This posting is a “cross-post” that also appears in The Elders Tribune.
August! It’s that intoxicating time of year when the hot weather still threatens, but there are fewer hot days interspersed with more tolerable temperatures, and you can see far enough ahead to know that Fall is just around the corner. Winter is still just a suggestion that almost appeals on those triple digit days.
What I used to love most about this time of year, when I was growing up, was that the crops were almost harvested, ready to be sold, and the payback for a hard year’s work almost within grasp. At the same time, enough summer lingered and we could much more appreciate it, knowing it was almost over.
One of the memories evoked by this time of year are those Saturday or Sunday evenings when someone might pipe up and wistfully suggest how good some home made ice cream would taste right about now. The suggestion was always met with much enthusiasm by all. Mama would go to the kitchen and mix up a bowl of cream and sugar and vanilla that would magically become ice cream, while someone who could drive would be dispatched to the “ice house” a few miles away to collect a big block or two of ice.
The ice house was where we stored the beef from butchering day (for a fee, and I might add was open 7 days a week) because not everyone had refrigerators and freezers in those days. Pork was hung in the “smoke house” or packed in salt, and when it was time to use it, the moldy outer skin had to be slivered away. Ice was delivered only a couple of times a week and stored in a small “ice box” on the side porch outside the kitchen. No one we knew even had electric fans then.
At the old ice house, I’d stand on the high decking along the front while the “ice man” opened the big double doors and propped them open so that he could see by the natural light. Then he’d fish out two pairs of huge ice tongs and disappear into the darkness while foggy air, a welcome respite from the humid August air, spilled out. It was “air conditioning” at its utmost, and I was always happy to be there! Moments later the ice man would reappear with a large block of ice hanging between the tongs he held in each hand.
After we were back home Daddy would stab and pierce the big blocks with an ice pick, making smaller slices fall away onto the table. It took a deft hand to then “pick” those smaller slices into a more packable crushed-like version that could be packed around the big metal bowl balanced in the middle of the old-fashioned ice-cream churn that held Mama’s magic mix.
Then everyone would take turns turning the crank on the side, while someone else, usually me, kept packing on more layers of ice topped with rock salt. After what seemed like an interminable amount of time, we would be rewarded with bowls of creamy ice cream. Sometimes we topped it with peaches or other fruit in season. It was lip smackin’ good!
Just in case I’ve talked you into making your own ice cream on one of the remaining hot weekends of August, I’m sharing my favorite ice cream recipe with you. When we first started using this particular recipe, which I assure you equals anything produced by Ben & Jerry’s or Haagen-Dass at far less cost, we were virtually unconcerned (back east) about salmonella. We believed that to be a west coast problem (in the ’70s and ’80s). If I make this ice cream today, I believe I will use an egg substitute rather than take a risk. I’m not sure how that will affect the taste.
CREAMY VANILLA ICE CREAM
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 cups milk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
3 cups heavy whipping cream
Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl until foamy. Gradually add sugar; beat until thickened. Blend in milk, vanilla, and salt. Chill.
In a separate mixing bowl, lightly whip cream to soft stage; fold into chilled mixture. Churn-freeze, using slightly higher proportin of rock salt to ice than recommended for freezing other ice cream mixtures. Yields approximately 3 delicious quarts.