Read an Excerpt
Making Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt For me, ice cream is synonymous with late-night snacks, a tradition in my family. For others, apple pie may not be complete without a scoop of vanilla on top. For still others, ice cream may be identified with birthdays, summer Sunday afternoons, family reunions, the local dairy bar, 29 flavors, triple scoops, banana splits, hot fudge sundaes, or any number of other assorted associations. In any case, when you think of ice cream, likely you think of good times. Ice cream and its various relatives, including ice milk, sherbet, sorbet, ice, and frozen yogurt, are America’s favorite dessert — likewise, more of these treats are consumed in this country than anywhere else in the world. Today, ice cream knows no social boundaries, but early in its recorded history it was a food of royalty. Nero had snow brought from the mountains to make ices flavored with fruits. In the 13th century, Marco Polo brought recipes for ices from China. The Italians took it to culinary heights, and from there it spread to the courts of France and England. Ice cream arrived in North America in the 1700s. George and Martha Washington had ice cream made for them at Mount Vernon after being introduced to the confection by Mrs. Alexander Hamilton. Thomas Jefferson brought back recipes from his sojourns in France, but it was Dolly Madison who first served it in the White House. What made ice cream readily accessible, however, was the invention of the ice cream churn, complete with dasher, hand crank, two tubs, ice, and salt, by a woman named Nancy Johnson in 1846. By 1851 ice cream was produced commercially. Ice cream sodas became an American mainstay after the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1879. That ubiquitous treat, the ice cream cone, came on the scene in 1904 at the St. Louis Exposition. With the 20th century came widespread use of refrigeration, electricity, supermarkets, and convenience foods. Sure, it was fun to make ice cream at home on a summer day, but it was much easier to buy a neatly packaged half-gallon. Homemade ice cream became a delicacy for special occasions. We came to accept commercially made ice creams and other frozen desserts as good. Over a period of time what was once a simple mixture of milk, sweetener, flavoring, and possibly eggs, became a frozen chemical soup of over 60 additives with almost 50 percent more air than in homemade ice cream. As we become more and more aware today of the real and potential harm of many of these “food” chemicals, we reach the point of either doing without or making our own. For me, making ice cream at home always had a great deal of mystique. Recipe books warned that the proportion of salt and ice had to be just right for the mixture to freeze correctly. Use too much sugar and the mixture wouldn’t freeze, too little and it would freeze hard as a brickbat. Writers warned of ice crystals and who knows what other plagues and evils. Many encouraged the use of perfectly good ingredients like gelatin and flour, but somehow these seemed alien to such a simple delight. Because I live alone, the usual freezer size of a half-gallon was much more of one flavor than I wanted. Finally, there was the thought of the mess of all that salt and dripping ice. But one day I summoned up my culinary courage and made a mixture of fresh strawberries and honey, mashed them together, cooked it briefly, and stirred in some half-and-half. Then I put it in the deep freezer. Just like that, no magic incantations, no anything. Later that day I sampled the concoction. The result was sensational. Yes, there were ice crystals and the texture was less than creamy, but the flavor! Like nothing that ever came off a food technologist’s shelf. A whole new world opened up for me. Simply put, making ice cream and other frozen desserts yourself makes good sense and is a lot of fun. The flavors you can make are literally limitless, and the ingredients are readily available. Your ice cream will cost less than the premium brands and be vastly superior to the cheaper brands. Most importantly, you can control what goes into your ice cream, making it as sinfully rich or as austerely sliming as you want, with no unnecessary ingredients. If you decide to use an ice cream freezer, new ones are available in a wide range of sizes, are relatively inexpensive, and are easier than ever to use. Homemade ice cream need no longer be a “once-in-the-summer” treat. Why not enjoy it year round?