Summer—with its sweltering temperatures and long, lazy
evenings—is the perfect time for an old-fashioned ice cream
party. And, since you'd probably prefer to avoid all the
"stiffeners" and preservatives that are routinely dumped
into the store-bought frozen confection, you ought to
consider dusting off your old hand-turned freezer (or buying
yourself a new one) and cranking out a natural, delicious
treat for the whole family to enjoy.
Homemade ice cream isn't nearly as hard to make as
folks who've never tried it might expect. In fact,
it's downright easy—and fun—to get a picnic-full of people
involved in cranking and freezing the mixture. Later, when
the creamy dessert is finished, you'll experience the
satisfaction of sidestepping the technological age and
making a completely natural product with nothing more than
healthful ingredients and good ol' muscle power ... and
you'll savor an unforgettable taste treat as the chilly
delight slides down your throat!
Choosing a Freezer
The first step in fixing home-churned ice cream is to buy a
good, dependable freezer (if you don't have one on hand)
from among the few models that are still commercially
available. So, to help you make your choice, MOTHER EARTH NEWS took a
look at two representative brands—one made by White
Mountain and the other by Richmond Cedar Works.
Both of these machines have tubs made of wood, which is a
better material than plastic for this purpose ... since
timber is a superior insulator and will better contain the
cold—produced by the melting ice—inside the freezer.
We ordered our ice cream makers from the Cumberland General
Store, but you can probably also find the same models at
retail outlets—such as Sears, Roebuck and Co.—for a few
dollars less than the mail order price.
If you're in the market for the "old master" of ice cream
freezers, you should certainly consider the classic White
Mountain ... it's a real beauty! Manufactured by White
Mountain Freezer, Inc. of Winchendon, Massachusetts, the
four-quart model (which we examined) has a thick wooden
bucket and a solid cast-metal gear frame and crank.
Built to last through generations of use, the White
Mountain freezer features a unique double-gear action, by
which steel spur gears drive the can and the dasher in
opposite directions. Quality craftsmanship is evident in
every part of the device: The two-tiered steel "mixer" is
fitted with adjustable hardwood scrapers ... the tall,
heavy can has rolled seams which are carefully soldered
along the inside edge ... and the stud which holds the can
in place on the pivot in the floor of the tub is a separate
piece that is joined to the steel bottom of the can.
The White Mountain four-quart freezer sells for $64.95
(when ordered from Cumberland), but its combination of
thoughtful engineering, careful construction, and sheer
good looks makes this machine a real heirloom ... a tool
that your family can use and enjoy for generations to come.
The Richmond Cedar Works ice cream maker (made by RCW
Manufacturing Corporation of Danville, Virginia) can't
match the superior quality of the White Mountain model,
but—at $29.95 for the five-quart size—it's a moderately
priced (and very functional) alternative to the more
Most of this model's components are made of thermoplastic,
with the exception of the wooden tub (which is considerably
thinner than is the White Mountain bucket) and the
tin-plated steel can. The freezer's plastic gear assembly
has the more common single-action gearing ... whereby only
the can is revolved, while the paddle remains stationary.
The gear assembly fits loosely onto the can lid ... and
there is a fair amount of drag as the handle is turned
(even when the machine is empty).
The inner can used in the Richmond Cedar Works freezer has
a handy fill line to indicate how much mix should be poured
in ... but the seams on our unit's metal container were
somewhat sloppily soldered and could result in some leakage
(though we didn't note any). The can rest—which consists
of a bump protruding from the vessel's bottom—fits snugly
into a hollow in a plastic lug set into the freezer's
particle board base.
A Richmond Cedar Works ice cream churn certainly isn't in
the same league as the "luxury" White Mountain appliance,
but the less expensive model—despite its minor faults—is a
good, dependable product ... and it may be the ideal
choice for a newcomer to the world of do-it-yourself ice
Preparing to Freeze
Once you've chosen your freezer and brought it home, your
next step should be to wash the new machine. Since the
cream and milk used in making a frozen dessert can breed
bacteria rapidly, hygiene has to be of primary concern to
any backyard ice cream chef. Before each use you should
thoroughly wash the freezer can, lid, and dasher
in hot, soapy water. Rinse the parts well and let them air
dry, then cool them in your 'fridge for about 30 minutes
... because the cream will freeze much faster in a
Next, pour the chilled mixture—made from the recipe of your choice—into the can, making sure that the vessel is
no more than 2/3 full. (You must allow some room for
expansion, as air seeps into the substance while it's
freezing.) Balance the container in position in the bottom
of the tub, secure the dasher inside the can, and put the
lid in place.
Packing It In
At this point, the device is ready to be filled with its
freezing agents ... crushed ice and rock salt. You'll
want to use ice that's crushed as fine as
possible, since smaller pieces will melt more evenly
... producing a stable freezing process and giving
your end product a smoother texture. Start by distributing
ice all around the bottom of the tub to a depth of about
two inches, and follow that with a layer of rock salt.
(The coarse substance is generally available in
supermarkets, but if you can't find it—or if you run short
during the freezing operation—regular table salt is an
acceptable, though costly, substitute.)
The amount of salt you use in your freezer will be the main
factor in determining the consistency of the ice cream you
make. Too little salt—which will tend to slow up the
freezing time and force you to crank longer—will produce a
grainy end product ... while too much salt—which will speed
up the freezing process—will give the ice cream a spongy,
coarse texture. So, when packing in the layers of ice and
salt, you should always stick to the proportion of 4 parts
ice to 1 part salt (or one cup of ice to 1/4 cup of salt).
You'll find that such a combination produces a smooth,
fluffy dessert every time.
Continue alternating layers of ice and salt until the can
is totally surrounded (but not covered). Then attach the
gear drive and crank to the lid of the can ... and start
the of machine turning! As you rotate the handle, the can
revolves inside the tub ... while the action of the salt
melting the ice gradually freezes the cream mixture. Make
sure that the small hole in the side of the bucket remains
unclogged throughout the procedure, so that the brine
solution can drain off freely. And—as the ice continues to
melt—you'll need to add more layers of ice and salt ...
always maintaining the 4-to-1 ratio.
The Hard Part... and the Reward
After you've been turning the handle for a few minutes, the
cream will begin to harden ... and the task of cranking
will, from then on, get progressively more difficult. It's
a good idea—as you tire of the job—to send in the "relief
shift" and put a new set of muscles to work. And since the
bucket will tend to "walk" as the dasher encounters more
resistance, it might also be helpful to have a second person
hold the tub (or even sit on top of the gear mechanism) to
help stabilize the freezer.
The crank should become virtually impossible to turn after
about 18 to 20 minutes ... and that means your summertime
treat is finally ready! Remove the gear and handle piece,
wipe off the lid, and open the can. If you've added the
right amounts of ice and salt while continually turning the
handle at a steady tempo, you should find a creamy, smooth
confection just waiting to be consumed!
Remove the dasher and hand it over to the crankers (it's
traditional to offer that piece to the hard workers, since
it reportedly holds the tastiest part of the frozen
delight). Then pack down the rest of the ice cream with a
long-handled spoon and dish it out to your hungry crowd!
Preserving the Product
It's doubtful that any of the tasty dessert will be left
over after the first round or two of servings, but if you
should happen to have a bit of ice cream remaining
(or if you want to further harden the whole batch before
dishing it up), you can easily "cure" the soft food for
several hours. To do so, simply cover the treat (in the
metal container) with foil or plastic wrap, replace the top
on the can, and tightly plug the hole in the lid's center
with a cork. After you've drained off any remaining brine
solution through the tub's side hole, repack the freezer
with new layers of ice and salt (using a bit more rock salt
per volume of ice than you did during the freezing
process). Finally, wrap the tub in a heavy towel or burlap
bag, and set it away in a cool place until serving time.
You can also preserve the homemade dessert for an even
longer period of time. If you're using a unit whose inner
can is small enough to fit into a refrigerator's freezing
compartment, just place the can in your kitchen freezer for
three hours. Then transfer the hardened ice cream to
plastic containers for long-term cold storage ... where
it should keep for as long as a month.
Whether you devour the icy heat-beater freshly frozen or
put it by to savor on one of those scorching August
afternoons, you're sure to agree that homemade ice cream is
just about the best taste around for a summertime dessert.
It's cool, refreshing, and—best of all—a natural treat that
you create yourself!