June 23, 2008

The Difficulty in Finding Good Ice Cream These Days

I don't eat ice cream all that often, but I doubt it will come as a surprise to anyone that a woman who is 9 months pregnant in the summer might want to indulge in a little of the frozen creamy goodness of ice cream now and then. I have an ice cream maker and could make my own ice cream at home, but I've noticed that the price of the ingredients and the time involved in making a custard and all, often makes it worth it just to buy a box of ice cream at the store already made for me.

Or it would be worth it if ice cream weren't apparently difficult to buy these days. I wanted vanilla ice cream. We used to like Breyers the best, but their recipe seems to have changed in the last few years and although it's still good, it isn't as good as it used to be. I thought maybe I'd try something new. I looked at the Edy's selection. Those looked fine, until I noticed that every carton of vanilla was reduced fat and sugar-free. Then I looked at the Blue Bunny -- same thing. The store brand proclaimed "made with artificial flavoring and a bunch of other junk" on the front of the box (well, it might not have been phrased quite that way). The Blue Bonnet looked good, but twice as expensive as everything else. So I went back to Breyers. Reached into the freezer, pulled out the old vanilla stand-by and saw that it too was reduced fat and sugar. Sigh. Buried behind a few of those, I finally found the real stuff.

Searching for real, full fledged-made-with-cream,-sugar-and-vanilla, ice cream should not be this difficult. Making ice cream a special, occasional treat means that one can have the real foods, the real stuff, not some reduced fat, fake sugar stuff with artificial flavors and colors, but judging by the lack of ice cream made with even mostly real foods, apparently most people out there disagree.

I should take this opportunity to rail against a culture so perverse that it sacrifices real food for the sake of weight loss, instead of just eating less. But what good would that do? Instead, I think I'll drag out the ice cream maker, buy some whipping cream, and strike a blow for real food.


The Ben & Jerry's book I have has some extremely straightforward, and unbelievably delicious varieties that aren't that complicated. The sweet cream base that underlies many of the flavors is just heavy cream, eggs, sugar, and milk. And we have often thought of drinking it straight down without bothering to turn it into ice cream.

For the recent Shavuot holiday I made (separately) Chocolate, Strawberry, and mint oreo. We got one of these as a gift a while back, and it saves the trouble of keeping the bucket in the freezer.

Posted by: skinnydan at June 24, 2008 06:35 AM

I have the Ben and Jerry's book too, Dan. I had forgotten that some of their ice creams do not require a custard base.

The other day at Big Lots I saw a remanufactured Cuisinart commercial ice cream maker that didn't require the pre-freezing of the bowl for about $100, but I figured I could buy a whole lot of ice cream for that price.

Posted by: Jordana at June 24, 2008 07:48 AM

Two words:
Turkey Hill

Their ice is wonderful and they have four varieties of vanilla: original, French, vanilla bean and Philadelphia style.

Posted by: Sarah G. at June 24, 2008 08:36 AM

There are definite advantages in living in the Dairy State. Custard stands all over the place would be one.

The last time I made ice cream, it was at a Girl Scout cookout - the crank forever, freeze/numb your butt, tastes like heaven kind.

I agree wholeheartedly with your comments on the ff/sf stuff - not only does the real deal taste better, a little of the real is better for you than a lot of the fake. The key, as always, is moderation.

Posted by: Diane at June 24, 2008 08:50 AM

"strike a blow for real food." Amen!

Posted by: Mary at June 24, 2008 12:04 PM

I have tried making ice cream at home with my new Kitchen Aid ice cream maker attachment twice, but have ended up with mushy not-quite-ice-cream. Do you have any secrets to success to share?

I did try non-custard recipes because they seemed easier.

Last week I decided to treat myself to a small tub of ice cream. We were at Wawa (convenience store) after a concert and I was faced with choosing between Ben and Jerry's, Haagen Daz (sp?), and the store brand. Feeling that I could not stand to pay twice as much for the name brand, I went cheap. It was definitely a mistake. If you are going to have it, it's worth going for the best and all real ingredients.


Posted by: Jennifer at June 24, 2008 12:22 PM

Sarah, I don't know if we have Turkey Hill around here.

Jennifer, we have this Cuisinart ice cream maker. Giving the ice cream a bit of extra time and then freezing the ice cream in the freezer before eating, gives it a nice hard consistency. However, I haven't made my own homemade ice cream in two years, so I say all this from memory, not from recent practice.

Posted by: Jordana at June 24, 2008 12:47 PM

Amen to that. You have to leave it going for a while (20 mins minimum), and at best you'll have slightly firmer than soft serve (Carvel is the local purveyor of that option here). Get it in a container and freeze it for a while longer, at least an hour, and you should have a firmer product.

In the meantime, you can still lick the dasher and the spatula you used to move from bowl to container. I don't recommend licking the bowl from the unit - the scene with the flagpole from Christmas Story comes to mind.

Posted by: skinnydan at June 24, 2008 02:45 PM

We've found the best source for plain old-fashioned vanilla ice cream is Costco. They sell it under their store brand Kirkland Select, and it's wonderful stuff. And, at least for now, they still sell real half-gallon cartons! Two half-gallons in a box for about $7.50.

Posted by: Beth at June 24, 2008 02:47 PM

Along the lines of "strik(ing) a blow for real food..." might I suggest an idea I heard on "Jon and Kate Plus 8"--ice cream supper. One night per summer, they eat a big bowl of ice cream, and nothing else, for supper. It's a novelty for the kids, and I got the impression Kate loves it too.

Posted by: Madeleine at June 24, 2008 07:48 PM

We really like the Wal-Mart Great Value brand. Mocha mudslide and mint chocolate chip (even though it's kinda green) are my favorites. We finally got a Lowe's Foods back in town, but we're a little bit hooked on the Wal-Mart ice cream and yogurt...

Posted by: Lenise at June 25, 2008 02:19 PM