Real food ice cream

by Farmer Liz
When Molly was making so much milk after she first calved, she was also making plenty of cream.  After milking we usually pour the milk either straight into the cheese pot or into a collection of 2 L plastic jugs, and put these in the fridge.  When the milk is chilled, the cream rises to the top and its easy to skim the cream of the top and into another container.  Some days I could skim a cup of cream of more!  There are actually two layers of cream, the top layer is really thick (like the thickened cream you buy, but without the gelatin) and the next layer is thinner, like pouring cream, its hard to get all of the thin layer, so we always have a little cream left on top of the milk.

Ice cream! (with cake)
I love using the cream in cooking, I make a cream sauce with butter, flour, cream and stock, or put it in at the end of a casserole, but its hard to use 1 cup a day!  In the past we have made butter with the cream, but with butter being so cheap anyway (under $2 for 250g) its hardly worth the effort (although I don’t buy organic butter).  With the cream building up, I decided that I wanted to try making ice cream.

I've made ice cream once before, just making a custard (chai flavoured) and stirring it in the freezer every hour or so for an ENTIRE DAY and it still had a very icy texture.  With all this cream to use up, I wasn’t keen on repeating that process, so I was very grateful that a friend offered me a lend of her mother’s icecream machine.  It is WAY easier and quicker than my manual method (although there are better ways to make icecream without an icecream machine, such as beating the egg white and sugar, but I didn't know that at the time).  

Icecream recipes

Then came the recipe decisions.  There seem to be several options for making the ‘base’ before you even consider flavours. I prefer to know why there are so many options before I make a decision, so I did some research.  My first suspicion was that with the normal raw-egg-phobia, most recipes seemed to involve either cooking the egg or leaving out the egg all together.  As I was going to use raw milk and cream, I wasn’t worried about using raw egg, as recommended by Nourishing Traditions, but then I found some sites that explained that the cooked egg actually improves the texture of the ice cream.  My other problem was that at this time of year (autumn) we don’t actually have many eggs to spare, so I was wondering if the egg could actually be left out without affecting the taste and texture.  I was also interested in trying a recipe with less cream (as we always have more milk than cream) and this is basically gelato rather than icecream.  And I wanted to try the recipe from the Sweet Poison Quit Plan, which uses dextrose instead of sugar, just to see how it compared.

I decided that I'd better test all the recipes so that I could find out whether egg content was important, and how much difference the cream to milk ratio made to the texture.  My aim was to find the easiest recipe that still tasted good.  I also wanted to know if I could leave things out (when we don't have them, or if they take longer) without affecting the taste.  Testing lots of homemade icecream is just one of the difficult things I have to go through to bring you great real food recipes!

These are the six options that I tested:

  1. raw egg
  2. cooked egg (custard)
  3. no egg (as per icecream machine recipe book)
  4. gelato - less cream  
  5. dextrose instead of sugar
  6. more eggs (raw) – Nourishing Traditions
The base recipe

1 cup of milk, 2 eggs, half a cup of rapadura (evaporated cane juice), 2 cups of cream, 1 Tbs of vanilla essence and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  

For option 1, I just mixed all the ingredients and put them in the icecream machine.  For option 2 I made a custard from the first 3 ingredients and let that chill overnight before making the icecream.  For option 3 I left out the eggs and put the raw milk and cream straight into the icecream machine.  For option 4 I used 2 cups of milk and 1 cup of cream and made a custard. For option 5 I used 3/4 cup of dextrose instead of rapadura and made a custard.  For the final option, I used 4 raw eggs (NT recommends 3 eggs), just to see what difference the eggs really made.

The results

First, I should say that all the ice creams were delicious, if you like cream and vanilla, you will like homemade icecream.  I enjoyed all of the different mixtures, eating them plain, with chocolate sauce or with frozen passionfruit pulp.  Some of them were denser than others, some were icier, but all were delicious.

I was surprised to find that option 2 (the custard ice cream) actually whipped up better in the machine than the uncooked options.  This was a disappointment because it was the most complicated recipe and I was really hoping that it wouldn't be the best one!  The second fluffiest icecream was the last option, with all the extra eggs.  

The best real food option

Of course there is never a best option, so there is a discussion….

If you have a cow, homemade icecream is an obvious way to use up the extra cream you will have when your cow first calves.  It’s a way of saving the cream for later (if you can control yourself), if you can't be bothered making butter.  Making the icecream from fresh raw milk and cream, organic rapadura, honey or maple syrup, and raw free-range eggs is the most nutritious option.  Using raw eggs (if you have them) rather than custard, is quicker, and will keep more of the nutrients in the milk and eggs.

However, due to the sugar content, icecream should be a treat, not an every day food.  If you’re on a totally sugar free diet (and I’m not) the dextrose icecream is a good option (see Sweet Poison).  I didn’t try dextrose with raw eggs, but I imagine it would be much the same.  I know this is weird, but I actually found the dextrose too sweet!  Its supposed to be less sweet than sugar, but I’m so used to using rapadura (and usually only half what the recipe requires) I think I’ve reduced my tolerance for sweetness.  I would reduce the dextrose content if I used it again.  I’m torn really between rapadura, which is condensed cane juice and full of minerals (but also half fructose), and the refined dextrose, which is pure glucose with no other nutrients.  I just bought 5 kg of organic rapadura, so I guess that tells you which one I prefer to use!  *only use dextrose if you're 100% sugar-free diet, see Sweet Poison for more details*

If you don’t have a cow, homemade icecream made from bought organic cream, milk and eggs is still better for you than bought icecream.  I’m not sure if it would be any cheaper, it would depend which brands you bought, but I think its one of those cases where the cheapest icecream option is not worth eating and it would be better to eat less icecream with better ingredients.  Apart from the obvious artificial colours and flavours, commercial icecream is also full of other chemicals to keep it fluffy, things like stabilisers and emulsifiers.  The really cheap brands also use inferior substitutes for egg and vanilla, you’re lucky that a certain milk fat content is required to call it icecream in Australia, otherwise they’d probably skimp on that too.  

If you are buying icecream, read the ingredients list and if there’s anything on that list that you don’t keep in your own kitchen, don’t buy it!  We haven’t bought bulk icecream for several years now because I couldn’t find a brand that used acceptable ingredients (I have eaten the occasional single-serve icecream in the meantime though!).  The worst part of not buying icecream is the lack of icecream containers.... you don't realise how useful they are until you don't have a constant supply of them!

Final words of advice
My recommendation is to use what you have.  If you have plenty of cream, use it, otherwise substitute milk.  If you have plenty of eggs, throw them in the mix, cooked or uncooked, and you will get a fluffier (and more nutritious) ice cream.  Don’t buy anything with ingredients that you don’t recognise. And don't eat too much icecream :)  Beg, borrow or buy an icecream machine if you have lots of cream to use, because making large amounts of icecream is hard work by hand!

Have you tried making icecream?  Any tips? recipes? other ideas?

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