I was 10 years old before I learned the awful truth: There are people who have never tasted homemade ice cream. It was the summer my fathers job had moved us to Brewster, N.Y., for two years. The neighbor kids with the funny accents thought the best ice cream came from Carvel. Talk about culture shock.
At my house, it has never truly been summer until the first lightning bug has been spotted and the first batch of peach ice cream has been churned. I learned the proper method early at mothers knees. Mom would prepare the mix the day before, beating the eggs until they were practically standing up by themselves and then adding the rest of the ingredients, including plenty of fresh grated peaches. Although some recipes call for stovetop cooking, the one our family clings to does not. I realize this subjects us to all kinds of terrible illnesses caused by consuming raw eggs, but weve been making this stuff for more than a half-century and not one single person has gotten sick because of it. (Eating so much you nearly explode doesnt count.) Call me crazy, but this stuff is so good Im going to take my chances and keep living on the edge. Once the mix was poured into the metal canister, it went straight to the refrigerator to chill overnight, essential for proper mixing. One sure thing about homemade ice cream: It is a science and not to be rushed.
Back then, the ice cream makers required cranking by hand. I was always called to the back deck to get it started while Dad kept busy adding ice and copious amounts of rock salt. I can still feel the ache in my arm as the mix started hardening and the job became too much for me. When the first electric mixers hit the market, Dad adamantly declared them inadequate and we continued giving our arms a workout for years.
These days, bringing out my own mixer churns up sweet memories of summers gone by. Our home in the early 70s was across the street from Douglas Elementary School in Raleigh. Those were the greatest summers ever. We rode bikes, played unsupervised on the school playground, looked for tadpoles in the creek behind the playground and picked blackberries from the wild bushes surrounding it. Toes stayed stubbed because we hardly ever wore shoes, and we all knew that baking soda took the hurt out of a bee sting.
Once a week, the school doors would open and we were allowed to visit the library. That was the best day. Having all those books right there and lazy days to soak them up was a bookworms dream. For several weeks, the City of Raleigh ran summer day camps behind the school. There was no sign up. No fees. No worries. When we felt like it, we would head over to play a game or to tackle an art project. And, of course, there were the kid movies at the Cardinal Theater at North Hills the one time during the week where we needed a dollar to spend. Our parents dropped us off and rarely saw the need to stick around.
On special weekends, the neighborhood families would have a softball game on the school field. There was no need to get permission from the school system or pay a rental fee. School grounds were part of the community and use by all was welcomed. We would haul out our bats and balls and choose teams. All ages played. I have no memory of who won those games, but they were always followed by you guessed it homemade ice cream.
Those wonderful, carefree days of summer would officially come to an end on Labor Day. We would have a neighborhood block party of sorts heralding the start of the school year the next day. Time for one last rowdy game of Kick the Can at dusk and one more bowl of ice cream.
Summers are different today for a whole host of reasons. But for all the technology and the stranger danger, theres no reason why we cant pass along to our kids and grandkids the best thing about sultry summer days in the South: homemade ice cream. Whos in?
For a printable copy of the recipe, click the link:
BEAT eggs with electric mixer and add sugar gradually until very stiff. Add remaining ingredients. Chill overnight and let ice cream maker do the rest. Yield: 1 gallon