Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Pleasures of Homemade Ice Cream

During the summer, try to keep cool by thinking about the comforting, healing powers of homemade ice cream. Anything made of such pure, simple things like milk, sugar, and fruit has to be good. Toss in a hearty dose of family remembrances, a front porch and a tall tale or two, and you’re looking at a delightful afternoon.

Homemade ice cream reminds me of my grandfather, Daddy Bunk. One summer Sunday when I was about eight, he and my grandmother were down from Houston for a visit. We enjoyed a huge lunch after church and made ice cream with fresh peaches. We ate it out of white Styrofoam cups while watching Paper Moon (remember, with young Tatum O’Neal?). Eventually most of us took a nap, nodding off to the whir of a cool fan and the scent of ripe peaches.

Homemade ice cream also reminds me of Sunday afternoons; I don’t know if we made it any other day of the week. Watching Dad break the bags of ice was always the best part for Lan and me (besides eating, of course). Heaving the bags onto the back porch looked like great fun, and we never could figure out why the grown ups wouldn’t let us handle that job.

The making process seemed something of a mystery: chunks of ice glistening in the hot sun with rock salt from blue boxes poured over it and towels wrapped around. A lot of mechanical noise and an eternity later, homemade ice cream was magically produced from the cold cylinder, dripping with ice.

Our family always enjoyed rich pound cake, warm from the oven, with homemade ice cream. My grandmother’s favorite recipe, and the one we all use, is called Sock It To Me Cake, which we usually make without the “Sock It,” a combination of cinnamon, nuts, and brown sugar. The result is a very creamy, evenly textured cake baked in a Bundt pan. It surely complements every kind of ice cream known to man, except maybe those low-fat versions, on whom its richness and taste would be lost.

If you should happen to have ice cream left over, make ice cream sandwiches to have for another day. Spread about 1/8 cup softened ice cream between two chocolate chip (or peanut butter or shortbread or oatmeal – whatever you like best) cookies. Quickly roll edges in a shallow bowl of colored sugar crystals, chopped nuts, and/or colorful nonpareils. Wrap sandwiches individually in plastic wrap and store in the freezer. These look great and are real crowd-pleasers, especially if you have any youngsters around.

Fresh Peach Ice Cream
This recipe was given to my mother by Ginger Denson, a family friend from Cleveland, Miss.

8 pasteurized large eggs*
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 heaping tablespoons flour
dash of salt
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 12-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
8 to 10 peeled, pitted and sliced peaches
1 1/2 tablespoon vanilla

* I've never used a pasteurized egg in my life. I always use just regular old hen eggs and it comes out fine. But if you're apprehensive about the raw eggs bit, by all means, go with pasteurized eggs.

Beat eggs until light yellow in large bowl. Mix sugar and flour together and gradually add to eggs; pour into ice cream freezer. Add milk to fill level. Stir in peaches and vanilla. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

For plain vanilla ice cream, also hard to beat on a hot summer’s day, omit the peaches and proceed.

Banana variation (my dad’s favorite): Mash 5 to 7 very ripe bananas and add to mixture in place of peaches. Proceed with recipe.

Sock It To Me Cake
Maybe not gourmet, but talk about good!

1 (19.25-oz) box butter-recipe cake mix
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup oil
4 large eggs

“Sock It,” which is optional:

3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a Bundt pan and set aside.

Combine cake mix and sugar. Add oil and sour cream. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Top with brown sugar, cinnamon, and chopped nuts. Add remaining batter. (Or leave out the spices and nuts and add batter all at once.)

Bake for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

Excerpted from Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern

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