Food for the Soul

Homemade ice cream — the real deal

Story Jan Swoope | Photographs Luisa Porter

Photographed by Luisa Porter.

Photographed by Luisa Porter.

There is something almost transcendental about homemade ice cream, isn’t there? One taste tends to summon memories of childhood.

They might be of an old-fashioned hand-crank ice cream maker the color of a dusty robin’s egg. Of your mama and older brother taking turns at the freezer handle, working up a sweat (a ladylike one, of course, in the case of your mama). The setting is a summer’s day, on the patio. The family dog, a big German Shepherd named King, dozes in the shade while you and your little sister fidget, waiting for the magic to happen, for the proclamation, “Ice cream’s done!”

Today’s zip line society, so conditioned to the artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners of store-bought ice cream, could do with a bit of slowing down to savor the real thing.

Marcy Craddock of Columbus insists it’s easier than one might think, what with today’s electric ice cream makers. One whirred away on her back porch on a sun-drenched afternoon in March.

Marcy and her husband, Leigh, a retired farmer, often tag team to make their homemade version. They both hail originally from Illinois, but it was Leigh, not his wife, who grew up in a family that made the creamy, cold treat when folks were coming to visit.

“Her dad was a surgeon; we were more rural,” Leigh says. A blind date brought them together in the 1970s.

Today they make ice cream together, usually for the annual ice cream summer social at their church, Shaeffer’s Chapel. Marcy favors a recipe called “Not Aunt Edna’s Lemon Ice Cream,” from Mississippi food writer Keetha DePriest Reed.

Photographed by Luisa Porter.

Photographed by Luisa Porter.

“This is a good one; it turns out well every time,” Marcy says when the electric ice cream maker has done its job. Leigh slowly pulls out the paddle, which takes some effort. It’s lusciously thick with ice cream the color of pale, lemony chiffon.

“I just think the texture is really creamy and smooth. That’s what I like about it; it’s almost a custard,” says Marcy.

The Craddocks usually spread the preparation over two days, cooking the mixture one day and chilling it thoroughly in the fridge overnight before transferring it to the ice cream maker the second day. 

Great ice cream starts with a great recipe, Marcy maintains. But once the basics are down, experiment with flavors. Syrups, fresh fruits, nuts and candies are popular additions.

“Keep trying different recipes. You never know when you’ll hit on ‘the one,’” she suggests.

Making the signature summer dessert isn’t complicated — particularly when there are four hands to help instead of two.

“I do the cooking part; Leigh does the freezer part. We make a good team,” says Marcy.

That blind date, it turned out, worked out just swell.

Makes 1 quart

1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1¼ cups sugar
3 eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla

• Combine lemon zest, juice, sugar, eggs and 1 cup of half-and-half in a saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture just comes to a simmer.
• Strain through a sieve into a bowl; cover and refrigerate custard until cold. (Marcy refrigerates hers overnight; mixture must be thoroughly chilled.)
• Whisk in remaining half-and-half and freeze according to ice cream maker’s directions.

(Source: Keetha DePriest Reed)