Real Ice Cream

I had my first taste of something approaching real ice cream when I was seven or eight years old. We had moved into the country about four miles north of Hayward, but the milkman from West’s Dairy still delivered our milk twice a week just as he had in town. It was whole milk that had not been homogenized, just like God gave it to us from the friendly cows of Wisconsin.

One very cold morning, when I went to the front porch to bring in the milk bottles, I found them with the paper caps pushed out of the bottles and globs of frozen cream rising out of the tops. Mom explained that when the milk began freezing ice crystals formed that took up more space in the bottle than the milk. The cream in the milk had risen to the top, and the freezing milk pushed the cream out the top of the bottle.

With a teaspoon she gave my sisters and me a taste and had a little herself. It tasted wonderful, and I still judge every scoop of ice cream by that sample I enjoyed so long ago. That’s when I learned that real ice cream is basically frozen cream. Just consider what the name means.

I am not saying that I don’t enjoy many different brands and styles of ice cream available in shops and stores, but only a few are real ice cream. Unfortunately, many are made with chemicals that reduce the need for cream, slow the ice cream from melting or extend its shelf life.

If you want to test whether a commercial ice cream is real, let a little of it melt in a bowl. If the melted liquid looks like half and half or whipping cream, all is well. If it resembles something in the bottom of a paint can, there are a lot of strange chemicals in that puddle.

Making ice cream is easy if you have an ice cream freezer. We never had one when I was growing up, so Mom experimented with no-crank recipes using condensed milk as well as cream. I remember watching her carefully stirring half-frozen ice cream in those old aluminum ice cube trays with the removable dividers. It was a treat, but it didn’t compare with the ice cream from West’s Dairy in Hayward.

When West’s stopped delivering milk to customers in the country, we had to pick it up at the store in Hayward. One time, when I was eight or nine, Dad sent me in to buy the milk while he waited in the car. As I recall, a half gallon cost something like forty-seven cents. I am sure about the seven, because he gave me two pennies plus a couple of quarters.

When I got in the car, I was on top of the world, because the clerk had given me the pennies back along with the nickel change. This prompted my father to give me a lecture about honesty. “You know that is not your money, so take those pennies back in and explain that she made a mistake.” So I did, and I never forgot that lesson.

Incidentally, West’s Dairy is still making good ice cream in the same building on Second and Dakota in Hayward where we bought our milk. Jeff Miller bought the dairy with his partner in 2005 from Bruce West, who took over the business when his father retired. Jeff just published Scoop, a memoir about their first year in Hayward. It’s a fun read about living in a small town with some memorable passages involving people who resemble characters I knew sixty years ago.

But back to making real ice cream. After we received a hand-crank freezer from our best man and his wife at our wedding, we became serious ice cream makers. For the first few years of our marriage we lived in Virginia and Kentucky, two states where you needed to make your own ice cream if you wanted the real stuff.

Today we have an electric ice cream freezer, and we make ice cream only once or twice each summer. There are dozens of recipes for ice cream. Ours is simple.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups whipping cream
2 cups half and half
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Dash of salt
Ice
Salt

PROCEDURE:

At least three hours before you plan to make the ice cream, whisk together the cream, half and half, vanilla extract and salt. Put the mixture into the refrigerator to get it good and cold.

Put the freezer canister and beater into the freezer of your refrigerator a half hour before you plan to start making the ice cream.

Follow the directions you got with the freezer to pack the freezer with ice and salt to turn the cream into ice cream.

Eat and enjoy.

NOTES: Real ice cream is good plain, but fresh raspberries, strawberries or peaches don’t hurt. Topping a couple of scoops with homemade hot fudge sauce is another good way to go.

Some recipes call for more vanilla. Ignore them. You want to taste the cream.

Julia Child’s Cream of Mushroom Soup

I don’t remember how we ended up with two copies of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but it’s good that we did. The first one came as a wedding gift from one of Jerri’s friends at Maine South High School, but the second copy is a mystery. We now think that it was a bonus book from a book club that we chose because we thought it would make a good gift for someone.

Fortunately, we did not follow through with our generous intention. With one copy at home and another at the cabin, we can make “Potage Velouté Aux Champignons” (Cream of Mushroom Soup) at both locations without carrying the book with us.

I have been making this soup for at least twenty years. Though Jerri has tackled a few recipes from Julia’s book, she finds many a bit intimidating: “If I have to turn the page, I don’t make it,” says she. This is not as extreme as her cousin who wrote me one time that “I don’t make anything that has more than five ingredients.” Both women exaggerate, but not always by a lot.

Julia’s recipe for this soup takes a little more than a page, but it explains exactly how to make the finest tasting Cream of Mushroom Soup you will ever find.

I have tried to condense (oops–a horrible word in this context–makes me think of gooey stuff in cans) and clarify the instructions and explain how I make Julia’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. It’s very easy to make. It takes a few more minutes for the simmering than some recipes, but you can finish the soup in an hour and the results justify the extra time..

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup minced yellow onion
8 T unsalted butter
3 T flour
Parsley
6 cups chicken broth seasoned with 1/3 bay leaf, 2 medium sprigs parsley and 1/8 tsp. thyme
Salt and pepper
3/4 – 1 lb. fresh mushrooms
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 egg yolks
1/2-3/4 cup whipping cream

PROCEDURE:

Peel a yellow onion and mince a quarter cup of it. Wash the mushrooms and remove the stems from the caps. Chop the stems fine. Wash the parsley.

Put six cups of chicken broth, 1/3 bay leaf, two medium sprigs of parsley and 1/8 teaspoon thyme in a two quart saucepan and bring it to a simmer.

While the broth is heating, melt three tablespoons of the butter in a Dutch oven or large saucepan (at least 2 1/2 quarts) over low heat. Add the onions and cook them slowly for about 10 minutes. Stir in the flour, raise the heat a little and continue cooking the onions for three or four more minutes. Stir continuously, being careful not to brown the flour and onions.

Remove the onions and flour from the heat and stir in the hot broth. Make sure that the onion and flour mixture is well blended with the liquid. Add 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and the chopped mushroom stems. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the broth partially covered for 20 or 30 minutes.

While the broth simmers, thinly slice the mushroom caps and set them aside in a bowl.

After 20 minutes or so, strain the broth through a sieve or colander with fine holes into a large bowl to remove the solids. Press the juice from the chopped mushroom stems, onions and parsley and return the broth to the large pan. Discard the solids.

In a two quart saucepan, melt two tablespoons of the butter over moderate heat until it is foaming and toss in the sliced mushrooms with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Stir, reduce the heat, cover and cook slowly for five minutes.

Pour the mushrooms and their cooking liquid into the large pan with the strained broth and simmer for ten minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.*

To finish the soup, beat two egg yolks until smooth with a whisk, and then whisk them thoroughly into a half to three-quarter cup of heavy cream in a mixing bowl. While beating continuously, very slowly add one to two cups of the hot broth to the eggs and cream mixture.

Heat the broth in the large pan until it starts to steam. While whisking continuously, gradually add the cream and egg mixture to the broth. Stir the soup over moderate heat for three or four minutes to poach the eggs. Stir continuously and do not let the soup come to a simmer.

Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Remove the soup from the heat and stir in two or three tablespoons of softened butter. Ladle into bowls decorated with sprigs of parsley.

*If you’re not serving the soup immediately, you can set it aside after you have simmered the sliced mushrooms in the broth but before you add the cream and eggs. Remove it from the heat, leave it uncovered and film the surface with a spoonful of cream. Reheat it to a simmer before finishing the soup. This means that if you allow ten minutes to bring the broth to a simmer, you can have bowls of soup on the table in less than 20 minutes.

NOTES: You can make this soup with half and half, but it will not taste as good. If you use salted butter, reduce the amount of salt you add to the mushrooms.

When I can find them at a reasonable price, I like to use baby bella mushrooms for this soup.  I think that they give it a more intense mushroom flavor, but white button mushrooms make a great soup too.

When adding the hot broth to the cream and egg mixture, I use a quarter cup measuring cup to dribble the broth very slowly into the cream while stirring quickly with a whisk. If you add the broth too quickly or don’t stir fast enough you can curdle the eggs.

The same thing can happen when you combine the cream, egg and broth mixture with the hot broth or if you boil the soup. Speaking from experience, I can say that the soup will taste fine anyway, but it won’t have the wonderful silky texture of a perfect cream of mushroom soup.