The basic recipe for ice cream is quite simple ... just remember "M.E.S.S."! The acronym stands for milk (and cream), eggs, salt, and sweetener ... a formula that's used as the foundation for all old-fashioned ice creams. The milk, cream, and eggs contain important natural stabilizing elements that will keep your homemade batch smooth, even after freezing ... while the salt and sweetener have a crucial effect on the taste of the finished product. Besides those basic ingredients, all the mixture will need are any fruits, extracts, or other flavorings you might want to add.
However, the M.E.S.S. recipe isn't a hard and fast rule ... there are some possible variations. If you'd like to avoid the high cost of supermarket whipping cream, for example, it's possible to substitute half-and-half ... although ice cream made with the less expensive dairy product won't have as smooth a texture as will a confection containing heavy cream, and the lighter dessert will tend to ice up when stored for longer than a day or so.
You might also want to use honey in place of processed sugar, but be prepared for an ice cream with a subtly different taste. Use the natural sweetener sparingly, and never in as large a proportion as sugar. A good rule of thumb is to start with only half as much honey as the amount of sugar that's called for in the recipe, and add more to taste if you feel it's needed.
Keep in mind, too, that honey doesn't permit the cream to whip up as well as sugar does, and will sometimes even fail to blend well with other ingredients. So if the end product tastes flat or has a grainy texture, you can probably blame it on the amount of honey you used. Just keep experimenting (and tasting!) ... and you'll eventually hit upon your own version of the ideal homemade treat.
If you're making a fruit-flavored ice cream, the natural ingredients will need to be sweetened before they're added to the M.E.S.S. mix, since a certain amount of any fruit's natural flavor is lost in the freezing process. Mash up about 3/4, of your produce and add sugar or honey to please your taste buds. The remaining berries, peaches, etc. should be left whole or cut into pieces, depending upon their size, and put in during the final minutes of churning. (Fruit ice cream, by the way, has a more muted color than do the fruits themselves ... so don't be surprised if, for example, your apricot-flavored confection turns out to be white!)
A "Berry Good" Dish
One of the most distinctive—and best—tastes in the world of natural fruit ice cream has to be raspberry ... and you can make the tart confection with either fresh or frozen berries. Mix 2 cups of cream and 1 cup of milk (or 3 cups of half-and-half) together with one fresh egg, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and about 1/4 cup of cane sugar. (Actually, the amount of sugar you add will vary, according to the tartness of the fruit and to your own taste preference. Remember, also, to sweeten the mashed fruit before you mix it with the M.E.S.S.) The recipe calls for a total of 2 cups mashed raspberries, or approximately the amount contained in two small produce baskets. Raspberry ice cream has a unique taste that's actually tart and sweet at the same time ... and it's sure to have ice cream lovers—and even skeptics—lined up for seconds.
The Top Banana
Unlike raspberries, bananas require very little extra sweetener ... and the tropical fruits are especially delicious in ice cream when combined with nuts. You should always use very ripe fruit in banana-nut ice cream ... but you can put in any kind of nuts you prefer (try dry roasted peanuts, sliced almonds, or finely chopped walnuts for starters). The M.E.S.S. for this recipe consists of 2 cups of cream and 1 1/2 cups of milk (or 1 1/2 cups of half-and-half), one fresh egg, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 2/3 cup of cane sugar. Once the base as well blended, fold in 1 pound of the ripe, mashed fruit (which is usually equal to about 2 or 3 bananas) and 1/2 cup of crushed nuts ... then freeze at up and watch it disappear!
Yogurt of the Gods
Here's good news for folks who like the idea of a pure, homemade dessert but don't want to consume all the calories that ice cream contains: It's possible to make delectable frozen yogurt in your home ice cream freezer! Simply puree whatever fruit you want to use along with some sweetener in a blender, and then mix the mashed fruit with plain yogurt, right in the freezer can. The procedure for freezing the nourishing treat is just the same as for ice cream ... and, after 18 to 20 minutes of cranking, you'll turn out a cooling dessert that's both low in calories and high in protein.
(Strawberries make an especially delicious frozen yogurt. Just blend 4 cups of plain yogurt with 1/4 cup of cane sugar and then fold in 1 cup of mashed, sweetened strawberries ... either fresh or frozen. Save another 1/2 cup of berries—cut into chunks—to pop into the mix during the last few turns of the crank.)
EDITOR'S NOTE: All of the two-quart recipes given above were taken from Old Uncle Gaylord's Ice Cream Book: A Guide to the Art & Pleasure of Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Making, by Gaylord Willis and Ted Benhari.