Lately I've discovered Blue Bunny Butter Pecan ice cream. The Premium variety is of course fabulous, but even the No Sugar Added variety is really good. Smooth vanilla studded with pecans - what's not to like?! Eating this ice cream reminded me of the process we used to go through to make it when I was growing up.
Of course, we grew up in tropical Africa. The ingredients weren't always easy to find. Milk was pretty sketchy - I disliked the lumpy, reconstituted powdered milk. The "fresh" kind wasn't too fresh and often was watered down. The eggs were readily available but of uneven quality (not surprising since those hens ran away from things that wanted to eat them 24/7). Eggs usually came to the back door as gifts or for sale by the travelling merchants who also brought us vegetables and ivory carvings and huge stalks of bananas.
My mother would start the night before with a custard ice cream recipe from Joy of Cooking... although looking at my edition (1976, beginning on page 758) it seems we should have had vanilla beans around. I don't remember that. We probably subtituted vanilla flavoring. I remember Mom telling me it never hurts to double the vanilla! We definitely did have evaporated milk, which appears in some of the recipes.
The next day, maybe an early Saturday evening, the churn would come out. I think it was a wood one, and of course was cranked manually. The ice came from the kerosene-powered fridge, the salt probably from the local native market. The promising bucket dropped into the ice, and soon all of us kids took turns turning, and exhorting each other not to stop. Adults take over from time to time when we get distracted. After an interminable, arm-exhausting amount of time, Mom would pronounce it ready. Once in a while we would shave some Cote D'or chocolate into that luscious vanilla before churning.
The ice cream itself was smooth and creamy most of the time, possibly a bit crystalized if we didn't do a good job. Cold felt good on warm tropical evenings! Since our freezer was very small and really not intended for long term storage of anything, we had to eat the whole bucket. Not much of a sacrifice.
Another highlight of making ice cream was daring each other to stand in the ice-water left in the churn bucket. Wow that was COLD!!!! Bare feet in salted icy water - you can't beat it. I can feel my toes going numb just thinking about it.
I don't remember doing this very often - a few times a year perhaps. Then again, I was at boarding school much of the year so perhaps my family had it more often than that. But whenever we made ice cream, we made good food, good fun, and good memories.
Photo credits: the ice cream churn comes from Kalani at Dreamstime. The hibiscus schitzopetalus shot comes from my dad, an excellent photogapher who has preserved the the soft sunset light on film for us to savor over and over again. Thanks Dad!