Around the same time that I started to crawl, my palate’s natural leanings toward the salty end of the spectrum became apparent. When rummaging through the pantry after school, I reached for the bag of chips over the box a cookies nine time out of ten.
But there were some sweet treats that I simply couldn’t resist, none more so than homemade ice cream. I’ll never forget sitting on my Grandfather’s back porch in Alabama, hovering over his old ice cream maker, and filling the warped wood bucket with ice and salt while the deafeningly loud motor cranked away. Invariably, it was vanilla ice cream in there – or, at least the Southern condensed-milk heavy rendition of vanilla – and it always came out soft and slightly soupy. And it was always delicious.
My penchant for salty-over-sweet persisted into adulthood, and even now is a well-established dynamic in my marriage. I cook dinner; my wife handles dessert. She has a sweet tooth that could keep Willy Wonka in business, and I’m not nearly organized or precise enough in the kitchen to enjoy baking (I like going off recipe far too much). This dynamic works, and we both like it that way. But the ice cream is all me.
Many people don’t mess with making their own ice cream at home because it seems daunting, but it is one of the simplest things to do, though depending on your hardware it may be a little labor intensive, with all of the ice and salt replenishing and whatnot. My rig is of the “frozen bowl” variety, which I leave in the freezer at all times so that I can whip up a batch on a whim if I feel so inclined.
The most important thing that you can do is find a solid ice cream base recipe that you like, and then the sky is the limit from there. I prefer a custard-style base, which calls for egg in addition to the cream/milk and sugar and requires a stint on the stovetop. Whatever your preference, once you have your base you can mix things up however you like. Get a little weird with it. I’m polishing off the last bowl of a batch of butter-roasted banana and Blanton’s bourbon ice cream as I’m typing this.
Though I enjoy the range of flavors that I can concoct with my ice cream maker, I’ll never stop comparing them to the soupy sweet vanilla that I grew up on.
With a few more months of heat in front of us, I hope that some of you are still giving your ice cream makers a good workout. I’m making a batch for a group of friends next weekend…any suggestions?!
- By Jon Watson, Food & More blog