Making homemade ice cream is almost a necessary summer project. Hot days, cool treats. Mixing the ingredients and being forced to wait while the ice cream churns seems to make it taste even better when you finally get to eat it.
Many of my Fourth of July memories include homemade ice cream: My mom cooking up the custard to pour into the maker, me waiting -- not so patiently, for it to be ready and eating it until my mouth was frozen and my tummy felt sick. Watermelon, corn on the cob, something off the grill, or a table piled high with some kind of seafood ...
My children are missing out, a little, on making ice cream the "old-fashioned" way - with a hand-cranked maker filled to the brim with ice and salt. That's what I remember, then later an electric one that still had to be filled with ice and salt. I love my Cuisinart ice cream maker, though. So much less mess! Regardless of the type you choose to make your ice cream, just make ice cream! (Or sorbet, like this royal grapefruit and clementine sorbet.)
One of the things I love about making homemade ice cream is I can make any flavor I want, with any ingredients I want. I can make it as creamy as I want, or I can make it lactose-free, dairy-free, egg-free, whatever to my heart's desire. And always gluten-free.
I first tasted Big Red soda as a child while vacationing in Kentucky. My mom had worked in Kentucky one summer on a horse farm as a teenager and apparently drank Big Red a lot during her time there. She talked about the sweet beverage in a way that would make my little mouth water. When I got to taste the stuff, I wasn't disappointed. What was the flavor? A hint of strawberry in a touch of cream soda? Hard to tell.
Fast forward many, many years later and finding myself living in an area where Big Red was available everywhere I looked. I drank it often and grew tired of it. (I don't drink sodas very much anymore, anyway.)
Fast forward a few more years, to my first taste of Big Red ice cream when my mom made it several years ago. A friend had made it for her and then told her there were only three simple ingredients in the incredible concoction. Pure heaven.
What did it taste like? Almost exactly like a nectar sno ball from Zeke's stand in Plaquemine, Louisiana - a place we stopped by often when I was a young child. It's a little off the beaten path, but if you happen to be in the area during the summer, you need to stop by the little rainbow-striped stand (at least it was rainbow-striped the last time I was there - don't know if it is still) and get one of the best sno balls (snow cones) in the world. Nectar sno balls. Incredible.
I think if I had to pick a favorite flavor of ice cream - and I have a lot of well-loved flavors, it would probably be Big Red ice cream. A little bit is all you need - your mouth will quickly get too cold and numb to truly taste the flavors. This particular recipe is not dairy-free, but as someone who doesn't handle lactose very well anymore, I can say that I can eat small amounts of this ice cream without problems. And I love the fact that it contains three simple ingredients and it's so incredibly easy that a child could make it alone. (By the way, this is the same ice cream pictured at the top of each page with the cake.)
So, make ice cream this holiday. And don't forget why we celebrate Independence Day. Don't be one of those people who sits at the parade waiting for the candy and not acknowledging the reasons behind this holiday, ignoring those veterans as they pass by on a float with our flag, looking down the road for the next treat to be thrown. Celebrate your freedoms with family and friends, give your children a little history lesson, be thankful for your blessings and remember our country's leaders and military in your prayers.
And enjoy your food.
Big Red ice cream
Projected prep time: Under 5 minutes; Projected freeze time: Depends on your maker (the Cuisinart takes 35-50 minutes, depending on if the mixture is cold first or not)
For 1 1/2 quart maker
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
24 oz. Big Red soda
(Note that you can replace Big Red with any other kind of soda in this recipe. Orange Crush is pretty good, too)
Mix all liquids together and, if desired, refrigerate until cold. (This isn't necessary, but does cut down on the time in the maker.)
Pour into maker according to instruction manual (Some makers like the Cuisinart call for you to turn the machine on before pouring the ingredients.) You may have some liquid left over that won't fit in your maker depending on the size.
Mix according to instructions for your maker, 35 to 50 minutes for Cuisinart.
When frozen, transfer to an airtight container and place in freezer until firm.
Or you could pour into a glass at this point and serve with a straw like a milkshake.
It's not the creamiest ice cream when it's firm, but it's sooo good.
Enjoy every bite!
Looking for other ice cream flavors? Try some of these -- they look wonderful!
Cinnamon ice cream from Simply Recipes
Nectarine ice cream with coconut milk from Karina at Gluten-Free Goddess
Vanilla ice cream from Michelle at What's Cooking with Kids
Chocolate ice cream from Alton Brown