Homemaker’s Column: We All Scream for Ice Cream

July 25, 2022

Christine J. Patrick, County Extension Agent – EFNEP

Ice cream has come a long way since Emperor Nero sent enslaved people to the mountains to retrieve ice and snow, which was brought back to Rome, where it was mixed with nectar, fruit pulp, and honey. Historians say that Marco Polo brought back to Europe from the Far East recipes for mixing ice and milk. Over time, methods evolved, and versions of iced creams were served in the Italian and French royal courts. Eventually, the dessert made its way to the United States. George Washington had ice harvested in the winter and stored in insulated rooms for the summer when the cook would hand whip ice cream using two pewter bowls – one to hold the cream and flavorings and a larger one for the freezing brine.

In 1846 an American woman named Nancy Johnson revolutionized ice cream production. She invented the hand-cranked ice cream churn. Today anyone who owns a churn can make ice cream far superior to anything our first President could have ever dreamed about. His would have been dense, coarse, and full of ice crystals. Modern ice cream is smooth and creamy, thanks to Nancy Johnson’s inspiration to put paddles in her churn to keep the mix moving, cooling it evenly and blending in some air to make the ice cream less dense. The flavors of ice cream available at the local grocery store can be bewildering. Besides the standards – vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry – you will find Rocky Road, Turtle Tracks, Banana Split, Peanut Butter, Phish Food, Cherry Garcia, Butter Pecan, and the list goes on.

You will find varieties ranging from premium to low fat, sugar-free, and lactose-free. And the good news is that they all add calcium, vitamin B2, and protein to your diet. You’ll probably like the one you make at home best of all. Just keep a few things in mind. Don’t use raw eggs in your ice cream mix unless the mix is heated to 145°F and cooled before churning. This reduces the risk of salmonella from raw eggs. The chill first part of the directions makes the churning go faster. Recipes that call for heavy cream will have a lot of fat grams and calories. If you want to lower the fat and calorie content, you can look for a recipe that calls for milk instead.

Ice cream and custards contain whipping cream and about 10 percent milkfat, but the custard will be higher in calories – about 187 per half-cup versus 134 – because it has more egg yolks. Ice milk will contain about half the calories of custard and vary from 2 to 7 percent milkfat. Follow directions for your churn when it comes to ice-to-salt ratios. Five cups of ice to each rock salt should be suitable for rapid cooling and freezing. When the churn stops, drain the brine and wipe the canister top and cover to remove traces of salt. Remove the cover, take out the dasher and scrape the ice cream back into the can. Top the canister with plastic wrap or foil and replace the cap.

Pack leftover ice and salt around the canister and wrap the entire churn with a thick layer of newspaper or towels. Here’s the most challenging part of the instructions: let the ice cream sit undisturbed for an hour. This is called ripening, allowing the ice cream to harden and the flavors to develop. Of course, if you have one of the new ice cream freezers that do not need ice, you don’t have to worry about ice and salt. You may still have to pack the ice cream in a container and put it in the freezer to let it harden. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.

For more information on making ice cream at home safely, visit the Clemson University Home and Garden Information Center on the web at

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