Grandmother Ash’s Custard Ice Cream

This recipe was supplied by a friend and reader, and it’s one I can personally vouch for (having eaten it at a cookout not long ago). What I like about the written instructions is that they provide a window into how ice cream was made for much of the last century. Indeed, these proportions are for an old-style “wooden bucket” ice cream maker…much too much for a contemporary machine. I shall have more to say about the recipe later, but for now I think you’ll find it fun and interesting:

2 quarts whole milk (for richer ice cream, substitute up to 2 cups heavy cream)
6 large eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
pinch salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Scald the milk with the salt. Beat the eggs in a large heat-proof bowl.Mix the sugar and flour very well and add to the eggs, beat to blend. Pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, slowly at first, always stirring to combine. Strain the mixture into the tops of 2 double boilers.

Cook over medium heat. You can cover it and leave it for a while, but it should be stirred occasionally, and the water should not boil, which could curdle the mixture. After it thickens—20 minutes or more—remove from heat and let it cool. Add vanilla extract. If it looks curdled, beat it with an electric mixer. For faster freezing, do all of this a day ahead and cool the mixture in the refrigerator.

Follow your freezer instructions. Don’t overfill the canister, since the custard will expand quite a bit with the freezing, and you don’t want it coming out the top.

After freezing, cover the ice cream and let it “ripen” in flavor, and harden for better serving. In the old days we would take out the paddle or dasher (enjoying the ice cream that had stuck to it, of course, but scraping most of it back into the canister), cover the freezer canister with a lid, then lots of newspaper, drain of some of the salty water, make sure it was covered well, and let it sit for an hour. Now, I often put it in the freezer of the refrigerator. This step is important, I repeat, for flavor and hardness.

I have a small freezer, which is nice because I can make a half recipe, which is still plenty for a big crowd of family and friends, and not have to store it. It doesn’t keep well for long, because it is natural and does not have stabilizers and all that stuff you read on the labels of commercial ice cream. If you do store it, be sure to take it out of the freezer to soften a bit before trying to serve it, since it is harder than commercial ice cream.

Fruit variations:

Peach (my favorite): Mix 2 ½ cups mashed ripe peaches, 1 ½ cups sugar (some would use less, but the peaches need the addition of more sugar than is in the plain recipe). 1 tsp almond extract. Add to the custard mixture and mix before putting in the ice cream freezer.

Pineapple: Use canned, crushed pineapple, drained. If packed in heavy syrup, just add a cup of sugar; if in its own juice, add the whole 1 ½ cups, and a bit more vanilla than for the plain recipe.

Banana: 2 ½ cups mashed ripe bananas, 1 ½ cups sugar, 1 tsp more vanilla.

Strawberry (mmmmmm): 2 ½ cups mashed fresh berries, 1 ½ cups sugar, 1 tsp vanilla.

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