Ice cream a summer staple

By Karl Terry: Freedom New Mexico columnist

The old summertime saying goes: “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.”

I’m not too sure I’ve ever done too much screaming for ice cream but I sure have moaned and complained after eating too much of the frozen sweet stuff.

I could eat ice cream every night if I let myself but I try hard not to succumb to temptation that often. Still, as the hot days of July and its Independence holiday rolls around I find myself craving homemade ice cream — by far the best summer dessert ever.

My dad’s family had a dairy and a freezer of ice cream was a regular part of a good number of Sunday afternoons for them. He saved up his money as a kid and bought his own White Mountain freezer, which was used for years and years at my grandparents’ house.

To the unenlightened that freezer probably didn’t look like much but it was pure genius for teaching a houseful of kids how to work together to produce a wonderful treat that everyone would enjoy. Its stained wooden bucket staves were held together by metal bands that showed signs of corrosion. The gear housing often looked a little rusty and the wooden handle had long since split and been taped with electrician’s tape. But its looks were deceiving.

With the stainless steel freezer loaded with milk, cream, sugar, eggs and vanilla in just the right portions the cylinder would be loaded and ice shoveled into the sides with a little water and rock salt a brine mix was created and more ice was added. Then an insulating layer of newspaper or brown paper sacks was laid atop the crank’s gearbox and then topped off by an old quilt.

One of us would sit on top of the freezer while someone else started cranking. Soon there would be one kid with a cold butt and another with a tired arm and a rotation was called. It usually took about 30-40 minutes before the dasher inside the freezer froze up inside the ice cream and cranking became impossible. Another blanket was added until time to eat the ice cream.

Ice cream socials were common summer get-togethers as were ice cream suppers after church on Sundays. Homemade vanilla ice cream and a piece of chocolate Texas sheet cake can’t be beat.

Later, my parents had retired the hand-cranked freezer for an electric one with the same results for your taste buds. I also had a good friend, Mark, right after my wife and I were married who had an electric ice cream freezer and loved to make ice cream. They owned a motel and every chance we got we got together and made ice cream.

Watching Mark mix up the ingredients was always amazing. He never did it exactly the same way twice and never carefully measured anything.

He would mix it up and we would both take a taste and decide what it needed as we went along.

Then we would shovel a five gallon bucket full of ice from the ice maker and set the freezer up in the basin in front of the big washing machine in the motel’s laundry. A half hour later we would be pigging out on ice cream gilded with a multitude of sundae toppings the ladies had laid out.

Sometimes the electric freezers today don’t seem to freeze the cream as firmly as the hand-cranked machines did but arthritic elbows and hands appreciate the technology as much as the tummy loves the ice cream.

A few years ago my mother rounded up three of the old hand-cranked wooden tubs and had a winter scene painted on each of them for Christmas presents for her children. Mine graces the corner of our living room, a reminder of hot summers and sweet desserts.

Karl Terry, a former Quay County Sun publisher, writes for Freedom New Mexico. Contact him at:
karlterry@yucca.net