Ice cream… a favorite treat since 200 B.C.

I have a terrible weakness for ice cream, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

During the heat wave we just climbed out of, I discovered a new addiction – Mexican paletas. Not the popsicle-like, hard and icy paletas but the creamy, dreamy paletas that come in flavors like coconut (with real coconut shreds), Mayan chocolate (with cinnamon and chunks of chocolate) and my current addiction, rice pudding (with real rice pudding and raisins).

One example of the paletas that hold me hostage.

All of that on a stick. Oh, be still my heart.

Growing up, my large extended family met at my Granny’s house for Sunday dinner. Mom was the youngest of six, and Granny’s yard was filled to the edges with cousins when we got together. One uncle had ice cream duty, cranking the old ice cream maker by hand for what seemed to be hours while we waited anxiously for a sample of the homemade vanilla, chocolate or peach ice cream he’d scoop out. I don’t know how they decided who’d crank the ice cream, but someone must’ve lost a coin toss because cranking the ice cream maker isn’t easy.

Just last week, my husband said, “We need to make some ice cream.” He brought in our own electric ice cream maker and plugged it in to see if it was in working order after being stored for a long time. It was ready to use, no cranking necessary. I ran to the store and instead of gathering up all the goods for making homemade ice cream, I took the easy way out and grabbed a handful of paletas. I just wasn’t ready to have all that cold, creamy goodness in our freezer and just a spoon’s distance away.

I added my husband's favorite huckleberry jam to this batch.
I poured some huckleberry syrup into this batch of vanilla ice cream base before I stuck it in the freezer.

People have loved ice cream for centuries, with records of ice cream-like treats dating back to the second century B.C. when Alexander the Great enjoyed snow flavored with honey and nectar.

Fast-forward 1000 years or so, and Marco Polo returned to Italy from the Far East with a recipe for what resembles our modern-day sherbet.

Ice cream, or “cream ice” as it was called back in the 17th century, was often at King Charles I table in England. Catherine de Medici, Italian wife of Henry II of France, brought with her a frozen dessert resembling cream ice. In 1660, ice cream was made available to the general public at a café in France. In the 1700s, ice cream gained popularity in America and rumor has it that President George Washington spent $200 on ice cream during the summer of 1790 – which by today’s standards, is roughly $5,344. On ice cream.

Until 1800, ice cream was only for the elite as refrigeration was not common in the average person’s home. The first hand-crank ice cream maker was patented in the 1840s. I for one am thrilled to have ice cream and refrigeration.

While we have the perfectly fine electric ice cream maker that uses rock salt and lots of ice to churn the ice cream, I’ve found a fool-proof method for making homemade ice cream that uses a blender, and a pan to hold the creamy concoction while it freezes.

Cherry-almond-vanilla ice cream with no nuts that I made the other night… I made my own sweetened condensed milk using pure cane sugar and almond milk, and the almond flavor is very noticeable. It got two thumbs up.
Scooping the cherry-almond-vanilla.

This recipe is for vanilla ice cream base – and the flavor is anything but basic. Leave it as is and revel in the delicious simplicity, or add your favorite mix-ins… fruit, concentrated coffee, extracts, jam, chocolate chips, nuts… whatever your taste buds yearn for. It’s a good starting point for you to get creative, and it’s almost as easy as buying paletas.

Nothing beats old-fashioned vanilla ice cream.

No Churn Vanilla Ice Cream

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

2 cups heavy cream (1 pint)

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Put all of the ingredients in your blender. Blend until it’s well-combined and thickens a bit.  Pour the ice cream base into a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze for 5 hours, or until frozen solid.

Allow ice cream to thaw for 2 to 5 minutes before scooping and serving.

Printed with the permission of the Alpine Avalanche.

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