OK, not to get into a global warming debate, but when it feels like July in May, something’s up. Did somebody not get the memo that summer starts in late June?
However, there are some positives with the heat. Your local swimming pool’s water is going to get warmer faster, making that first plunge not as brisk. At my getaway on the Pamlico River, the water temperature is 85 degrees, and that usually doesn’t happen until late June.
Yep, even in our hectic world, the heat forces us to slow down a bit, but summer brings out those wonderful memories of childhood summers that beckon in the back of our brains, and encourages us to be playful. I’m a firm believer that you never get over having the summers off from school.
Besides, we, as adults, are charged with the task of passing on the pleasures of summer to the next generation. There are sand castles to be built, cannonball dives to make, fireflies to be caught, and the tastiest, homemade ice cream to be churned.
If any food has taste memories it is homemade ice cream. There’s a vision that’s a little fuzzy, yet so clear: Behind my grandmother’s house, out by the wash-pot, and the top to the well house, an old wooden hand crank ice cream freezer is doing its magic. The men take turns doing the cranking, as my cousins and I chase fireflies while we are constantly asking, “Is it done yet?” I can see my aunts and my mother with all the bowls and spoons, almost as anxious as the kids.
I bet you have memories of that first taste of homemade ice cream, eating it so fast, before it melts, that you get brain freeze. Those were simpler times, indescribably delicious.
The equipment has changed. A White Mountain wooden tub freezer is still the best, but expensive. Trying to find crushed ice, which is the best for this method, is dicey. The new look for freezers are ones that the freezing container is filled with an eutectic solution or a Freon-type gas. Freezing the container, replaces the ice and rock salt of a few years ago, and they work pretty well and run $30-$50. The trick with these freezers is to pour your ice cream base in after you have started the machine. Bing-bang-boom, and 20 minutes later, you have ice cream without the heavy lifting.
There are many ways to go at ice cream. Using a cooked custard, this French Vanilla recipe demonstrates an in-between method, using super fresh or pasteurized eggs (the better choice) and sweetened condensed milk, or the dump and stir recipes that come with your ice cream freezer.
This recipe for Mc-Key Lime Pie Ice Cream shows the in-between method. I really like the cooked custard method for the silkiest texture and richest flavor, but none of them give you terrible results. Let your time decide but make one this weekend.
So, churn you a memory.
Serve with chopped fresh fruit over the top or your favorite chocolate sauce, but the absolute best way is over a homemade cobbler or pie. A great ending to barbecue
To drink: iced tea, or, a late harvest wine, or ice wine
Basic French Vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split, or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
Beat the sugar and the egg yolks with a whisk in a one quart or larger bowl. The egg/sugar mixture should be beaten until it turns a bright yellow color. Stir in one cup of the milk.
Pour the egg mixture, the cream and the remaining milk into a medium saucepan. Throw in the vanilla bean.
Place the pan over medium heat, and stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a temperature of 180 degrees. I use an instant read thermometer. Or gauge its readiness when the mixture coats the back of a spoon and when you drag your finger through, a mark remains. Take care in this step. If you don’t, you will have scrambled eggs with sweet cream, not good for much. If you wish and feel more comfortable, use a double boiler.
Strain the mixture when it’s ready. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, but overnight is better.
Place the chilled mixture in your ice cream freezer and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Yields: 1 quart, can double
Mc-Key Lime Pie
1 14-ounce can, sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup fresh or bottled key lime juice (not regular lime juice)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 sheets of graham crackers
2 large pasteurized eggs or 1/2 cup pasteurized egg product like Eggbeaters
In a large bowl, use a hand mixer at a slow speed to mix the condensed milk and lime juice until just combined. Add the cream and beat again. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat once again.
Stack the graham crackers on top of each other. Using a knife, chop into nickel-sized chunks. Dump all the chunks and any crumbs into the ice cream mixture. Pour into your ice cream freezer and churn, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
When done, repack into a container and place in your freezer. Freeze overnight. To serve, let soften slightly before scooping. Add some fresh sliced strawberries over the top of each serving.
Yields: 1 quart, can double