I've been known to eat a fair bit of ice cream. So much, in fact, I was shocked to realize sometime in high school that a pint of coffee Häagen-Dazs was not created solely for me, to finish in one sitting. After all, it took a while for the solid mass to soften just enough that a spoon could slide into the creamy moat growing around the frozen edge. And by then, the container was nearly empty anyway...
This admission explains why I consider it my duty to help replenish the world's ice cream supply. And once Owen and I made this delicious, beautifully simple, vanilla version in 30 minutes, with nothing more than Ball jars, ice cubes, pickling salt, and a few stirs, I was convinced I could do it over and over again.
We got the idea from the brilliant River Cottage Family Cookbook (the recipe is below, with a few tiny tweaks). I recommend the book for anyone who likes to cook real, whole food and understand how fresh ingredients work together. It's instructive without being overly simple or, worse, condescending. And if you have kids, it's a no-brainer. Wander over to your local library and borrow it, or buy it at once.
This recipe is so fun because it's human powered and requires no cooking (that's a bonus on hot day). It's also a great excuse to use fresh cream skimmed from my friends' raw whole milk, good sugar and today's ripe berries. Then there's the chemistry: Ice isn't cold enough, long enough, to freeze cream solid. Toss in some salt, though, and voila! (By the ocean, we know firsthand that while fresh water freezes at 32 degrees F, saltwater freezes at much lower temperatures. So, by adding salt, the temperature of the ice drops quickly—and is happy to freeze jars of cream and sugar while it's at it.)
To get going, here's all you'll need:
- 2-3 Tbsp. well-chilled heavy cream (we used 4 or so Tbsp. with fine results)
- Flavoring, such as vanilla extract, 2 or 3 strawberries, 2 tsp. of your fave jam, a little melted chocolate
- 2 tsp. confectioner's sugar
- Clean half-pint Ball jar with lid, 5 cups ice cubes straight from the freezer, 1 cup of salt (we used plain, cheap pickling salt), and a heavy metal pan (we used an enameled cast iron stock pot) with a lid.
What you do:
1. Spoon the cream into the clean jar. Add your favorite flavoring: For vanilla ice cream, add a few drops of the vanilla extract; for strawberries, crush them until they're runny and stir them in, or mix in 2 tsp. of good jam; for chocolate, stir in melted chocolate. Add the sugar.
2. Screw the lid tightly. Place the jar in the fridge while you sort out the ice and salt.
3. Get the ice from the freezer. The ice should be as cold as possible. If that sounds a bit silly, remember that the temperature of ice can vary a lot. Straight from the freezer, it could be as low as 14 degrees F. Ice that's been sitting around in a bowl and is just beginning to melt will be only 30 or 28 degrees F. Put the ice and salt into the container and mix them together well. The temperature of the ice will fall rapidly.
4. Make a well in the ice mixture. Take the jam jar out of the fridge and stand it in the well. Put the lid on the container and let it stand somewhere cool. (I put our pot back in the freezer.)
5. After 10 minutes, take off both lids and carefully stir the cream mixture, making sure you don't get any of the salt in it. It will have turned very cold but it won't have started to freeze yet. Replace the lids. Repeat this stirring process at 10-minute intervals until the cream turns to ice cream. It will do this quite suddenly, so be ready.
6. This makes a small amount of ice cream, just right for a single cone or to sandwich between a couple of wafers. You could use a bigger pan and add more jam jars. Just keep the proportions of ice to salt the same. (Note: We made eight jars' worth in two pans, and I plan to experiment to see how full we can make each jar. See full explanation of my weakness above...)