Summer is over - in most parts of the world, that is. Here in Phoenix, we still have a few weeks of +100 degrees to go, so ice cream season is still in full swing.
Hand-cranked, homemade ice cream is not only a rare treat to eat, making it is also great aerobic exercise and a good way to increase upper body strength.
An ice cream freezer from the era I write about (1910s) was basically a large lidded tin can that fit down into a wooden bucket. The lid had a hole in the middle, through which was inserted a dasher, which somewhat resembled an oar. The handle of the dasher protruded from the hole and was attached to a hand crank, which had to be turned continuously until the ice cream was frozen.
The recipe for ice cream does not have to be complicated, by any means. An excellent ice cream can be made with a half-pound of sugar beaten into a quart of sweet cream. Add some sweetened fruit puree or just some vanilla extract, freeze, and devour.
For her son’s eighteenth birthday, though, my character Alafair made a rich peach custard to freeze, which is more work, but the results are worth it.
Peach Ice Cream
1/2 cup sugar 3 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 tsp. salt 1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup milk 2 cups heavy cream
puree of four or five peaches, which Alafair would have made by mashing the
flesh of the fruit through a sieve with the back of a large wooden spoon. Sweeten
the peaches with another 1/2 cup sugar, if desired.
Mix sugar, salt, milk and egg yolks in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until bubbles begin to appear around the edge of the pan. Cool to room temperature. Stir in the cream, vanilla, and peach puree.
Pour the ice cream mixture into the freezer can. Fill the can only two-thirds full, to allow for expansion as the ice cream freezes. Fit the can into the bucket, insert the dasher and put the lid on the can, then attach the crank.
Fill the freezer tub one-third full of ice, then alternate the rock salt and remaining ice, filling the bucket to the top of the can. Use about four parts ice to one part salt. Turn the dasher slowly until the ice partially melts and makes a brine. Then crank rapidly until it's hard to turn the dasher. How long this will take depends on the weather. If you're lucky, the ice cream will set in ten minutes or so. Or it may take half an hour. Or it may not want to set properly at all. It's all very mysterious.
When it does happen, remove the ice from around the top of the can and remove the dasher. Plug the hole in the lid and replace it on the can. Refill the bucket with ice and salt and leave the ice cream to "ripen" for several hours.
"Ripening" makes a firmer dessert. However, when the day is hot and a bunch of impatient kids are clamoring about, a bowl full of soft, semi-frozen cream that has to be gobbled up before it turns back into liquid is perfectly delicious.