Recently I visited with executive chef Paul Freimuth at the Hyatt and toured his elaborate kitchen. What amazed me most was the technology he uses for freezing homemade ice cream.
He explained how, with a huge canister of liquid nitrogen, he can make ice cream to order for his customers in a minute or two. Liquid nitrogen vaporizes at such a low temperature, it flash-freezes the mixture almost instantly. That prevents the water from forming large ice crystals and gives ice cream a very velvety texture.
This method is not available for the home cook. But we do have electric ice cream makers that will churn a fresh batch in about 20 minutes. Many models do not even require ice, so we can have homemade ice cream, gelato and sorbets without much effort.
Although I embrace our modern conveniences, I recall another time when ice cream was really special. Making ice cream at home was a big event on the farm during warm summer days. This exciting experience made its debut on Memorial Day, then off and on during the summer right up to Labor Day.
Why was it only a summer experience? Probably because it was no small feat to make it. Once Mama decided it was time for ice cream, she would save extra milk and cream from the morning milking. Although it did not take her long to stir together the custard and chill it, next came a trip to town to purchase a block of ice. Once back home, the fun began. The 25-pound chuck of ice did not come neatly cubed in a plastic bag but had to be crushed. So, outdoors, with the ice block tucked inside a gunny sack, my dad crushed it with the sledge hammer.
We always churned the ice cream outside, sitting in a lawn chair under a big shade tree. My siblings and I shared the work of cranking the mixture; turning at a slow speed created the creamiest ice cream. When the mixture was nearly frozen, turning the crank became more difficult. That’s when my dad would take charge and finish it. The payoff came when the dasher was removed and we sampled what we had created. The bucket was packed down in the ice with more salt to “ripen” for an hour or so. Most likely, if we did not have company when we started the project, we would ask some of the neighbors over to visit over big bowls of ice cream.
Holding with my family’s tradition, I will be making homemade ice cream for our Memorial Day celebration. Being a modern gal now, I will use my electric ice cream maker.
Either way you churn it, you will find my Strawberry Ice Cream delicious.