I can’t open a can of condensed milk without thinking of my mother. She spent her rural childhood in an era devoid of nutritional paranoia, when sugar wasn’t demonized and processed foods were a rare treat. World War II’s sugar rationing left many of her generation with an inordinate fondness for canned, sweetened condensed milk, and she has never lost this formed-early affection. When I was a kid, she’d open up a can, just to eat it with a spoon (not all at once, mind you), stashing it in the back of the fridge to keep it out of the hands of her hungry children.
Two entire cans of condensed milk form the backbone of her homemade ice cream recipe, handed down from her own grandmother. It’s uncooked, relying on a ridiculous number of whole eggs and all that condensed milk for body and texture. The original recipe called for scalded milk, which my mother quit doing some time in the 1960s, when she finally realized: her grandmother’s milk wasn’t pasteurized, it was straight from the cow out in the barn.
This Mother’s Day, we’ll feast on boiled crawfish, followed up by hand-cranked, homemade vanilla ice cream.
Simple homemade ice cream (an ice milk, really)
- 8 whole eggs
- 2-14 oz cans sweetened condensed milk (fat free, reduced fat, or full-fat)
- 1/2 gallon whole milk (lactose-free is fine)
- 2-4 tsp pure vanilla extract, or 2-3 vanilla beans.
Lightly beat eggs in a very large mixing bowl or basin. Add sweetened condensed milk, whisking to thoroughly blend. Pour in two or three cups milk, beat to lighten the mixture, then stir in remaining milk and extracts. If using vanilla beans, split lengthwise, scrape seeds into the mixture, then add split beans to the bowl. Chill thoroughly for several hours or overnight. Remove vanilla beans. Pour into 1/2 gallon or greater capacity hand-cranked ice cream freezer, insert dasher, and cover tightly. Pack freezer with alternating layers of ice and rock salt until full. Crank, turning slowly, until resistance begins to increase (approximately 25-30 minutes). Crank freezer, slightly faster, for 15-20 minutes longer, until mixture thickens and cranking becomes difficult. Remove cover and dasher, recover, and allow to “ripen” (if you can stand the wait) for 20-30 minutes. Best served in cups, to be eaten with spoons. (This ice milk melts quickly and is best consumed within hours. If held overnight in the freezer, it will become rock-hard and icy.)