Sunday, May 18, 2008

First taste of summer

Even though summer is about a month off yet, we decided it was time for some summertime fun last night. We grilled steaks and burgers on the little Weber charcoal kettle for the last time before our new Blue Ember gas grill arrives (Tuesday). We had just enough charcoal to do it, and in fact, afterwards we decided that it would have been better if we had had just a little more...but hey, we were trying to finish off all the charcoal and we were successful. After dinner, I dug out our Cuisinart 1 quart ice cream maker which we had not used in many moons (literally, it's been more than a year) and dusted it off to make two batches of fresh strawberry ice cream. Now before you go scratching your head about why two overweight guys should eat ice cream, let me tell you that it was sugarless, low-carb ice cream. And before you turn up your nose at sugarless ice cream, you would have to have tasted my sugarless ice cream, because I guarantee you, you would have great difficulty in discerning that it is sugarless...even if you tell me that you hate artificial sweeteners.

The burgers were good, the steaks were better, and the ice cream was fabulous.

Nothing tastes like homemade ice cream. I grew up having it about once a month or more during the summer, because my mom's family was all about homemade ice cream. At that time, we had a hand-crank White Mountain freezer. I loved the ice cream, but I hated the process of making it. First, you mixed up your ingredients and put them into the ice cream can. Then you seated the wooden paddle into the can and put the can into the wooden bucket that held the can and the ice mix. The heavy metal lid was then put on the can. That wasn't always easy because the lid had a center hexagonal notch that had to be seated just perfectly in order for the crank to work.

The next step was the most important: getting the ice mix just right. You'd put a 3-inch layer of ice into the bucket, then a 1/2-inch layer of rock salt, and repeat this process until the ice was about 1 1/2 inches from the top of the can. You could either start cranking then or, as my uncle liked to do because he said it took less time to freeze, pour a small amount of cold water over the top of the ice mix and then start cranking.

One person was the designated cranker for the first 10-12 minutes, and another for the second 10-12 minutes, because that was about as long as your arm could stand to crank it, and you had to maintain a steady speed that was neither too fast nor too slow. Besides the designated cranker, there was a designated sitter. The sitter would use an old bedspread, folded over itself numerous times, and put it atop the crank apparatus and then sit on the crank apparatus so that it stayed still. As a kid, I thought that having a sitter was necessary for all freezers and thought it was pretty dopey engineering until I discovered as a teenager that it was actually our freezer that was the problem: the side latch that held the crank apparatus in place was broken on our freezer, so that's why someone had to sit on the apparatus. But I found this out only after asking my aunt why no one had to sit on her freezer. Sitting on the freezer wasn't only uncomfortable because you were sitting on unforgiving metal, it was also freezing cold. By the time 25 minutes was up, there'd be no feeling in your ass for a week. It was hard to tell whether this phenomenon was caused by the metal or the ice.

The ice cream freezer was a messy affair: as the ice melted from the reaction with the salt, the water level in the bucket would rise high enough that it would need to be released so that it didn't flood the bucket and make its way into the ice cream can. So there was a hole drilled into the side of the bucket which allowed runoff. Even so, you had to be careful that you didn't let any of the resulting brine get up around the lid, or you'd wind up with salty ice cream. You couldn't make your ice cream in the back yard, though, or else the brine would run into the grass and kill it. So you had to put the freezer into a large tub to catch the brine, or you'd have to freeze it in your driveway (in front of all your neighbors) so that the brine would run off into the street, where it would then confuse any number of free-range neighborhood pets that would mistake it for potable water, sending cats, dogs and squirrels running from the curb with their paws about their necks, gasping "water!"

My mom's family would get together on weekends and everyone would bring a 1-1.5 gallon ice-cream freezer filled with their particular favorite. My mother would routinely make chocolate or vanilla when I was a kid, and occasionally lemon or strawberry; but as I got older, she got more adventurous. One of the first non-standard flavors I remember her making was a banana ice cream that was so heavy and banana-y that it was sinful to eat; you couldn't eat more than about a half bowl of it. She liked that though, because it made it go farther. Then she really got into making candy bar and cookie ice creams like Butterfinger® ice cream, Milky Way® ice cream, and Oreo® (or in our case, Hydrox®, because Oreos were too expensive).

When the process was finished, you'd carefully pull the can from the freezer tub, open it up and remove the paddle to a platter, where multiple youngsters would lick the paddle like dogs, getting the rapidly-melting sugary, creamy goo all over their faces and clothes. I remember my cousin, who liked to drink the melted ice cream from the paddle platter, lifting the platter one time and over-compensating, at which point liquid ice cream spilled from the platter all over face, down her neck and into the front of her clothes. She ran away screaming and crying because she didn't want to be seen with the mess all over her. My uncle was minimizing it, saying, "what's a little spilled milk?" and another cousin, whom I loved because he was so mischievous, cracked that, "if her boobs were bigger, she could have avoided it running clear to her knees."

My mom is still widely known for her ice cream, and now one of her favorites to make is Cherry Pie, which is also outrageous...not for those who are on a has cherries, but it also has chunks of graham cracker crust that are added in during the last 5-10 minutes of the cycle.

The hand-crank freezer was retired when I was about 18 (that freezer was about 25 years old at the time) and my parents bought an electric-motor White Mountain freezer that my mom still uses today. It's more convenient than the manual crank version, but it's a lot noisier. You can't hold a conversation anywhere in her apartment while it's running unless you use a megaphone. Even my Cuisinart is noisy, but it's nothing compared to the White Mountain.

Sugarless Strawberry Ice Cream
Makes 2 qts

1 egg, separated
3/4 c. Equal Measure (NOT the paper packets!)
3/4 c. Splenda for Baking (NOT the paper packets!)
1 qt. fresh strawberries
1 tsp vanilla
1 pint heavy cream
1 pint whole milk

Separate eggs and beat white until it just holds peaks; gradually add the sweeteners while beating, continuing to beat for 1 minute. Beat in the egg yolk. Set aside briefly.

Place the strawberries and a little of the cream in blender and blend for 3 seconds. There will still be big chunks of berry; that's okay. Add to egg mixture along with remaining cream, milk, and vanilla. Stir well.

Place 1 quart of the mixture into Cuisinart freezer bowl and freeze for 25 minutes; transfer to bowls; pour remaining quart of mixture into freezer and freeze for 25 minutes.


At 11:18 PM, May 18, 2008, Blogger Jess said...

Hey, Bokey, if we had been teenagers together (if you weren't so very much older than me! *snicker*), I would have been happy to help thaw out your ass after you sat on the freezer! ;)

(See that, everyone? I can even taking something as wholesome as childhood memories of making ice cream and foul them with my lust! But that's part of why Marc loves me!) :)

At 2:56 PM, May 19, 2008, Blogger CoffeeDog said...

A new grill! I want one. Ours is ok, but the flame seems out of control, I'm always having to watch stuff like a hawk or else it'll get charred

At 11:16 AM, May 23, 2008, Blogger pinknest said...

oh what a fun summer meal! perfect. i would not want to be designated cranker. i'd be a sourpuss and impatient i imagine. haha.


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