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As the Family Tradition Churns: The Joys of Homemade Ice Cream

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Kate Fuller

Kate Fuller is excited to help her Aunt Karen make homemade ice cream.

Some of my fondest memories of childhood summers include the whirring of our electric ice cream maker. My dad, Vic Vine, loved making homemade vanilla ice cream. The special treat was usually reserved for special occasions like birthdays, Fourth of July and visiting dignitaries (like our Ohio aunts, uncles and cousins). But there were also magical “just because” times that made taste buds and the grumpiest person in the room smile. Thankfully, our family tradition of making homemade ice cream has continued through the years, just churning along like the rest of us. 

The festivities would begin with Dad digging out the electric ice cream maker from whichever cabinet-cave it had been hibernating since the last time we used it. Seems like it was always put away in a different place or that the parts - the paddle, the cylinder and lid, bucket and motor - had been scattered in different places, so it could be a bit of a scavenger hunt. Everyone gives a sigh of relief once all the missing pieces are reunited so the making of the ice cream could commence! 

Like a mad scientist, Dad begins pouring the secret ingredients into a bowl and whipping them (and himself) into a frenzy. With surgeon-like precision, he gently pours the concoction into the ice cream maker’s silver cylinder, careful to not spill a single drop of the magic elixir about to be transformed into a divinely delicious dairy dessert. Next, he twists on the lid and precariously places the container into the special bucket and begins layering ice and rock salt around it, lining up the motor to the top of the container, and then finally plugging it in. 

The motor chugs to life and the cylinder begins her nonstop twirling dance. I start my special duty of making sure ice is always covering the lid. If some melts away, I am responsible for adding ice. If I don’t do my job, the ice cream won’t freeze properly. I keep a steady gaze on the machine, mesmerized by the spinning, the whirring of the motor. 

When you’re 10 years old and helping to make homemade ice cream, 30 minutes can seem like a lifetime. 

The ice crunching and shifting under the mysterious powers of rock salt magically transforms the liquidy mixture of eggs, sugar, milk and vanilla to harden up, causing the motor to start to slow. Everything comes to a halt when Dad unplugs the machine. He slowly opens the lid to reveal the world’s yummiest frozen concoction in all of its creamy loveliness and proclaims it to be another perfect batch. Dad precariously removes the paddle from the container and places it in a giant bowl. Then he gives me my pay for helping with the process by handing me a spoon. We enjoy the coveted first taste test from the precious ice cream drippings of the paddle that had fallen into the bowl. 

Do you know when’s the best time to make ice cream? All the time! It doesn’t need to be anyone’s birthday or a holiday. Yes, we’re lucky to have delicious ice cream in the local grocery store freezer, but, as our family likes to say, “Store bought ice cream is store bought ice cream, but homemade ice cream is a celebration!” 

Ice cream and hot fudge

Get your spoons and your tastebuds ready to enjoy some of Cleary’s hot fudge sauce poured over Vic’s Homemade Ice Cream.  

I’m going to let you in on a little secret . . . homemade ice cream is easier to make than people think. If you have an electric ice cream maker (sorry, going to pass on the churning) and you can find the ice cream rock salt at the grocery store (usually hidden on the bottom shelf under the spices) you can make homemade ice cream in about an hour total (mixing and freezing). Below, I’m sharing a few family favorites. Enjoy and maybe making homemade ice cream could become a tradition for your family, too. Or at least the perfect ingredients for some great memories.

Vic Vine’s Homemade Ice Cream

6 eggs
2 cups of sugar
16 oz half and half
16 oz heavy whipping cream
2 large cans evaporated milk (not condensed)
1 ½ tsp vanilla
Juice of 1 lemon (to help it freeze faster)
Whole milk (add to the fill line)

Mix together and pour into ice cream canister. Freeze and enjoy!

One of the secrets is the importance of the amount of ice and rock salt you use to make it freeze correctly. I suggest layering 4 cups crushed ice and ½ cup rock salt and then repeat until the bucket is full to the top with ice surrounding the ice cream container. Add more ice and rock salt as it melts.c

My older sister, Kathy Vine Kalland, is a homemade ice cream goddess. She went rogue a few years back and stopped using Dad's recipe. Her new recipe of choice? The recipe that came in the box with their ice cream maker. 

Old Fashion Country Vanilla Ice Cream – Rival Ice Cream Makers

4 eggs
4 cups (32 oz container) whipping cream
2 ½ cups sugar
¼ tsp salt
2 tablespoons vanilla
Fill rest of ice cream container to fill line with whole milk (the recipe says that’s about 5 cups)

Beat eggs. Add whipping cream and beat. Add sugar and salt. Then add vanilla. Pour into homemade ice cream container with paddle inside. Fill rest of container with milk up until the fill line mark in the canister.

My dad’s older brother, Uncle Everett, (one of the Ohio dignitaries) was more of a homemade custard man. 

Ev’s Homemade Custard

2 cups whole milk
2 cans evaporated milk
2 cups sugar
1/3 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 1/2 quarts half & half
¼ cup flour
1 tablespoon vanilla

Scald milk (whole milk and evaporated milk). Mix sugar, flour and salt. Add small amount of milk to make a thick paste. Put over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. Add the mixture gradually to beat eggs. Cook over low heat constantly until mixture thickens, about two minutes. Do not cook longer, as the eggs may curdle. Cool in refrigerator. Add vanilla and half & half to the cooled mixture. Pour in cylinder. Fill only 2/3 full to allow for expansion.

My mom, Cleary Vine, is also a homemade ice cream girl. Her family had a peach tree and her dad, Jimmy Johnston (also known as PaPa) made legendary homemade peach ice cream. Cleary shared that if you want to make a fruit ice cream you just add 1½ cups of fresh fruit into the vanilla ice cream mixture. It’s all the same ingredients; you’ll just add less milk to the fill line.

Cleary is known for her awesome hot fudge sauce. Just when you thought homemade ice cream couldn’t get any better!

Cleary’s Hot Fudge Sauce

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 tablespoons light Karo syrup
1/2 cup sugar
½ cup heavy whipping cream

Heat all ingredients in the microwave except the cream in one-minute intervals. Occasionally stir between heating up. Add cream at the end.

My cousin Vicki Vine (yes, named after my dad) said her mom, Mary Vine, made the most amazing lemon ice cream. Aunt Mary was a sweetheart and a great cook, so I’m including it. Plus, you don’t need an ice cream maker for this recipe.

Aunt Mary’s Lemon Ice Cream/Sorbet

3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 cup sugar
1 pint half & half
A few drops of yellow food coloring

Add juice and rind to sugar and blend together and slowly stir in cream and a few drops of yellow food coloring. Pour into a square or rectangular glass casserole dish and freeze for 3 hours. Take out and let thaw slightly and break into chunks. Whip with a hand mixer until smooth. Put back into freezer for an hour or so. Enjoy! (You’ll probably want to double the recipe.)

Editor's note: For more ice cream inspiration, see: Peach Ice Cream, Peach SherbetLemon Ice Cream, Lemon Milk Sherbet and Raspberry Peach Sorbet.

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