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It has been said that the first sign of getting old is a strong desire to re-live the past. Apparently, I’m getting old. I’ve been remembering eating homemade ice cream, on the front porch with my grandfather.
My grandfather was a master of homemade ice cream. The process started in the early afternoon. The custard would be mixed, the peaches peeled and added. Then the ice cream custard would retire to the “icebox” to chill. A quick trip to town for a bag of ice and it was time for the ritual.
He set up the ice cream freezer on the front porch. Carefully he packed ice and salt around that big silver canister, taking care not to let salt into the ice cream custard. We didn’t have an old-fashioned ice cream maker with a crank; my grandfather only had one arm, so he had the luxury of an electric maker. He fitted the motor on top, plugged it in and the churning started.
That icy, salty water would start to drain as the ice began to melt. I remember letting it drip onto my dirty toes and how excruciatingly cold it was. It was the best feeling in the world.
We waited, and waited and waited. It took forever, but finally, after many additions of ice and salt, the motor would began to labor and the dasher to slow. Eventually, it stopped altogether and it was time to eat ice cream.
My grandmother would bring big bowls from the kitchen and the canister would be opened. We all sighed with delight; it was a sight to behold. Frosty, creamy white waves of sweet ice cream laced with peaches or strawberries or whatever was ripe at the time.
My grandfather got the first bowl and the dasher; I got the last bowl. I always worried there wouldn’t be enough and there always was more than enough. We sat on the front porch, with a Mississippi Symphony of mosquitos and flies. We didn’t talk much; words were superfluous. It was the best treat ever.
Today, my ice cream maker sits on my kitchen counter and I’m always looking for ways to make our diet healthier. The old-fashioned custard ice cream, made from eggs, cream and milk is not best option. Still, it seems a shame to forgo homemade ice cream and let memories slip away.
My grandfather would have loved this blackberry sherbet. Cold, smooth, creamy and rich with the taste of sun-warmed blackberries this sherbet is delightful. Don’t be skeptical about using buttermilk instead of “sweet” milk. The buttermilk adds a tanginess that makes the blackberries taste even sweeter.
Just when you thought watermelon couldn’t get any better, Watermelon Snow appears. It is hard to believe that a 4-ingredient dessert could deliver such a big flavor.
By using the Italian method of freezing, scraping and re-freezing, the resulting “snow” is coarser and more crystalline in texture than ice cream or sherbet. Feathery light and snowy, Watermelon Snow can be served as a frozen treat, or thawed a bit and served as a slushy drink.
While not hard, this method is time consuming. If you can’t spare the attention, freeze the chilled watermelon mixture in a traditional ice cream freezer and make delicious Watermelon Sorbet. The result will be a smoother, creamier frozen treat.
I want to pass along the ice cream memories of my childhood to my daughter. I know her memories won’t be the same. The ice cream freezer sits on the counter, not the front porch and her grandparents live 10 hours away. But the anticipation, the sounds, smells and taste of homemade ice cream and sherbets are still the same.
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 ¼ cups water
One 4-inch sprig of mint
6 to 7 cups watermelon (I use seedless)
Juice of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
To make Watermelon Snow:
Pour the chilled mixture into a 13x9x2 inch metal baking pan. Freeze until icy around the edges, about 25 minutes. Using a fork, stir the icy part into the middle of the pan. Freeze the mixture until frozen, stirring the edges every 25 to 30 minutes for a total of about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Using a fork, scrap the snow into flaky crystals into a bowl. Cover tightly and freeze. Scrape into bowls.
To make Watermelon Sorbet:
Pour the mixture into the freezer bowl of your ice cream freeze and freeze according to the manufacture’s directions. Enjoy straight from the freezer, or remove to a covered container and freeze until firm. The sorbet form is delicious, but won’t have a “snowy” consistency.
Yield: 2 quarts
4 cups blackberries
2 cups sugar
2 cups whole buttermilk
Zest of 1 lemon
Yield: 1 quart