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Tuesday, May 28, 2013


As a kid growing up on my grandparent's Western Kentucky farm, my favorite summer days always involved homemade ice cream.   We didn't have it all the time, so it was a treat when my dad hauled the rickety old wooden hand-cranked ice cream maker from the dank cellar. Without fanfare, he'd prepare the ice cream base, flavor it with whatever was in season, and load the canister before covering it with rock salt and crushed ice. He'd crank the handle until the cream-filled canister glided smoothly through the melting ice before turning the wheel over to me. Churning ice cream was important work. While I loved the messy fun, he'd take over and finish the job when it got too hard for me to crank the cream. After wiping away the salty ice, we'd slide open the lid and sneak the first few bites of our homemade ice cream. Churner's treats. Secrets.

One year, out of the blue, my dad used an old hand drill, duct tape, and a long industrial extension cord to rig a very primitive hands-off electric ice cream maker.  It was a revelation. Although it was loud and absurd looking, his zany contraption did the trick. We were modernized.

When Michael and I bought our old Victorian house several summers ago, we jumped through hoops to make the old house feel like home. After filling the house, yard, garage, and deck with all the familiar trappings, we shopped around for an ice cream maker.  We looked at several fancy models before bowing to nostalgia and buying a clunky up-dated electric version of the ancient cranker. While it served us well throughout that long hot summer, we carelessly forgot about it and left it exposed on the back deck, letting it succumb to the elements. It's now a recycled retro-fitted tomato planter. Win.

Last summer, in lieu of anniversary gifts, we picked up a spiffy counter-top ice cream maker. The sleek modern box didn't scream nostalgia. It still doesn't,  but it cranks out damn tasty ice cream.

I'm not much of a baker or dessert maker, but I do love making ice cream. With so many variations and methods, ice cream has no boundaries. The possibilities are endless.

The first summer berries.
Strawberry Ice Cream.

Basic custard. I warmed 2 cups of Chaney's milk and heavy cream over a medium low flame. After whisking 4 large egg yolks, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 cups sugar until everything was well blended, I tempered the sugary yolks with a few ladles of the simmering cream before pouring the mix back into the pot with the remaining warmed cream. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, I cooked the custard until it thickened enough to coat the back of the spoon.  I pulled the custard from the heat, stirred in 2 teaspoons of Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Paste, cooled it down over an ice bath, covered it with plastic wrap, and slid it into the refrigerator to chill.

There are debates about whether strawberries should be cooked, pureed, or strained before making ice cream. Cooking the strawberries takes out excess water, pureeing them gives a more intense flavor, and straining them gets rid of the seeds. Every method is valid. I totally get it. Really.  I wanted a few frozen bits, so I simple mashed them.  Rule breaker.

I hulled and sliced 1 1/2 pints of gorgeous Cain's Strawberries. After tumbling the crimson jewels into a glass bowl, I splashed them with lemon juice, tossed them with 1/4 cup sugar, and slid them into the refrigerator to macerate.

 When the custard and strawberries were well chilled, I pulled them from the refrigerator. After smashing half of the strawberries into a rough pulp, I stirred them into the chilled custard, poured the mix into our 2 quart ice cream maker, and let it  rip for 25 minutes, adding the reserved sliced strawberries during the last 5 minutes.

Before stashing the strawberry-swirled ice cream into the freezer, Michael and I slurped several creamy spoonfuls straight from the frozen canister.

Just like I did as a kid.

Pure nostalgia.

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