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How To Make Homemade Ice Cream

A treat as delicious as ice cream must be the work of magic elves working in frozen caves, right? Or at the very least, it should require space-age equipment in a sterile factory and subzero temperatures!

But – no! None of that’s true. Mass production might require those big, boring factories. But you can easily make your own ice cream at home with a few everyday ingredients. You can get your own ice cream maker – but it’s even possible to do it without a special machine.

Making your own ice cream is a fun activity for the whole family. It allows you to experiment with consistency and flavors. It can even be a learning experience for children as they see how rock salt works!

Let’s take a look at the equipment and ingredients you’ll need to make your own ice cream. Then we’ll give you a brief guide to getting the job done!

Equipment

You have two basic options when you want to make your own ice cream. You can either invest in your own ice cream maker or go a more basic way. Of course, the latter usually entails a bit more effort, but it still gets the job done effectively (and deliciously).

An ice cream maker can cost from about $50 up to hundreds of dollars, depending on its construction, capacity, and features. Be sure to check out our reviews of ice cream makers that have a “cookout” vibe.

Some machines have their own refrigeration motors. Others simply mix your ingredients but require rock salt and ice to free the ice cream. Such a machine usually has an outer case and an inner bucket with a lid. The bucket is often made of aluminum. The rock salt and ice go inside the outer case.

If you don’t have a machine, though, you can use plastic bags, instead! It’s best to double-bag. Two one-quart bags will fit inside a one-gallon bag. You’ll be placing the bags in the same briny mix of rock salt and ice, and the dual layer helps protect against contamination.

You might want to use gloves or a garden trowel so you don’t freeze your fingers while working with the ice, too!

Why Rock Salt?

Rock salt has a remarkable property – it lowers the freezing point of water! So when you add it to ice, the ice will melt. But instead of staying at 32° F, the briny mix of water and rock salt will stay liquid at 27°! 

That means that the ingredients inside the bucket will drop below freezing, too. And that’s how you get your mixture of ingredients to actually freeze!

Ingredients

The basic ingredients for ice cream are things you’ll probably have around the house or easily be able to get at any supermarket.

Milk, heavy cream, and sugar are principal items you’ll need to get. Some recipes call for eggs and powdered milk, too, but you can make great ice cream without them. It’s a matter of preference, though.

Of course, you’ll also want to add flavor to your ice cream. And there are so many options! You can base yours on the classics like vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry. Or go for something more complex like rocky road! Even better, you could go completely original and invent your own magnificent blend of flavors.

A typical recipe consists of:

  • 1 part milk
  • 2 parts heavy cream
  • 1 part sugar
  • Flavor to preference

It doesn’t take much flavoring to provide a rich taste to your ice cream. And you can choose, for instance, to add chopped fruit or to use juices instead.

smooth ice cream made at home

Step-by-Step Guide To Making Your Own Ice Cream

The process of making ice cream is simple, too.

If you have a machine, follow the instructions for getting started. The ones that chill the ingredients on their own usually just require you to pour in your ingredients and they’ll handle the rest!

Some suggest putting the interior bucket in the freezer for a couple of hours before using the device. This gives the freezing process a bit of a head start.

Since each machine is different, be sure to follow the individual instructions. But they’re all very simple!

Use Simpler Machines – Or None At All!

Of course, there are simpler machines that help you make ice cream but don’t chill it under their own power.

If you need to add rock salt and ice, mix them inside the outer case. For four quarts of ice cream, get about 15 pounds of ice and 6 cups of rock salt. Mix those to form a slushy mixture.

Add your ingredients to the inside bucket and place the bucket inside the case. If you’re not using a machine, add them to a quart bag and seal it tightly. Then place one or two quart bags inside a gallon bag and squeeze all the air out before sealing. Place this bag directly into the briny mixture.

Some of these basic machines will still have a motor to mix the ingredients. With others, you have to stir them by hand. If you’re not using a machine, put on a pair of gloves and massage and shake the bag underwater for five to eight minutes. The smoothness of your ice cream depends on how much you shake it – shaking harder creates a smoother mix.

Storage

In the unlikely event that your homemade ice cream survives long enough to be stored, it’s quite simple to do!

You can use an old plastic ice cream container with its lid or a similar plastic container. Or try a loaf pan or pie pan – cover them with wax paper to help keep your ice cream fresh!

Of course, if you have an ice cream maker with an interior bucket, you can simply put the lid on the bucket and store the whole thing in the freezer!

Conclusion 

A delicious frozen treat is closer than you imagine! Sure, it’s easy to buy ice cream, but there’s something special when you enjoy a snack you make yourself. And you get to experiment so much with amazing flavors that you’ve dreamed up! Whether you invest in an ice cream maker or simply mix your ingredients in a plastic bag, you can have a fantastic batch in a short time.