A big event in the lives of many young Boomers was churning a batch of homemade ice cream. It’s difficult to conceive that kids today – with all their video games, cell phones, sophisticated electronics and countless school and after-school activities – could ever get excited about making homemade ice cream, but we did! And the memories of family gatherings and the rich, creamy taste of freshly churned ice cream are ones that linger.
I remember summer evenings in Clemmons, NC, spending part of my summer vacation at Grandma Brewer’s house. My father, James, who was killed in the war, had 8 living brothers and sisters – most living in or near Clemmons. I also had 14 first cousins, and on ice cream nights, many came to Grandma’s house to enjoy the family tradition. Grandma and Aunt Lena were in charge of making the ingredients – which included raw cream and raw milk, not cheap imitations. It was yummy good even before we froze the ice cream
Usually, Uncle Pete or Uncle Dennis was in charge of procuring the ice, and there were no 7-11’s with ice machines in those days. My uncles went to a nearby ice plant and picked up 20 pounds or so.
The process began with the ice cream mixture, carefully poured into the can and the dasher secured. The crank was then fastened to the top of the maker, and ice and lots of rock salt were added. The more salt used, the quicker the ice cream froze and the cousins were all about getting to the freezing and eating part as soon as possible.
At first, one of the cousins cranked the genuine White Mountain ice cream maker with another sitting atop the freezer to secure it. About 10 minutes into the process, the cranking got harder, and soon an uncle had to take over, with one of two cousins on the freezer. When the concoction was so stiff it was hard to turn even once, it was pronounced, “Done!”
The dasher was then removed and eager cousins gathered quickly to sample the first fruits of the frozen cream. Then we had to wait an agonizing 15 or 20 minutes until the ice cream “ripened”. I would have eaten it eat raw, but it was an extra special treat when frozen solid and served in small bowls. We ate the ice cream so fast that we each got an ice cream headache. And as soon as our skulls stopped hurting, we ate more, and then got more headaches.
My favorite was always home vanilla but many were partial to homemade peach ice cream, with the peaches gathered that day from local orchards and peeled and sliced by Aunt Mary.
Today, most ice cream freezers are electric and the ingredients include imposters like Half & Half and even 2% milk. It’s still good, but nothing can take the place of a family gathering on a star-lit summer night cranking a big batch of homemade ice cream.