Monday, July 03, 2006

The Ice Cream Post

Earle enters the back porch bearing a large carton with Craftsman printed on it-- a sure sign he went to Sears.
Inside it is a wood bucket with a shiny stainless steel drum inside that connects at the top to a hand crank.
"What's that" I ask.
"An ice cream freezer" Earle said.
He washes the parts in the great green enameled sink where we do all the dishes and where Dorothy connects the Easy Washer to do the laundry.
"Ready?" Calls Dorothy from the kitchen.
"Yes," Says Earle as he sets the bottom of the drum on its socket.
She steps down to the porch with a large sauce pan containing the mixture -- chocolate custard -- she made the day before and chilled overnight in the GE Monitor top refrigerator. It fills the drum about two-thirds full. Earle lowers the dasher, a paddle like thing, inside; then settles the lid on top and fits the yoke and crank. He fills the space between drum and bucket with cracked ice pausing now and again to add rock salt to make the ice colder. When the drum disappears beneath the ice crystals he turns to us and says with a grin: "Who wants the first turn?"
The four of us look at each other. Henry steps forward. Earle shows him how to turn the crank: "Nice and slow at the start. Later, when it gets stiff you can go faster." Henry goes for several minutes before he surrenders the crank to Ann. She hums at first and then says "Gosh, Leonard, maybe you won't get a turn." That's all that's needed for Leonard to demand fair dues. With a show of reluctance Ann yields the crank. Soon a grim, determined, look suffuses Leonard's face in place of his usual wide grin. "Don't you want a turn?" he asks me. "Sure," I pipe. The crank in my hand -- stops. I put both hands on it and lean into it. It turns a quarter turn to stop at bottom dead center.
More interested in ice cream then the frustration building within me, Henry resumes the position and sets himself to the long pace. Earle spells him when Henry begins to pale. Ann and Leonard watch from a good position in back of Earle.
"There," Earle announces at last. And stops cranking. He changes the ice for a saltier mix to finish hardening. Earle wipes the sweat from his brow and goes out to the front porch to lay down on the glider to read until dinner is ready.
The ice cream is wonderful.
The next day Earle packs the freezer back into its box and puts it in the Chevy to take into town. He returns with a different ice cream freezer. This one has an electric motor.


There are two styles of ice cream freezer. One has a short, squatty can and the other has a tall narrow can. The latter does a superior job of freezing, not just in my opinion, but in that of many experts. Mine is a White Mountain, now part of Rival. Its can holds a bit more than four quarts. So I fill it with two quarts of mix. When I started making ice cream myself I tried the Philadelphia Ice Cream recipe in Fannie Farmer. It has the virtues of being both simple and good.
Mix each quart of cream with 3/4 cup sugar and a few grains of salt. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Chill. Add 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Vanilla or 1 teaspoon of grated vanilla bean. Freeze in a crank freezer to make 3 pints.
It is so good that I rarely make any other recipe. I have varied it by replacing a cup of cream with a cup of very strong coffee. That's good if you like coffee ice cream. A lot. Then I replaced the Vanilla with Root Beer concentrate which was also good. But not to the end of the gallon. It might be different if I had a big freezer and could keep the rest of the batch in reserve. Then I could vary the flavor without waste. With no more freezer space than comes at the top of my refrigerator one batch takes too much room. So, for ease of eating all the way to the bottom of the can, I mostly make Whistle Stop #6, as follows:

Pour half a gallon of cream into the can. Add a cup of sugar, three tablespoons of vanilla, and a half-teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg, Set the dasher and lid and place all in the churn. Fill the bucket about a third full of ice around the drum and plug the motor in. Scatter a cup of rock salt over the ice. Add more ice to near the top of the drum. Spread two-thirds of a cup of rock salt. Cover the can in ice. Sprinkle a third of a cup of salt. Add more ice as needed. I get two bags and generally have about a third of a bag left over. Do not add more salt. The White Mountain will run without lugging down. After about fifteen minutes stop it and move the ice cream into a container that goes in the freezer -- or serve it out to the party. When disassembling the mixer be careful to keep the salty ice out of the can. The lid can come loose easily. With another mixer it will probably lug down when done.

* * *

Where did the name come from? Once we lived across the field from an old railway station. My daughter and I frequently walked past it on our way to wherever. Then Tommy Thompson began to build a very narrow gauge railway in that area. Melissa and I, among many others, helped him lay track. Tommy was not sure what his final route would be. I suggested he make it a circuit of the field. Then he could make our house whistle stop #6.

* * *
Del, who told me of the boy who wouldn't eat his cereal until it got warm, Pointed out that I should get my ice the day before and put it in my freezer.
Bill queried my doing so.
"To make the ice cold," said I.
Bill snorted with delight. Until I repeated Del's explanation. Store freezers are kept near 30˚ -- just cold enough to stay frozen -- to save energy. My home freezer is at 0˚. Overnight the ice becomes colder.

* * *

British Columbia Folk-Jazz singer Diane Campbell once asked Diana to go with her to get an ice cream cone when we all worked at the Folklife Festival in Spokane.
"But I just had lunch!" said Diana.
Diane exclaimed, "You don't have to be hungry to eat ice cream!"

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