For most people, Labor Day seems to mark the end of summer. The kids are back in school. Fall decorations are hauled down from the attic and given a good dusting. Travel plans are arranged for Thanksgiving and Christmas. But let’s face it, we’re still in Texas. So it still feels like summer. Passing by a display of scarecrows in somebody’s front yard when it’s still 90 degrees or more just doesn’t quite seem right.
So I like to have a little “Farewell to Summer” celebration. I like to officially mark the end of summer so I can get my head in the autumn game. And I say goodbye to summer with homemade ice cream. I like to stick to fruit ice creams – peach, strawberry, fig, and sometimes tutti-frutti – so I can have a farewell within a farewell: A Farewell to the Fruits of Summer. Now is the time to make ice cream with fresh fruit that still has flavor and natural sweetness. Sugar amounts can be lessened and the ice cream will have a true fruit flavor.
I always use the ice cream recipes from Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine by Norma Jean and Carole Darden. The cookbook was originally published in 1978 and is a paean to the recipes and struggles of the Darden family. In the early 1900s, John & J.B Darden opened a drugstore in Opelika, Alabama. People were quickly drawn to the tasty homemade ice creams and elaborate sodas. It became a gathering place for the small community and remained popular through the decades. And maybe that’s partly why I like these recipes so much – the cookbook tells the story of the family and why each recipe is important to the family. Good food almost always comes with a good story attached.
Today, I use a cute little red electric ice cream maker. All you have to do is plug it in and pour in your batter. Simple! But about five or six years ago I bought a turquoise hand crank ice cream maker at an estate sale. Dad was always regaling me with stories about cranking his own ice cream back in Mississippi. The porch would be groaning from the weight of family members as the youngest generation cranked away. Chickens would be picking at the leftover fruit and dogs would be languishing in the shade. Ah, The Past!
So Dad and I decided to relive a slice of his 1940s childhood. But, as Thomas Wolfe once wrote, You Can’t Go Home Again. It was as if the Keystone Kops had decided to make ice cream. First off, we didn’t have enough ice and had to go mid-crank and get more. And my Dad’s porch was extremely stuffy – no cross breezes like in his boyhood dog-run house. And apparently you have to crank a really long time-much longer than seemed necessary. But we got through it, gritting our teeth part of the way. And the ice cream was just as tasty as ever.
Now, I’ll always have a memory of hand cranking ice cream with my Dad. And every time I make strawberry ice cream, I think about that hot day and snicker just a little.
Uncle John’s Strawberry Ice Cream
3 cups light cream
3 cups heavy cream
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups fresh strawberries, hulled
Combine light and heavy cream in a bowl. Stir in sugar and salt until dissolved. Add vanilla. Crush strawberries and push through a sieve or puree in blender. Add to cream mixture. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.