December 2, 2012

Homemade Ice Cream

Deuth,-Dave-colorBy David W. Deuth, CFSP
President, Weerts Funeral Home

It was one of those winters when kids – who usually had to be coaxed out of bed so we wouldn’t be late for school – loved to get up early and listen to the radio to see if school was late or canceled. And by the time the announcement was made, we were so giddy we couldn’t possibly go back to sleep. There was far too much to do once school had been called off.

Late in the afternoon, it became very snowy. School had let out early, and we hunkered down after supper for an evening inside. And just when the dishes were done, someone had a splendid idea.
Homemade ice cream.

Mom and Dad had the coolest hand-crank ice cream freezer ever, probably from the late ‘50s or early ‘60s. The outer tub was blue with flecks and the inner stainless steel churning canister held the cream mixture. A brine of salt and ice separated the two and chilled the coveted creamy goodness of homemade ice cream, as we manually cranked the handle for what seemed like hours. And, I must say, we cranked up a lot of really good ice cream in that baby over the years.

Mom began assembling the necessary ingredients as my mouth began to water. Sugar, check. Vanilla, check. Half and Half….whoa. No Half and Half.

Discussion ensued that we may have to postpone the great snowstorm homemade ice cream event due to the weather…and sans Half and Half in the house. Nonsense, my brother and I agreed. We lived a mere few blocks from the grocery store, and surely we could make it there and back to get a container of Half and Half, if that’s all we had to do to get some homemade ice cream.

We headed toward the Jack & Jill store a few blocks away. Sensible drivers, I now realize, avoid the snow drifts by driving around them. We plowed through those drifts, all the while convincing ourselves – out loud – of the magnanimous importance of our dairy run.

Must have ice cream, must have ice cream…

We gunned it and made our way into the grocery store parking lot. “Not very busy,” we quipped. No, not very busy at all. They were closed due to the weather. Clearly, we would have to head across town to the other grocery store. Bravely we fought our way through drifts of snow and unplowed streets…not another car in sight anywhere. The snow was so heavy, the light from the streetlights was visible only when you were mere feet away from the light poles.

Must have ice cream, must have ice cream…

Sliding into that parking lot, we quickly found that they were closed, too. Surely SOMEONE was open in this town that had some Half and Half. Gas stations in those days still had service stations, not convenience stores, so that wasn’t an option. Drove by several cafes; closed.

I worked at the hospital at the time and mused that perhaps I could find someone from security to escort me to the kitchen where I’d open the refrigerator door and magically discover the Half and Half and save the day. My brother mentioned something about being an idiot…
Well??? Did he have any better ideas??

We slid the car up to the only place in town that looked like it was open: Gannon’s Supper Club. I marched on in there and explained to the first – and only – person I saw that we desperate for Half and Half. I explained how we had the sugar and the vanilla and the nifty ice cream freezer….and how we had criss-crossed the entire town on this noble mission only to be cruelly crushed by the same lousy snowstorm that just hours earlier had been our hero when it had spared us from a few hours of school.

She looked at me kind of funny and disappeared into the kitchen, returning moments later with a container of Half and Half. I don’t recall what I paid her for it, but I carried it with both hands as though precious jewels as I made my way back to the car.

The snow was getting thicker, and we really had to be careful to make it home. We never did get stuck, but by all rights, probably should have.

Must have ice cream, must have ice cream…

Leaping through the door like a superhero, I proudly displayed the trophy of our valiant efforts. Mom was quite surprised, I think, that we made it home without getting stuck in the snow AND actually found some Half and Half somewhere.

She mixed up the ingredients, and the rest of us just stared in trance-like silence as she poured the creamy delight into the stainless steel canister. I could taste its goodness in my mind. After we added the ice and the salt to make the brine in the bucket, we were more than ready. Let the cranking begin.

I cranked first. And cranked. And cranked. It should be getting thicker by now…

My brother jumped in to crank for awhile. And he cranked. And cranked. Then Dad took a turn cranking. And cranking. And cranking. After 25 minutes of non-stop cranking, we checked the glorious treasure inside: still completely liquid. Must not be cranking hard enough.

I started round two of the cranking. Several minutes later, I relinquished the handle to my brother. He cranked and cranked and cranked. We checked the canister again; still liquid. After we all took our turn at round three of non-stop cranking, we cracked the lid open again.

Still liquid.

I reasoned that we should taste-test it. Maybe it just LOOKS like liquid, but is really smooth, creamy ice cream? I snuck a spoonful and tasted it – anticipating the creamy goodness, whatever the form. It was horrible. It tasted like a glass of sweetened milk that got into a fight with a salt shaker.

A quick assessment led us to the realization that the seam on the stainless steel canister had a small leak and the brine had seeped into the coveted creamy goodness of our ice cream. We were devastated.

MUST have ice cream, MUST have ice cream…

Heartbroken, we could only watch in stunned silence as we were reduced to pouring the salt-spolied treasure down the drain. We didn’t have any store-bought ice cream in the freezer that day. And I’m not so sure that any of us would have eaten it if we did. We laid to rest the very cool hand-crank ice cream freezer with the flecks.

I can still vividly imagine the taste of mom’s homemade ice cream. It’s something special. And I think we’ll make some this winter. Maybe during Christmas.

Preferably during a snow storm.

Remember Well.