Pete and I used to have this obsession with ice cream. I don't recall when it started, but but for years we ate ice cream every night before bed. Every. Single. Night. A frightening amount, when I think about it. We were so addicted that if we discovered we were out just before bedtime, we would run to the store for more, possibly in our pajamas.
I know. We had a problem.
Finally, after stumbling upon an old hand-crank ice cream maker at a second hand store, we flipped our addiction to homemade.
And now? Well, store bought doesn't hold the charm it once did. Our palates adjusted to the flavor of homemade – sans-refined sugar, and made with fresh raw cream. Even the kids reported (when tasting their once favorite store-bought ice cream after we switched to making our own) that the boughten kind was "way too sweet".
Our kids deciding that less sweet = better? That's a big win in my book.
Being able to control the type and amount of sweetener, the flavor combinations, and the quality of ingredients was a huge upgrade. And when we were off dairy we switched all of our recipes over to coconut milk (worked like a charm!) and kept our weekly churning dates going strong.
Plus the price of homemade is ridiculous. (Ridiculous meaning cheap.) We figured that even our brand new ice cream maker paid for itself after just one season of use; one summer of passing on the store bought organic ice cream we were so fond of. Find one second hand and it'll pay for itself in a single batch! Add to that raising kids who have the knowledge of how to make a favorite treat from scratch (eventually without even a recipe) and the value keeps going up.
Which ice cream maker do I suggest?
Because honestly, I've tried them all. I might as well lay it all out there! (A few afflinks follow.)
Whatever you can find! Thrift stores are overflowing with ice cream makers. (I can't explain this phenomenon.) That makes it affordable to experiment. If you don't love it, donate it back.
I've had the oak barrel type that you put salt and ice into. They are charming, but messy, and require some pre-planning to be sure you have enough ice on hand. And if you're buying new they are insanely expensive. Mine was $5 at a tag sale, but I eventually passed it onto my Amish friend after theirs was lost in a house fire. I haven't missed it.
I also went through a collection of hand-crank plastic models I picked up at the thrift store. They were fun, but the quality of ice cream they made was hit-or-miss, perhaps because of their age (or our technique). While they'll run you under $6 at a second hand shop, this type is also pricey online. If you find one for a steal snatch it up. It's fun to have kids churn their own – with muscle power – rather than grid power.
Sage was gifted one of the ball-type makers which was really fun for occasional use. But it would never be our every week go-to. On a camping trip? Yes. When I wanted to shag them out of the house for a few minutes after dinner? Definitely.
But what I really wanted was a workhorse of a machine that I could fill and walk away while it worked its magic. So with great trepidation, I finally upgraded to electric. Based on reviews and the advice of my wise big sister, I chose this model, and I couldn't be happier with it! Seriously. I am in love with this machine. The texture of our ice cream improve right off the bat, and several years in I'm still loving it. With a second insert in the freezer (found at the thrift store, of course) we're always ready to make some ice cream.
Below are some of the ice cream recipes I have shared through the years. Don't hesitate to modify them to suit your bounty or your palate! Mulberry-buttermilk, anyone?) I also heard recently that when you cut the sugar back in a recipe, adding a small amount of dissolved gelatin to the milk when you heat it will help the ice cream stay softer in the freezer. Who knew?
Happy summer, friends. And happy churning!