ice cream

Crack Cream

In my post last week, I suggested that I’d soon be churning homemade ice cream.

I didn’t mean it.

It just sounded nice at the end of that blog post.

But over the weekend I got inspired.

Last year I bought an old hand-crank ice cream tub, spurred by a romanticized notion of making dessert the old fashioned way.

But electric ice cream makers were invented for a reason. Old fashioned is a pain in the butt.

First there’s the ingredient prep (I use the “custard based” recipe. Translation: eggs included.)  After cooking the mixture, it’s got to chill overnight.

Then there’s the rock salt acquisition. In search of salt, Martin visited a couple of hardware stores this weekend. At each one he was told, “We don’t carry rock salt for ice cream, just water softening salt.”

One guy directed me to a grocery store; I phoned three places. No luck. The last store told me to try WalMart.

Finally I realized that these people thought the salt was going in the ice cream.

Stupid people.

Even stoopider me — I kept hunting for mythical ice cream salt.

Just get me the water softening salt, I asked Martin. (It looks like the same stuff we used last year.)

So Sunday night we had the mix prepped, the rock salt readied, the berries picked and a few bags of ice on hand.

That was the easy part. We still had to churn it.

Martin offered to help but I hovered over him barking advice. “Turn it faster! Add more salt! More ice! Don’t be so rough, that ice cream maker’s an antique!” He walked off the job. I knelt down and got cranking. 

And maybe it was the water softening salt, or all the trips to the gym. Churning was a breeze.

I whipped up a batch of strawberry ice cream, followed by a second batch of raspberry/black raspberry ice cream. I packed samples in tupperware and doled them out to friends.

“Your ice cream’s got me hooked like crack…I need more!” one friend proclaimed in a text message.

It is seriously good.

If my freelance writing career every belly-flops, maybe I’ll peddle crack cream.

Fruit Census

Martin and I care for kids and fruit trees in much the same fashion:

We get them started, monitor them for a few weeks, and then leave them to fend for themselves.

We subscribe to a hands-off approach.

We planted apple trees in April ’09 and since then, I’ve probably checked them three times. Maybe that’s why they haven’t been fruitful. Wicked weather and wildlife haven’t helped, either.

In their first full year, summer of 2010, they were stunted by droughty weather. (We planted them beyond the reaches of our longest garden hose.)

And in 2011 Martin pulled down their protective chicken wire to mow the high grass. Apparently that signaled every deer in 10 miles; they chewed off any shred of green. What they left were knobby, naked branches.

This year is different. Most days I roar up the driveway, spitting gravel and raising a cloudy plume that mars a view of the orchard. But the other day I was nearly out of gas so I crept along, telling the car to sip fuel. And while I was killing time at this glacial pace, I glanced out the window. Was that a glint of red in those trees? That night I ventured out. Yes, them’s apples growing.

We should prune the trees and spray against insects but let’s be real: those apples are on their own.

The berries and grapevines grow by the barn and a convenient water source, so we treat them better than the trees banished in the sheep field.

In 2011 the black raspberries shriveled in a stretch of hot, dry days but this year, they’re flourishing. Darkening up and soon ready to pick.

The blueberries would be doing well, except the damn kids keep picking them before they’re ripe. “We like them tart!” they say.

The raspberries did wonderfully last year — they earn the drought-tolerant award — but this season they’re struggling. Perhaps it’s too much rain, or else they’re suffering from fallout from the grapevine spray. We’ve been at war against blackrot — it claimed the grapes two years in a row. As a result, Martin’s been dousing the vines and it’s possible that the neighboring raspberries got caught in the crossfire.

There’s only one other plant to acknowledge and that’s our teacher’s pet: the strawberries. They’re the newest addition and so far they’re impervious to wacky weather, neglect and constant trampling of kids and cats. Gold star for you guys.

I see hand-churned ice cream in the future….

Back In Time

We are by no means living “off the grid.” Not even close. But we are creeping back in time, in the nook and crannies of everyday life.

It’s not just the hand-cranked ice cream… which, by the way, is a grueling test of endurance, patience and brute force. Each time I pack that wooden pail, brace my knee against the edge, and grit my teeth, I think, I’m not going to make it. This is too hard, I quit. Then 12 minutes of cranking later, voila, glorious ice cream.

But it’s not just dessert.

One evening last week, Martin caught me lying stomach-down on the hallway runner… swinging my legs back and forth, and twisting a lock of hair around my finger. I was on the phone.

It’s the only home phone that hasn’t fried, thanks to thunderstorms and the un-repaired short in our line. It’s a corded phone that roosts in the kitchen.

Perhaps a corded phone doesn’t sound too radical. But think about it: When were you last tethered to one spot by a phone?

At times it’s impossibly annoying. Sometimes while raiding the fridge, the phone bungees off the counter and crashes to the floor. And when I’m on, I can’t leave the kitchen to help with the kids or do any chores.

On the other hand, I can’t leave the kitchen to help with the kids or do any chores. And the short leash limits the length of my conversations.

And on an entirely different topic, we’re taking another step back in time. Starting this week, our milk and yogurt will be home-delivered by a local dairy.

It’s not totally ’50s living — orders are placed online — but the milk comes in glass bottles. And we’re not aiming for nostalgia. We’re shooting for convenience. And taste. Whether it’s due to the milk itself or the bottling, it tastes better than store-bought.

A couple of weeks ago we checked out the dairy and the cows responsible for our milk. We stopped by in the afternoon when it was time to feed the calves. The baby cows, as I call them. They were voracious eaters…

…so voracious, they sucked the milk off each other’s tongues.

Afterwards we sampled the product in ice cream form.

It was Hadley-approved but it won’t be part of our weekly delivery.

For the time being, the hand-crank is still in business.