Snow looks like a dessert. Of course it resembles ice cream, its more deliberate sweetened cousin, but also icing smoothed over a rooftop or meringue clinging to branches.
It’s no wonder there’s the irrepressible desire to eat it.
Enter snow cream.
In the great NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” budding entrepreneur Tom Haverford dreams up a nightclub that’s only open one hour twice a year. The cover charge: $5,000.
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That’s basically North Carolina’s relationship with snow cream, a joyous, fleeting party, something sweet after coming in from sledding or after dinner when the great snowscape is still and quiet.
The inches currently blanketing the Triangle, closing up schools and businesses and knocking out power, couldn’t be more perfect for snow cream. Some may call this snow wet and heavy, but we prefer fluffy and dense, ideal for the ice cream you make in your yard.
For the uninitiated, snow cream is the dream concoction of crystallized water from the heavens and ordinary, shelf staple sweetened condensed milk. Beyond that, one is at the mercy of their cupboards. Vanilla extract is popular and often around. Maple syrup is another great option, something about the sugary nectar of the north that doesn’t seize up when mixed with the snow.
In the buzzkill department, there are two schools of thought on whether snow cream is safe to eat: yes, but then on the other hand, no. We’ve yet to find a ruling from the CDC, but if it really was so important, it seems like they would have gotten around to it. Sometimes, science is a matter of the heart.
To make snow cream, find a patch of snow you know to be undisturbed: the tops of cars, a pristine patch of the yard with several inches of snow on top of the grass. We don’t need to remind anyone about eating snow that’s any other color than white, but also look out for tracks. Squirrels are famous for their indiscretion.
Take a big pot of well-packed snow, then top it with a can of condensed milk and the vanilla, folding it all together. The milk will kind of soak into the snow. No need to top with nuts or fruit or anything for texture, the snow cream itself keeps a bit of crispiness, but a sprinkle of salt is not a bad touch.
For the adults only, there are a few other culinary uses for snow. This particular snow is an excellent mimic for the crushed ice needed for a good mint julep, so feel free to channel Derby Day. Also, when you’re done throwing snowballs, pack one nice and tight and stick it in a glass or in the freezer, it’s a nice stand-in for those slow melting ice spheres.
Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson
Basic Snow Cream
About 8 cups clean, fluffy snow
1/2 to 1 cup milk (or condensed milk or cream if you want something richer)
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
Toppings: Sprinkles, chocolate syrup or maple syrup (optional)
The trick here is to keep everything cold, so a metal mixing bowl will bring the best results. Either put the bowl outside while the snow is falling, or look for an undisturbed patch free of any approach by animals and stampeding children and gather your snow.
In the house, add the milk, sugar, vanilla and salt and whisk or stir it all together lightly (a fork works well). Start with the smaller amount of milk and sugar and add more if you need it. Dish it up with toppings of your choice.
Yield: About 4 servings.
By Kathleen Purvis, Charlotte Observer