Labor Day is traditionally the end of summer. Children go back to school, and corn-on-the-cob, lazy afternoons in the hammock and summer baseball are just memories.
Ice cream is my summer passion and one of the biggest reasons I hate to see the season go. Oh sure, you can have the frozen treat all year round, but there is just something about that sweet concoction dripping down a cone on a sultry day.
No one is exactly sure how ice cream was developed, but it dates back to 1744 when some American colonists brought recipes from Europe. The first written account of eating it was from a Scottish colonist who described it as “a dessert was some fine ice cream which, with strawberries and milk, ate most deliciously.” In other words, it was just plain good!
Until the early 1800s, the “pot freezer method” was the only way to make ice cream. Simply, it was putting the ice cream mixture in a pot then putting that pot into a larger pot filled with ice and salt. They would stir the contents until it froze. Nancy Johnson of Philadelphia patented the first artificial ice cream freezer in 1843. It contained a tub, cylinder, lid, dasher (stirrer) and crank and is still the basic design used today.
The first commercial ice cream factory opened in 1850. Jacob Fussell, a dairyman in Baltimore, produced it in his factory in Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania, and then shipped it to Baltimore by train. He became the founder of wholesale ice cream. Grocery stores started selling it in the 1930s, and, by the time we were in WWII, it became so popular that ice cream turned into an American symbol. As they say, the rest is history.
Ice cream is just one of many sweet treats in the bag labeled “frozen desserts.” These could almost compose a food group all their own since Americans spend $25 billion on the 1.5 billion gallons of frozen dairy treats they consume each year. To be labeled ice cream, an item must contain 20 percent milk solids and 10 percent milk fat by weight. Frozen custard is basically ice cream with a touch of egg yolk to make it creamier, whereas frozen yogurt is a blend of yogurt and milk. Gelato, which hails from Italy, is made from all milk.
Whatever your pleasure, there is nothing better than homemade ice cream. To maintain shelf life, commercial ice cream has preservatives and other additives, but homemade has only wholesome ingredients.
All in all, it is pretty simple to make your own. Many of today’s ice cream freezers are electric so they don’t even require cranking. Wasn’t that half the fun? Be sure you have rock salt and ice on hand before you start and cook the mixture ahead of time so it has time to cool.
Pour the cooked mixture into the canister, no more than three-fourths full because if it is too full the ice cream will be grainy. Nestle the can into the tub and layer ice and salt around it, usually in the proportion of three parts ice to one part salt. Begin churning and continue until it will barely turn. Voila – you have ice cream.
Wipe any excess salt and ice off the top, then remove the dasher. Cover and wrap heavy towels around the canister to keep it cold. Now for the important part – lick the dasher clean. You really wouldn’t want to eat the ice cream if it wasn’t good, so the taste test is very important!
If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can still make ice cream in your home freezer. It will just take a little more elbow grease and a while longer to freeze. Anytime a liquid is frozen to a solid it creates hard ice crystals. The more they are broken up, the creamier the final product will be.
To freeze in a traditional freezer, prepare the mixture as usual then put in a deep baking dish. When this starts to freeze around the edges, remove it from the freezer and stir vigorously, then return to the freezer. A hand-held mixer works well on this also. Keep repeating this process until it is frozen to the right consistency.
Another interesting tidbit, did you know the first ice cream cone was an accident? Thank goodness, because cones replaced the “penny licks” where a vendor would put the flavor of the day in a glass and folks paid a penny to lick the glass clean. Yuck! At the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, there were more than 50 ice cream vendors and a dozen waffle stands. Since it was so hot, ice cream was a big seller and waffles, not so much. When an ice cream vendor ran out of dishes, a neighboring waffle vendor rolled some ice cream in a waffle. Behold the first ice cream cone.
We can’t imagine a world without ice cream, especially our favorite flavor of homemade black raspberry. However, there is a bit of a feud going on, not over which flavor is best, but rather whose recipe is better. We have our family recipe that dates way back on Jim’s side of the family and also my Uncle Vern’s recipe that I grew up loving. You have heard of the great chili cook-offs? Well, we may need to have an ice cream freeze-off between the Hoffman and Brueck recipes. You be the judge of which one exemplifies “summer in a bowl.”
The Hoffmans' Recipe
Mix 3 cans evaporated milk, 6 eggs, 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Beat slightly and cook until hot, but do not boil. After it has cooled slightly, add 1 1/2 pints whipping cream, 4 1/2 tablespoons vanilla and any fruit you wish. Put in an ice cream maker and fill three-fourths full with milk and follow manufacturer’s directions.
The Bruecks' Recipe
Beat together 6 eggs, 3 cups sugar, 4 tablespoons vanilla and 3 heaping tablespoons vanilla. Add 2 quarts whole milk and bring to a boil. Let cool, put in an ice cream maker and add milk to fill three-fourths full. Follow manufacturer’s directions.