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How to Make Ice Cream Without an Ice Cream Maker

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icecream4You don’t need an expensive machine to make ice cream at home.

A large tin can, such as the ones coffee used to come in, or an unbreakable container with a secure lid is all that’s required.

A little extra help, from young or old, comes in handy, but nothing will prove as strenuous as the old hand-crank machines of yore.

Simply make up your favorite ice cream base and refrigerate it until it is cool. You can do this in the morning or a day ahead of time.

When the time comes to make the ice cream, pour the mixture into several zip-top bags. This is the point where you can play around with flavors, adding strawberries to one, peaches to another. Add a drop of almond extract and some shredded coconut or rum flavor (not rum itself or it won’t freeze) with some golden raisins. Whatever you add, don’t use anything with a sharp edge, like chocolate chunks, that could puncture the bag.

Seal the bag tightly and place it in another bag for safety. Place a little ice at the bottom of your can and then insert the bags. Fill the rest of the can with ice and rock salt until the can is full. Place the lid on it and start rolling.

icecream3Roll the can back and forth for a half hour. Keep it constantly in motion. When it’s finished, empty the ice and use the container to store the ice cream in. Place in the freezer and let it ripen for at least 2 hours for best results.

Why make your own ice cream? There are a host of reasons, including the fun factor. You also are in charge of creating your flavors. Why not try a chocolate ice cream with raspberries in it? Or chocolate with a touch of orange extract? Juice some ginger or make a syrup with fresh mint.

Experiment with some more savory combinations, such as basil and strands of sun-dried tomato. You would still need the sugar, to keep the flavors pronounced after freezing, but it could make an intriguing alternative to a salad. In Chile last year, friends and I had a pairing of avocado ice cream and celery ice cream alongside the raw version of each.

As we learn about all cooking, you are limited only by your imagination.

Making your own ice cream is also a way of avoiding the addition of any preservatives. That is surely one of the marketing strategies behind Haagen-Dazs’ new line called five (lowercase and all). Each pint features only five ingredients, including sugar, milk, cream, eggs and your flavor of choice, such as ginger, mint, coffee or milk chocolate. I’ve tried the ginger and almost wish I hadn’t; one spoonful made me want to stock my freezer with as many pints as would fit.

By the way, you can buy a special ball that you fill with your cream mixture and kick it around like a soccer ball until it settles. But if you’re going to do that, why wouldn’t you just buy an ice cream maker?

icecream2You don’t even have to kick the can around to make ice cream without a machine. David Lebovitz, former Chez Panisse pastry chef and author of “The Perfect Scoop,” offers a recipe on his blog that makes the beloved treat in a manner similar to granita or granité. You simply stir the cream every half-hour or so until the desired consistency is reached.

Vanilla Ice Cream

2 cups milk
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half

Scald milk in double boiler, gradually add mixture of sugar, flour and salt, and cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly; stir small amount into egg yolks, then return this to mixture in double boiler and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Chill; add vanilla and cream and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Makes 3 pints.


  • icecream1Strawberry Ice Cream: Add ¾ cup sugar to 1 cup crushed strawberries or other berries and let stand 1 hour in warm room. Add to ice cream mixture just before freezing.
  • Caramel Ice Cream: Add ¼ cup caramel syrup after adding vanilla.
  • Peppermint Chip: Add crushed peppermint candies to taste after vanilla.
  • Pistachio Ice Cream: Blanch and chop ¾ cup pistachio nuts and scald with milk. Add 2 drops green food coloring before adding other ingredients, if desired.
  • Peach Ice Cream: Add ¾ cup sugar to 1 ½ cups sieved peach pulp and mix well. Add to ice cream mixture with ¼ teaspoon almond extract just before freezing.
  • Banana Ice Cream: Mash 3 ripe bananas with a fork, beating quickly to a smooth pulp. Add to chilled cream mixture just before freezing.

Adapted from “The Herald Tribune Home Institute Cook Book”

I used the basic recipe for a Mint-Cocoa Nib Ice Cream. I steeped 4 stocks of fresh mint in the milk as I scalded it, stirring in the sugar mixture a little at a time. I removed the mint when I stirred in the egg yolks, then returned it while I cooled the mixture, before adding the cream. (I omitted the vanilla.)

That worked well, but the cocoa nibs did not. They didn’t mix throughout the ice cream, but clumped together.

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