Homemade ice cream is magical. Once a summer, at my grandma and granddad’s house in Missouri, where there were enough cousins to take turn churning the old hand crank, we made the world’s most perfectly creamy vanilla ice cream. Weeks later, following our return home to Illinois, nostalgia would set in, and my dad would haul out our own hand-crank number, race to the hardware store for ice cream salt (“What? We don’t have ice cream salt?” he’d ask, as if surprised) and send my mom, my three siblings and me to the kitchen to stir together our annual crème anglaise. Ahh, the memories.
I fancy myself the kind of mom who makes homemade ice cream with her kids (or in my case, kid) all summer long, stirring together magical concoctions and churning them into the kind of memories childhood should be made of. But making ice cream is a project. Even for a project-loving mom. Even with today’s modern ice cream makers (here are Real Simple’s favorites), it’s still an undertaking; there’s a bowl to be chilled and a few details to get just right. And here’s the thing: Moms don’t really need another project.
So here’s where I stand on this: There are days for homemade ice cream, but for every other day (okay, not quite every day) there is a plethora of ice cream options you can shout about.
Here are my family’s current favorites:
McConnell’s: This is the best ice cream, ever. Made with organic and raw grass-fed milk and cream (and other wholesome ingredients sourced from family farms and orchards not far from their headquarters) their legendary French pot process yields epic ice cream, unparalleled in texture—just like homemade. And, since half the fun of making it yourself is inventing exotic, mix-match flavors, McConnell’s lineup, like Eureka Lemon and Marionberry, Milk Chocolate and Rasberry Jam, and Double Peanut Butter Chip, is sure to delight.
Häagen-Dazs: It only takes making ice cream once to know that the ingredients that go into your family’s ice cream should be simple: cream, milk, egg, sugar. Nothing you can’t pronounce belongs there. Häagen-Dazs chocolate, vanilla, coffee and strawberry, among other favorites flavors are reliably dense and creamy.
Mister Softee: My three-year-old and I recently discovered the one cone, double-headed vanilla-chocolate combo, a perfect occasional and sharable treat. My local Mister Softee vendor swears the stuff is real ice cream, made with whole milk and no syrups. That can’t be true (I fact, I now know it’s not—I checked, here), so we save this for an occasional ice cream fix.
Good Humor Ice Cream Sandwich: Once a year, I close my eyes, refuse to read the label and slowly nibbling every delicious inch of the ice cream sandwich of my childhood. Sure, there are more responsible versions of this, but for an annual splurge, only this throwback will do.
What are your favorite ice cream treats or memories?