It is said that ice cream was made in China around 3000 BC, but came to true fruition in Italy in the 13th century when Italians would cool down custards or sweet cream in a covered bowl of ice. Although the Italians probably shared the recipes with the French, and the French shared with England, every country seems to claim it as one of their foodie contributions to the world. This frozen phenomena hit the ground running in this country sometime around the American Revolution and hasn’t stopped.
I believe that all of us have our own “personal ice cream history.” These are events that pop up on life’s timeline and center around this tempting icy treat. These frozen memories, when revisited, can add such comfort and pleasure to our lives.
When I was growing up, one of the mainstay cookbooks for my mom’s generation was the Helen Corbitt Cookbook. There were certain dishes that became tried and true at our house … and if it was Helen’s, it was fashionable as well as fool proof. After all, she ran the restaurant at the swanky Neiman-Marcus and was an early foodie who, during an era of cooking shortcuts, claimed to “take you back to the kitchen.”
Several times each summer our dad would pull out the ice cream maker and mom would pull out Corbitt’s cookbook … and unless it was South Carolina peach time, ask us to choose a recipe. I guess we churned them all, first by hand and later with an electric machine, packing in the rock salt and ice and hanging around for the end result. I have to say, we were never disappointed. Miss Helen was right on target with her ultra-rich ice creams and fruity sherbets.
Another summer memory involves the mysterious Ice Cream Truck. Before we sat down for dinner, my brother and I would count our change and plan what we would choose for our nightly fix. The friendly ice cream man would start his music playing blocks away to ensure that everyone knew he was on his route. Neighbors would appear out of nowhere, bare summer feet running to get in line. He had it all — Brown Mules, Dreamsicles, Fudgesicles, ice cream sandwiches and sometimes even a chance to win a free ice cream by guessing the tune the truck played. One summer, the tune never changed, and every week he claimed nobody had hit it right. For weeks, we guessed every song we knew. Finally, when summer was about over, my mother casually remarked, “I think it is The Bells of St. Mary’s.” Now, who in my Ricky Nelson generation had ever heard of that? But, our excitement peaked and we flew out the door as soon as he rounded the crest of hill, screaming at the top of our lungs, “Bells of St. Mary’s.” I am not sure whether or not we actually got it right or if he just felt sorry for us after weeks of trying to guess. .. But, he honked his horn, blinked his colored lights and said we had won! The taste of that winning Nutty Buddy rivaled no other.
Another clear memory that is etched in my mind centers around my father, ice cream connoisseur and the original HOJO fanatic. During the reign of Howard Johnson as king of the ice cream world, dad loved nothing more than finding the orange roofs and blue spire that were the trademark of this 28-flavor wonder. Long before GPS came on the scene, no matter where we happened to be, he would locate the closest HOJO and schedule his “ice cream stop” every night after dinner. I remember standing in front of Howard Johnson’s in Fort Lauderdale at about age 10 and hearing him say, “Be brave and try something new.” After all, he had tried all 28 flavors and finally narrowed his favorites to maple walnut, coconut and pistachio. I guess he had watched me stay in my ice cream comfort zone long enough, and was suggesting I check out other more worldly possibilities. That night, I asked for one scoop of coconut and one scoop of pistachio in a sugar cone. From then on, the exotic became the new norm.
I hope that my children have a few ice cream memories already. I know for a fact they always hope that the Kingsport TCBY is serving coffee yogurt on days they visit their grandmother…and I do see their 20-year-old eyes light up when they hear me plug in the ice cream maker. “What are we celebrating?” they ask. “Whatever you choose,” I reply.
You know, when you think about it, that bumper sticker is right on target!
Ice Cream bases can be either cooked or uncooked. Do not use eggs in an uncooked base. Recently I have come across many recipes that use condensed milk. I have included one of each of the above. If you have a small machine, you may get two batches out of some of these. Just play around with them and get inventive!
Lemon Velvet Ice Cream
From Helen Corbitt’s Cookbook
1 quart plus 1 1/3 cups whipping cream
1 quart plus 1 1/3 cups milk
Juice of 8 fresh lemons
4 cups sugar
2 tsp. lemon extract
1 Tbsp. grated lemon rind
Mix thoroughly and freeze in favorite machine. According to Helen, “It tastes just the way it sounds ... like velvet.”
Makes perfect amount for large groups using old fashioned-maker or two batches for smaller modern machines.
Brown Sugar Almond Ice Cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup half n half6 egg yolks
2/3 cups packed dark brown sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond extract
1 cup sour cream
2/3 cup slivered toasted almonds
Heat the milk and half n half to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Cover and remove from heat.
Whisk together brown sugar and egg yolks until thick and add vanilla and almond extracts.
Pour milk mixture slowly into the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Return the mixture to saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring until slightly thick and coats back of spoon. Do not boil.
Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature and cover and refrigerate overnight.
Freeze in ice cream maker according to machine directions until begins to set. Add sour cream and toasted almonds and freeze until done.
Drizzle with caramel sauce if you want to be decadent or serve with fresh fruit for a perfect dessert. Makes about a quart.
Quick No Cook Peach Ice Cream
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup half n half
1½ cups whole milk
4-5 peeled and sliced fresh ripe peaches
1½ Tbsp. sugar
¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
Lemon zest from ½ lemon
1/8 tsp. salt
¾ cup peach juice or peach nectar
Stir together condensed milk, half in half and milk until well blended. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes.
Blend peaches, sugar, lemon juice and salt in blender until smooth. Stir into milk with lemon zest and peach juice.
Put mixture into ice cream freeze and freeze according to directions of machine. Put ice cream into air-tight container in freezer until ready to serve.
Jennifer King Ferreira grew up in Kingsport, where she received her first cooking experiences from her grandmother, Genevieve Shivell. She is the past owner of the Abingdon General Store and Plum Alley Eatery, a gourmet store and restaurant in Abingdon, Va., and serves as Marketing and Public Relations Specialist for Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center and the Cooking Along the Crooked Road Culinary Program.