Thursday, July 5, 2012

You Scream, I Scream by Alison Henderson

It’s National Ice Cream Month—time to celebrate! Few things taste better on a warm Midwestern summer evening, and few things remind me more of my childhood than ice cream.

When I was young, making homemade ice cream was a regular Sunday evening activity in July and August. I grew up in the city, and so did my mother, but summer seemed to bring out the country girl in her. My grandmother came from a small town in Wisconsin, so maybe we had her to thank.

We had a big, green, wooden ice cream maker—not the electric kind, the old fashioned hand-turned kind.  My mother would cook the custard on the stove, then pour it into the big metal canister and insert the paddles. We set the container in the wooden bucket, surrounded by ice and rock salt, attached the handle, and took turns cranking until our arms shook from fatigue and the mixture was too stiff to turn any more. The result was pure heaven.

And the flavors! I can still taste them after all these years. Sometimes my mother made vanilla, and it was anything but plain. She bought whole vanilla beans, split them lengthwise to release the seeds, and then simmered them in the cream before adding egg yolks. The rich, intense flavor beat any French vanilla I’ve had anywhere. She also grew raspberries in our suburban backyard, and I’ll never forget the taste of fresh raspberries on homemade vanilla ice cream.
But my favorite flavor of all was peach. One of my grandmother’s friends lived a few blocks from us, and hidden behind her tidy home was a spectacular orchard full of apple and peach trees, along with a few grape vines. She couldn’t begin to use all the fruit, so she invited us over every year to pick as much as we wanted. The grapes became jelly, and the apples went into pies, but the peaches were the crowning glory. 

Nothing tops the flavor of a tree-ripened peach. Supermarket peaches are barely a pale imitation. To this day, the taste of perfectly ripe peaches poached in their own juice and added to my mother’s vanilla ice cream remains one of my strongest childhood culinary memories.

Have you ever made your own ice cream? What’s your favorite flavor?



Jannine Gallant said...

Oh, Alison, we used to do this, too, when I was a kid. When it was so stiff my brother and I couldn't crank the handle, my dad would sit on it and keep turning. Great memories. I have an electric ice cream maker - not nearly as exciting as the old fashioned kind. Not as much work either!

Brenda whiteside said...

You really brought back the memories. We'd get together with my aunt, uncle and cousins and make ice cream, everyone taking a turn at the crank. An peach was my favorite too!

Alison Henderson said...

It was such an event. I'm thinking of trying it again when/if I have grandchildren. If we still cherish the memories decades later, I'd like to carry on the tradition.