Childish excitement aside, the prospect of ice cream is a wonderful thing. I must confess I was more of a sun lolly kid myself- ingeniously designed like a PG pyramid tea bag to prevent kids on a sugar high flipping the contents out onto the floor, that was the problem with Callippos. And as for Mr Freeze? Well, raspberry and cola all the way.
Ice cream isn’t really something I have in my freezer, but that’s because its so chock full of various parts of fish, fur and feather there simply isn’t the room. It just so happened that I had a craving for it during the summer we had a month ago. I decided to google how it was made after having a chat to a friend of mine about hand cranked Ice cream machines and the possibility of involving them down at HGC headquarters.
As I scrolled through endless useless links, the only instructions I could find were how to make it with a couple of plastic bags- nothing on putting together a traditional hand powered beast of a machine: It was time to hit the workshop and get tinkering…
The principle behind making I scream, you scream, we all scream for Ice Cream is both keen and cunning, a process evolved and developed over 100’s of years. It is not exactly clear who is credited with hitting the nail on the head. Most countries have been messing about with their own versions of frozen pud for time, however it was the Arabs that were the first to tuck into the dairy and use milk, sweeten it with sugar, flavour with rose water and fruits & nut. Before that it was all sorbets- in 62AD the Roman emperor Nero used to send slaves up to the Apenine mountains to collect snow to be mixed with honey it has even been claimed, in the Yuan dynasty, Kublai Khan enjoyed ice cream and kept it a royal secret until Marco Polo visited China, pinched the technique and high tailed it back to Italy. Well thank you Wikipedia. I like to maintain a ‘plagiarism free’ blog…
So where to start? Firstly you don’t actually even have to make a contraption, for the simple ‘bag method’ all you need is:
- 1 large ziplock plastic bag
- 1 small ziplock plastic bag
- ½ cup of whole milk
- 2 TBSP caster sugar
- 2 trays of ice cubes.
- 6 TBSP salt.
And follow this link for a video on how to do it. Not to be rude, but this isn’t amateur hour: the ice cream is far from perfect- for that you need a proper hand-cranked, Macgyver issue machine…give me two buckets, a plastic box, a piece of wood and a hand drill.
The science behind making ice cream is the same for both the ‘bag’ method and the ‘pot freezer’ method. This involves mixing salt with ice. In simple terms…bear with me sciences were never my strong point:
Lets say you have a glass of water with crushed ice in, ok? For ice to melt, energy must be drawn in from the surrounding water to break the hydrogen bonds that keep the ice frozen. The energy that's taken is in the form of heat, which is why ice makes the water cold, since it's taking the heat to melt. Salt upsets the balance and makes the melting rate slower, because the ice requires more energy to melt. This draws more heat from the solution, which results in a larger temperature drop.
That took me a long time to understand too. For more info on why check out this link. So a combination of ice and salt will lower the temperature allowing your mixture to become ice cream, water isn’t needed. It took me a couple of failed attempts before I had perfected the machine.
First off, I went to my local flea market in Lewes to see if I could dig out an old ice cream machine (!) of course that was never going to happen, so instead I looked for something cranky and ended up purchasing a beautiful old mincer and an old handrill at a fiver a piece.
Next I bought a metal bucket (the same model I used for my shower at the treehouse) and a metal wine chiller, which was about half the size of the bucket. Finally, I needed something that would churn the mixture in the chamber and make it into ice cream. This was where I buggered up. A paint mixer for a power drill seemed like a good idea at the time but just didn’t cut the mustard. I found this out with my first attempt.
I put the smaller bucket in the first, filled the gap with ice cubes, water and rock salt. Poured my mixture into the small chamber and using the handrill and the paint mixer began mixing. After 20 minutes nothing had really happened apart from a slight formation of what might have been ice cream on the side of the chamber. After 30 minutes my arm was knackered and still no ice cream. Screw this were my exact words.
This time I was much more confident, having popped down to my local and been given a science class at the bar by the manager, Ed (even to the point that meat thermometers and iced water were pulled out). Also we came to the conclusion that it would be easiest to make a saltwater solution, pour it into the gap between the buckets, then stick it into a chest freezer for 24 hours. My paint mixer was also an issue. I needed a paddle that would churn the mixture, pushing it to the sides of the chamber and scraping it off as it span around. Making the paddle was tricky, I measured up the inner chamber and cut a piece out of a plastic box, which would be the paddle. For the shaft I used a thin, straight length of Hazel (fine use of natural material there). This was then split at one end and the paddle was slotted in and bolted in place. I whittled down the end of the shaft and fitted it into the drill- voila!
As this was designed to be an ‘off-grid’ ice cream machine to be used down at Hunter:Gather:Cook HQ, I decided on using a power drill instead of the handrill to cut down on effort. This time I had complete success and after 10-15 minutes the result was thick, smooth ice cream! Not too dissimilar from Mr Whippy.
Salt solution mixture:
- 500g of Salt (I used rock salt but finer stuff will dissolve quicker)
- Fill up half the bucket with water.
Mix in the salt until dissolved and freeze for 24hrs.
Elderflower Ice Cream Mixture:
- 3 TBSP elderflower cordial
- 120ml (1/2 cup) of whole milk
- 80g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
- 240ml (1 cup) double cream
Mix thoroughly in a bowl and then pour into ice cream machine ready for churning.
Other stuff that’s been going on: HGC solstice banquet was a roaring success- roasted chicken hearts, nettle pesto and rabbit puffs, pit roast leg of lamb and meadowseet cheesecake. My friend Ash popped down with plenty of wild brews- blackberry whisky, sloe gin and some quite impressive dandelion wine- check out his blog on outdoor cookery at http://ashonthefire.typepad.com/
HGC is still going strong- plenty of dates up for grabs in August, just get in touch. HGC is also going on the road and will be at Wilderness Gathering cooking up a storm!
Had a busy few weeks, been out in Hossegor checking out the Element skatecamp near Bilbao where i will be running wilderness skills throughout July- In a sick place called Guenes surrounded by mountains:
Also spent 5 days with friend and adventurer Al Humphreys living as a caveman for a feature for Reader's digest. All I will say is that we got bloody hungry! Should be in the August Issue.