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Have you ever thought about making your own ice cream at home, but decided against it based on concerns about equipment, time, or return on investment? Did you worry you'd buy an expensive ice cream maker only to have it languish in your closet and never get used? Did you worry that the process was too complicated and decide it was easier to just go buy a pint?
I have been there. And believe me, I don't advocate for too many "one horse ponies" when it comes to kitchen tools. But I'm here to tell you that there are options when it comes to ice cream making that don't break the bank and are actually much easier than you think.
Here are 5 great reasons to start making ice cream at home:
1 It is delicious.
In my mind, the first criteria for making anything at home is "can I make it taste as good as or better than what I can buy?" And friends, when it comes to ice cream the answer is "yes, yes, #$& yes". Fresh homemade ice cream tastes like you have walked into the most expensive gourmet ice cream store and paid premium cost for something that was just made five minutes ago from the milk that came from the cow out back. I'm serious, even if you make it with store bought milk it is going to taste more fresh than anything you've bought at the store.
2 It is easier that you think.
Sure, there are complicated ice cream recipes that you are going to want to try that incorporate eggs or thousands of add-ins and have a million steps. Those are awesome recipes, but I like simple. I like starting with recipes that have as few ingredients as possible and allow me to taste the purity of the simple ingredients, especially whatever ingredient is to be highlighted. For example, our recipe for Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream using fresh mint from the garden, has only seven ingredients and five steps. Yes, the whole process can take a while because of the chilling and freezing, but most of that time is not active cooking time. None of the steps are complicated or confusing and there is very little room to mess up.
3 It can be affordable.
Unless you want to try a sorbet recipe that is made in a pan and scraped intermittently in the freezer, you are probably going to need an ice cream maker to make ice cream at home, so yes, equipment is required. But there are some good options for ice cream makers that don't cost an arm and a leg. A few years ago I asked for a Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Bowl Attachment for our mixer, and I have not been disappointed. This simple bowl and paddle makes use of something you already have (if you have a mixer) and is not a huge thing to store when not in use. You can also opt for a stand alone machine at a reasonable price point (think $100 and below), and given that most of these options should last for up to ten years or more the return on investment can be pretty good. If you use it three times a year for ten years you'll be paying less than $5 per use, and hopefully you'll use it more than that!
4 It is fun.
Fun is a priority for our family. When you're raising two kids, working two jobs, and trying to be a homesteading family you can't take on just any project that sounds like a good idea. Making ice cream offers so many opportunities for family fun - from choosing a recipe (get creative!), to following the steps to make it (watching it turn from liquid to frozen treat is pure joy), to eating it (duh!). Kids will enjoy the idea of participating in a project that leads toward dessert, and knowing that you made their own ice cream helps everyone savor the treat even more. In fact, I have memories of making homemade ice cream in an old churning bucket when I was young that still come up for me when I go to make it with my kids (even though we use a mixer).
5 You choose your ingredients (and you know what they are).
Last, but certainly not least (in fact, this may be the most important thing to you), when you make your own ice cream YOU choose what is going to go in it. If you've ever looked at the label of an ice cream container, even some of the fancier brands, you can appreciate this point. I mean, I know guar gum and diglycerides sound really appetizing, but I'd rather eat something with, I don't know, milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, and salt. That is truly all you need for something you are going to store in your own freezer and eat pretty quickly. Beyond that, you also have the option to get creative with your ingredients - want to use basil from your garden or add spicy chili? Go for it. Want to let your kids pile in a bunch of crunchy candy bar pieces? Let 'em wild. There is literally no end to the cool things you can come up with. For some cool flavor ideas, check out Ice Cream and Friends, a cookbook from Food 52 that includes ice cream recipes as well as ideas for other frozen treats.