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It was a sound that brought summer to a halt along every Erwin Farm street. If we were racing our homemade go-carts made of worn-out mower wheels, discarded lumber, rope steering and axles fashioned from metal rods discovered in a pile of rubbish from the old mill trash pile off Laurel Avenue, this sound would bring out a red flag as it drew closer and closer.
A Richard Petty wannabe navigating “Dead Man’s Curve” would veer off the pavement into the high grass, jump from the rusting wagon body and head home.
Other days, that ruckus meant the opportunity to drive in the winning run in a backyard baseball game like Scoopy Miller had done one Monday night at the lighted industrial softball league field off Grace Avenue would have to wait. Baseball gloves and bats were tossed to the ground as we made a beeline to the mailbox at the end of the driveway as the sound got louder.
No, it wasn’t mailman Crawford Garris smiling and waving as he passed that stopped us dead in our tracks.
It was Bruce “the ice cream man” Killian, owner of Crown Creamery, driving his ice cream truck, with the accompaniment of music that could best be described as Mama’s wind-up ballerina jewelry box on wheels.
If we weren’t standing by the mailbox, the ice cream man wouldn’t stop.
We’d fidget as we waited on him to ease off the road, shove the white pick-up truck with the camper-shaped freezer into park, climb out of the driver’s seat and come around to wait on us.
Inside the rolling freezer was a mixture of freezer pops, push-ups, Popsicles, Nutty Buddies and cups of vanilla and chocolate ice cream.
All of that was good, but for a group of sweaty kids who were run out of the house for the afternoon, it was secondary.
The main course was sticking our heads inside the hinged door when he swung it open. We’d draw frigid air into our lungs and feel the sudden rush of freezing temperatures on our faces.
Killian never seemed to mind, though.
I think he knew sticking our heads inside the ice cream truck meant as much to us as savoring a frozen treat on a hot July day. If he did mind, he never said so, as he made change for quarters with nickels and dimes.
After a short break, the ball game or race would continue, along with the anticipation for the ice cream man’s next visit.
This week’s heat wave has many of us wanting to stick our heads back inside a freezer for a little relief.
If you can’t find an ice cream truck, then go find the ice cream churn. It sure has the ability to make us forget about this stifling heat and humidity.
Short history of ice cream
While America leads the world in ice cream consumption, averaging 48 pints per person annually, the love of this frozen treat did not begin here.
Ice cream can be traced back to at least the 4th century B.C. and has long been the delight of royalty.
For example, in the first century, Roman Emperor Nero didn’t just fiddle around. Nero ordered ice to be brought from the mountains and combined with fruit toppings to cool his taste buds.
In the 7th century, Chinese royalty enjoyed ice and milk concoctions.
Food historians believe that ice cream was likely brought from China back to Europe and ices, sherbets and milk ices were served in the fashionable Italian and French royal courts during the Renaissance, before spreading to London.
According to “Ice Cream History and Folklore” by H. Douglas Goff, a recipe for ice cream was published in England in “Mrs. Mary Eales’s Receipts” in 1718.
Quaker colonists brought ice cream recipes to the New World and by the American Revolution, ice cream had become a part of American culture.
The first ice cream parlor in the United States opened in New York City in 1776. Ben Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were known to have regularly eaten and served ice cream. First Lady Dolley Madison is even said to have served it in what would become the White House at her husband’s Inaugural Ball in 1813.
It became available to the masses in 1846 when Nancy Johnson patented a hand-cranked freezer that is still the basic method for making ice cream today.
Speaking of today, that’s reason enough to enjoy a bowl of fresh homemade ice cream.
Snickerdoodle Ice Cream is definitely on the must-try list.
While there are many different versions of chocolate ice cream available, this Chocolate Ice Cream recipe from Alton Brown, host of Food Network’s “Good Eats,” is a five-star dessert in every sense. The eggs make it smooth and creamy.
And if you don’t have an ice cream freezer, don’t fret; Ice Cream in a Bag is a one-serving, 116-calorie kid’s-friendly dish.
Snickerdoodle Ice Cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly ground if available)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups fat free half-and-half
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• In a medium mixing bowl, combine sugar and spices. Stir in the rest of the ingredients until well mixed.
• Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Chocolate Ice Cream
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened cocoa powder, approximately 1/2 cup
3 cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
8 large egg yolks
9 ounces sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• Place the cocoa powder and 1 cup of the half-and-half into a medium saucepan over medium heat and whisk to combine. Add the remaining half-and-half and the heavy cream. Bring the mixture just to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and remove from the heat.
• In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the sugar and whisk to combine. Temper the cream mixture into the eggs and sugar by gradually adding small amounts, until about 1/3 of the cream mixture has been added. Pour in the remainder and return the entire mixture to the saucepan and place over low heat. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon and reaches 170 to 175 degrees. Pour the mixture into a container and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract. Place the mixture in the refrigerator and once it is cool enough not to form condensation on the lid, cover and store for 4 to 8 hours or until the temperature reaches 40 degrees or below.
• Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s directions. This should take approximately 25 to 35 minutes. Serve as is for soft serve or freeze for another 3 to 4 hours to allow the ice cream to harden.
Ice Cream in a Bag
1 pint-sized zipper-type plastic bag
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup low-fat or fat-free milk
1 gallon-sized zipper-type bag
3 cups ice
1/3 cup rock salt
• Put the sugar, vanilla and milk in the pint-sized zipper bag. Close the bag, making sure it is sealed. Combine ice and salt in the gallon-sized bag. Put the pint bag inside the gallon bag and close the large bag securely. Turn and roll the bag for approximately 6 minutes until it becomes a semi-soft, delicious treat.