How To Make Homemade Ice Cream

Nothing beats the sizzle of summer better than the smooth glide of rich, creamy homemade ice cream down parched throats and into waiting stomachs. What better way to cool off after a day at the beach, playing softball at the park or just lounging around on the front porch during the long, hot days of summer. Afraid it’s too much work? Don’t let the image of cranking for hours or waiting for the rock salt to freeze the cream fool you. Homemade ice cream today is nothing more than a few ingredients and a zip lock baggie or empty coffee can away. Making homemade ice cream is the perfect activity for a summer barbecue, family get together or camping expedition. It gets everyone involved in doing something fun and will amuse even the most belligerent stick-in-the-muds you might have running around your family table. And the best part is that your homemade confection will be healthier and taste richer than anything you could buy at the grocery store or whip up using an ice cream maker.

Ice Cream Basics

As delicious as ice cream tastes, it basically consists of just four ingredients: milk, cream, eggs, salt and sugar. The milk and cream help give the dessert its smooth texture, while the eggs help stabilize the mixture so that it does not get lumpy or gritty after freezing. The salt and sweeteners add the flavor and are critical to the delicious taste of your homemade ice cream. It really is as simple as that.

So why does the very best tasting ice cream cost so much money? Because you have not been told how easy it is to make your own. Homemade ice cream is no more than combining these four basic ingredients using the simple process of cooking a custard, putting the custard into a coffee can or sandwich baggie, and then rolling/squeezing/shaking/rattling the container until out pours a sweet, all-natural, delectable treat for cooling down on a hot summer day. Using all-natural ingredients such as milk and eggs, fresh berries, shaved chocolate, and organic extracts such as mint, orange or vanilla, you are creating a healthy alternative to the preservative-laden, high fat ice cream you find in the grocery store or at the ice cream shops. Not only does it taste better, it also tastes fresher because chances are you are eating it the same afternoon it was made, not weeks or months later after it sits idle in some grocery warehouse freezer.

Start at the Stove

You might find it strange that ice cream begins with cooking milk and eggs, but this step is crucial in preventing food borne illnesses such as salmonella, a bacterium common in uncooked eggs. If you are thinking about skipping this step and getting straight to the fun part, bear in mind that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported over 500 cases of gastrointestinal disease traced to homemade ice cream in the later part of the 1990s.

Since you promised everyone they were going to have fun making ice cream, and you do not want everyone waiting around while you do the cooking, this part of the recipe can be made up to 2 days in advance. This way everyone has time to enjoy the best part of making homemade ice cream.

Ingredients you need for vanilla ice cream:
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (use fine grain kosher or sea salt for a more organic taste)
  • 1 cup milk (we used 2% but non-fat tastes just as good)
  • 3 beaten egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (imitation extract will change the flavor of your ice cream)
  • 2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
Combine the sugar, milk and salt into the top pan of a double boiler and stir gently. Add the egg yolks and stir well. Fill the bottom pan of the double boiler with water and cook your custard over boiling water until tiny bubbles form around the top of the mixture. If you do not have a double boiler, you can use a sauce pan although you should stir constantly to avoid scorching. When the custard mixture thickens to the point of coating your spoon, remove from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. Once the custard is cool, add the vanilla extract and the whipping cream.

Grab the Coffee Cans

You will need two clean coffee cans for this part, one larger than the other and lids for both. Place the ice cream mixture inside the smaller can and seal with the lid. Place the smaller can inside the larger can. Begin to layer crushed ice in between the two coffee cans about two inches thick. Then add a one inch layer of salt. Rock salt works best, although you can also use kosher or sea salt. Table salt is too granular for this process and does not work well. Repeat with another layer of ice and salt until the gap between the two coffee cans is completely full. Place the lid on the coffee can and lay it on its side. This is where the kids can really have fun. Have them roll the can back and forth across the floor for about thirty minute. Just make sure the lid is securely fastened and that they are warned against “mid-roll” tasting.

After thirty minutes, unpack your can of delicious, rich tasting homemade ice cream.

Sandwich Baggie Ice Cream

Even though coffee cans work great, there is another method that is even easier and does not require saving different size coffee cans for long periods of time. All it takes is two sandwich size baggies and one gallon size storage bag. Pour a cup of the ice cream mixture into the sandwich bag, closing it tightly.

Put it inside a second sandwich bag and zip it closed as well. Grab a gallon size storage bag and fill it about one third full of crushed ice. Then add a cup of rock salt and place your small bag inside the larger bag. Cover the bag with a dish towel and begin kneading the bag like a ball of dough. Have the kids squish and squash the bag for about ten minutes. You will know when the ice cream is finished because of the texture of the bag. Once finished just slide the ice cream into a bowl or better yet, eat it right out of the bag for a terrific hot day treat.


For an extra boost of flavor try adding fresh berries or shaved organic chocolate to your coffee can or sandwich bag before you begin the rolling process. If you like pecans or walnuts, throw some crushed nuts in at the same time. This is also the time to try different flavored extracts, such as mint or orange. Experiment to get just the flavor you want. Start with ½ teaspoon and add more the next time if you want a more intense flavor.

Whether you want simple vanilla soft serve or a more intense chocolate praline crunch, homemade ice cream is just a few basic ingredients and a shake, rattle and roll away.

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