's no ice or salt involved, no jet engines screaming in our ears for an hour, but the smiles and delight are just the same when I reveal the fruit of our little bit of labor to the kids. Sure, the memories will be a bit different for them, but I think the feeling will be exactly the same.

We love to try lots of different kinds of ice cream around our house and you can click here for a link to one of our favorite recipes so far. (Yes, it is coffee ice cream, and yes, I did feed this to my children, including my 3-year old. Is that irresponsible parenting? Probably so.)

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