Making Homemade Ice Cream


I’ve wanted an ice cream maker ever since we got Beulah Petunia. I have a lot of milk. I should be making ice cream! And last week–I got one! A reader here, MJ Peters, sent me an ice cream maker. She didn’t even know it was going to be my birthday, but it felt like a birthday present when I used it for the first time yesterday to make ice cream to go with my birthday cake.

It’s a “vintage” (sorta) ice cream maker, made by Sears and Roebuck in the 70s. Happily, it’s an electric ice cream maker. Hand-churning ice cream might be fun once, but if I’m going to make my own ice cream on a regular basis, electric will be real handy. I didn’t grow up with homemade ice cream. I can’t remember ever even seeing someone use an ice cream maker, so the whole process was unfamiliar to me. The ice cream maker looked quite complicated, though, of course, it’s not.

The original instruction/recipe booklet came with the ice cream maker. It was a little hard to decipher as the instructions were broken up in various locations all over the booklet. Right in the middle of telling you how to do this or that, it tells you that the rest (!) of this explanation is on page xyz, so it’s sort of like a treasure hunt to put the directions together. But the booklet is from the 1970s, and that was before they invented organization.

The really super cute thing in the booklet is the page where they give you a metric conversion chart and state, “While the U.S. is in its decade of transition to metric measurement scales it may be helpful to provide the following liquid measure metric conversion chart.” Luckily, the recipes are actually written in English measurements since that whole metric conversion…. Wait, what happened to that?????

I was in elementary school in the 70s, back when this booklet was written. I can remember the teachers hammering at us about the metric system. We had to learn it! By the time we grew up, everything would be metric! Landfills would be piled up with teaspoons and the skies would be black with the smoke of burning yardsticks. You’d have to seek out underground “inch brigades” to find a bootleg ruler. If we didn’t have the metric system memorized backwards and forwards, we’d NEVER GET A JOB.

Anyway! The book actually starts with the history of ice cream, which apparently primarily revolved around queens and emperors and Marco Polo, and there’s another whole section on the “science” of freezing, which doesn’t explain why you can use rock salt both to freeze AND melt stuff. How is that possible??? In any case, I did find some rock salt, in of all places, the salt aisle at the grocery store and I was ready!

The book explains (when you put it together in several places and use your imagination) that the basic recipes for chocolate and the vanilla variations are then the basis for all the other ice creams. (Mostly vanilla, and it has several basic vanilla recipe choices.) It gives abbreviated recipes to piggyback onto the basic recipes for all kinds of enticing flavors. Pistachio. Pineapple. Rocky road. Maple Nut. Butter Pecan. Baked Apple. YUM! I see ice cream all summer long. I usually have a lot of fresh fruit, so this is going to be fun. And delicious. And fattening! I expect to need an entire new wardrobe by September! (Then maybe I’ll move on to the diet ice creams. The book also has recipes for sherberts and ices, plus a section on “party creations” such as how to make a clown cone. Hmmm….) But wait, I haven’t even gained any weight yet! Back to ice cream.

I love vanilla bean ice cream, and since I buy vanilla beans in bulk to make vanilla extract, I always have bunches of them, so I started with one of the basic vanilla recipes. Using the French vanilla recipe in the book, I added the scrapings from three vanilla beans. I also used 6 cups of milk instead of the half-and-half. (I wrote the recipe below as it is in the book for that part, though. Do as you will!) I don’t know the quart size of this ice cream maker, but I took the hand-scrawled advice penned by the recipe by some former previous possessor of it and doubled the recipe to 6 cups total on the milk/cream.

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How to make French Vanilla Bean Ice Cream:

4 cups milk
6 beaten egg yolks
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups half-and-half or light cream
scrapings from 3 vanilla beans

Combine milk, egg yolks, salt, and sugar in a double boiler. Cook until the mixture thickens up and coats a spoon. Cool. Add vanilla, cream, and vanilla bean scrapings.

This is a really good use of those leftover egg yolks from making white cake, by the way!

Scraping out the vanilla bean stuff is a little bit of a hassle, but it’s so worth it.

To get to the goods, split open each vanilla bean by cutting it with kitchen scissors. (Or at least that’s how I do it.) Flatten out each half and scrape out the tiny specks of goodness. It will look like you don’t get much from each bean, but those tiny specks go a long way as they disperse.

Three seemed like enough to incorporate specks all through the mixture, so I quit there, but you could use more if you like.

I chilled the mixture for four hours, as directed. Meanwhile, I made my favorite birthday cake, super spice cake. (Very, very deliciously extra spicy.)

Now, to use the ice cream maker…..

This chart made no sense to me, but eventually I figured it out. Unless you have this exact same ice cream maker made by Sears and Roebuck in the 1970s, your ice cream maker (if you have one already or decide to get one) will probably operate mostly the same but slightly different depending on how it’s put together. The basics are the outer barrel, the inner can, a dasher, and a lid. The dasher does the churning.

To make ice cream, you need your ice cream mixture made according to whatever recipe you’re using (filling the can no more than 2/3 full), rock salt, and ice. The rock salt and ice is layered between the inner can and the barrel. Like this:

So I did something like that.

And put the power unit on top. The dasher doesn’t really move. The power unit makes the can go round and round so the dasher churns the ice cream.

And about 25 minutes later, look at that! I made ice cream!

Now, you’re supposed to add more ice and rock salt and let it sit to cure for an hour, or you can transfer it to freezer containers and cure it in the freezer. Or you can eat it right away. I tried a little bit, then put it in the freezer.

The can was less than halfway filled up, so I know that next time I can increase the recipe by probably 50 percent and still not fill it by more than the recommended two-thirds. This recipe made about 1 1/2 quarts of ice cream. Maybe next time I’ll throw in some peaches from last summer that are still in the freezer! I’m in love with the ice cream maker.

But for now–

–it was vanilla ice cream with cake!

(Thank you again, MJ!!)

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  1. Rose H says:

    Mmmm, what a super gift! I love home made ice cream, but don’t make it often (enough!)
    Hope you had a brilliant day, though it looks like you did πŸ˜€

  2. CATRAY44 says:

    What a wonderful gift! That ice cream looks so good! Hope you had a wonderful day!

  3. Glenda says:

    I would say you had a very successful batch for the first time!
    It looks delicious.

  4. Susan Arkles says:

    Happy Birthday (a little late) I too love ice cream. The vanilla bean vanilla sounds heavenly. Where do you buy the beans in bulk? They are sooooo expensive here I don’t use them very often.

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Susan, do a search on ebay. That’s where I get them. I buy in bulk about once a year, which makes them inexpensive. I use them a lot and really enjoy them! I also give them whole as gifts, and also in vanilla extract. They are really expensive if you buy them a few at a time at the store. Much less expensive in bulk–and then you get to use them a lot!

  5. Teresa says:

    Once again you have inspired me. I will be making some ice cream this weekend. I already have the ice cream maker. I just never had the motivation. Oh and Happy Birthday! – Teresa

  6. wvhomecanner says:

    Oh be still my heart :heart:
    My grandparents had a Holstein dairy farm and I remember some Sunday afternoons churning ice cream. Fresh peach ice cream and then the favorite – melted chocolate drizzled in which made chunks and threads of chocolate all through the batch. Ohhhhhhhh…..


  7. Pete says:

    Ah, yes! Those were the days – when we got an electric ice cream churn and had a LOT more ice cream!

    We just got one of those fancy schmancy Cuisinart outfits where you leave the barrel in the freezer. Oh, my! Now, if we just had a cow…

  8. Ramona says:

    A very useful and sweet gift from MJ.

    The ice cream does look delicious.

  9. Flatlander says:

    I have an Ice cream maker like Pete, we put the barrel in the freezer for 24 hours.
    Now seeing your pictures, I think it is time to actually put it in the freezer…looks delicious
    For Susan Arkles here in Canada Vanilla beans are very expensive also, but was able to pick up a bunch at Costco for a decent price.
    Is there a Costco close to where you live?

  10. M.J. says:

    I’m THRILLED that the ice cream maker has a new home, and that you put it to use so quickly–and for your birthday, too! The scrawled notes are mine, as are the various blots scattered throughout the booklet. Your first product looks fantastic–you’re going to be an expert just in time for strawberry season. However, I think in all fairness you should warn BP.

  11. Brenda H. says:

    I saw an ice cream maker at the thrift store about a week ago and almost bought it, but didn’t. My husband said go back and get it because we eat a lot of ice cream, went back it was gone. That’s unfortunately the way it goes a day late a dollar short. Oh well. That ice cream looks wonderful as well as the cake. My favorite dessert is choc. cake with vanilla ice cream. Oh now I’m hungry is 9 am too early for ice cream?

  12. Denise says:

    Happy belated birthday and welcome to ice cream — it is a lot of fun. If you want another (and lower tech) way to make ice cream, try an ice cream ball My 13-year-old got one for Christmas and she makes excellent ice cream with it. Enjoy!

  13. EightPondFarm says:

    Happy belated birthday, Suzanne :snoopy: You know, I have been thinking about home made ice cream…now I am inspired to make some. I also buy vanilla beans in bulk on eBay; prices there are very reasonable. It looks like a lot of vanilla when they arrive, but wrapped tightly, they keep for a long time.

  14. Miss Becky says:

    I grew up on home-made ice cream. I lived on a diary farm!!!
    Some of my favorite memories are of times when we made it – getting the ice from the creek and chopping it up, and sitting down in the basement churning the maker by hand. it was years before we got an electric one, and it seemed like the best invention since electricity! Homemade ice cream is the best, and that you got to make in on your birthday, well that’s just really special. that cake looks delicious by the way. and the ice cream too! :yes:

  15. Nancy Stickler says:

    Growing up we had a hand crank ice cream maker…by the time I came along (the last of seven and 8 yrs. after my brother!) I guess they had tired of it because I never saw it used. For a wedding gift we received an electric one similar to yours but not nearly as attractive. Ugly cream colored plastic, eww. We used that for years until I bought a new one. The kind you keep in the freezer so you don’t have to mess with the salt and ice. Very handy and it freezes much nicer. I threw out the old electric one ( they have a tendency to rust from all the water and salt) but I can’t bear to part with the hand crank! Maybe someday I can get my Grandson to try it with me the old fashioned way!

  16. Pat in Eastern NC says:

    Girl, you don’t know what you missed by growing up without homemade ice cream. I have terrific memories of my dad and granddad taking turns on the hand crank freezer under the shade of the walnut tree. They even let me have a go at it. The work made the ice cream taste even better; that’s my story, and I’m sticking with it. Daddy–not so much. He eventually cast out the hand crank and upgraded to an electric. The sound is just NOT the same. I think the hand cranked tastes better, but some ice cream is better than NO ice cream. Glad someone gifted you. ENJOY! :moo:

  17. Zusiqu says:

    I have an ice cream maker, but I use it to make frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. I make yogurt in glass quart jars and use 1 quart yogurt to 2 cups crushed fresh fruit and a half cup sugar (1 cup for banana) and a tablespoon vanilla. This makes a wonderful, lower fat and easy to make frozen treat.

  18. Window On The Prairie says:

    Oh me too. I was in school thru the 70s and we were always having that metric stuff forced on us. Whew, glad that’s over. πŸ™‚ Hey, this is America, and we like to be different from the rest of the world, that’s why we came here. πŸ™‚

  19. Karen says:

    Oh my gosh that cake and ice cream look soooo yummy!

  20. Heidi says:

    I love vanilla ice cream that has all the little flecks floating in it! YUMMY!! I will be making ice cream with fresh goat milk soon.

    A little tip, if you cut the vanilla bean in half and then scrape it on a flat surface with the edge of your knife (not serrated) you will get more out and it will all stick to the knife so you can just put it straight into the pan. You can also put the rest of the bean in to get even more vanilla flavor. Just take it out before you put it in the ice cream freezer.

  21. brookdale says:

    Yummy, homemade ice cream! We had one of the hand crank ones back in my childhood. Daddy would put a big chunk of ice in a burlap bag and pound it with the back side of the axe to chop it up (no ice cubes in those days)while Mummy was making the ice cream in the kitchen. We’d get to turn the crank a was HARD! And when it was done he would pull the dasher out and put it on a plate and we kids could scrape it off right then without having to wait for the ice cream to ripen.
    Thanks for reminding me of those great days!
    P.S. Strawberry is the best, with the little wild strawberries.

  22. Debbie in PA says:

    Oh my! That looks soooooo good!

  23. maryann says:

    I wonder how it would taste using vanilla sugar instead of having to scrape the bean? talks about how to make it and says that using “One tablespoon of vanilla sugar has the flavoring power of 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract”

  24. DarleneS says:

    I never had homemade ice cream til I was an adult. I own a maker that you freeze the can part in the freezer. It only makes 1 1/2 quarts also and it gets so hard it’s hard to scoop.

  25. Martha in KS says:

    Your ice cream maker looks just like mine – I think mine is JC Penney brand. Circa 1974 wedding present. Antique. Me AND the machine. :shimmy:

  26. Sue, a Florida Farm Girl says:

    Oh, do I remember homemade ice cream!! The latch was broken on our big freezer (1.5 gallons), so it was my job to sit on it while my brothers did the cranking!! There I was perched on the top — padded with folded newspapers and towels. And sometimes I’d get so cold from eating ice cream that I’d have to get a sweater, here in Florida in the summer, if you can believe it. But it didn’t slow down the consumption!!! Daddy wouldn’t drink milk or eat butter or cheese, but he would eat his weight in ice cream, particularly homemade!! It beats that commercially produced stuff all to heck, just like any other homemade food. But then, you know that already, don’t you?

  27. lavenderblue says:

    YUM! Homemade ice cream. My mom had a big freezer like yours. She made a cooked custard ice cream that was awesome. But, as I recall the custard was a pain to work with. Wonder where her freezer went. Another one of those mysteries.

    Okay, I was going to try to get away without saying anything but I am OCD when it comes to this. Maybe that isn’t quite the right way to put it but I have to say something.

    Suzanne, I love you dearly and am glad you had a happy birthday with ice cream but, sweetie, I believe with all my heart that the proper spelling is S-H-E-R-B-E-T, not S-H-E-R-B-E-R-T. There is no second “R”. I’m sorry, I tried to be good and polite and all, but it is a pet peeve of mine. :hissyfit: πŸ˜‰

  28. Jane says:

    I just got a brand new / in the box ice cream maker from the thrift shop and am very happy with it so far. I’ve made a mango sorbet – amazing! – and lucuma (a Peruvian fruit) ice-cream which was not a success, but will try it again but using the custard formula versus the condensed milk type. The best ice cream I ever had was homemade strawberry that a friends mother made one summer. 25 years ago and I STILL remember it!

  29. MMT says:

    Happy belated Birthday, Suzanne! Your cake and ice cream look really good! MJ you are so nice to gift the ice cream maker to Suzanne. I remember making ice cream when I was a kid growing up, but haven’t had homemade since. Maybe I better watch the thrift shops.

  30. CindyS says:

    My folks had one of these electric ice cream makers in the 70’s. They bought the electric one because their folks had had a hand-cranked version and neither wanted to do that again! :no: I remember using it once or twice…mmmm, I wonder what happened to it? I remember the ice cream was really, really good! I might have to go looking for one of these myself. I also was forced to learn the metric system because the US was finally going to use it like the rest of the world. Apparently, that didn’t work out. πŸ˜† My husband and I had a mid-80’s Ford pickup truck where the front had metric fasteners and the rear had English. Must have been a transition truck!

  31. ScreamingSardine says:

    That looks yummy!! And what a wonderful gift, too!!

    Happy belated b-day, Suzanne. :sheepjump:

  32. Carole says:

    Thanks for the memories:-) When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, my parents made homemade ice cream alot! Since we lived in town we would get rich cream from a local farmer. They used the type that you had to churn by hand – turning the hand crank for what seemed like hours. I can still picture my dad turning the handle as I patiently waited. When the ice cream was finally done – everyone was more than ready to eat it!
    Later, I continued the tradition with my own family only we had an electric type like yours. There is really nothing quite like homemade ice cream – I hope you enjoyed your first experience and Happy Birthday to you:-)

  33. Tonya says:

    Ah, homemade ice cream. Has to be one of my all time favorite foods. When I was a child in Oklahoma my grandma got her milk from a lady down the street who had a cow. She brought it home in a big gallon size mayo jar. The freezer was a hand cranked one and everybody took turns…youngest to oldest because it was easier before things started to firm up. My parents bought an electric one – probably in the 70s and I have an electric one now but I have to say I think the hand churned version tasted better. Maybe it was the milk though πŸ˜€ Here in New Jersey you can’t buy raw milk and I don’t have a cow so I’ll keep on thinking that the ice cream I make isn’t quite right….but we do have awesome peaches….

  34. Turtle Mom says:

    OMG! We had that same ice cream maker growing up and that French Vanilla recipe in the booklet was my absolute favorite! I even made it for a baking contest at school and won first place! Thanks for bringing back the memories!

  35. Shar says:

    YUM! I hope you had a very nice birthday!

  36. LK says:

    Suzanne…you know that you CAN use heavy cream instead of the half-n-half?

    We put 4 eggs, 1 1/2 c. sugar, 6 c. milk, 4 c, light cream (um, we use heavy…), 2 T. vanilla, & 1/2 tsp. salt…2 bags of ice and course salt (8 parts ice: 1 part salt).

    I picked up some tips over the years, and here are some:
    1. more sweetener=faster freeze=smoother ice cream
    2. Make mixtures the day before…refrigerate until you use…it will increase your yield & make it smoother.
    3. To avoid ice crystals, add 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin to 6 c. mixture. Let it soften in 1/4 c. of the mix, then heat gently until it dissolves. Add it to the main mix and continue making the ice cream.
    4. Store btwn -5 & 0*F

    We have a plastic churn. It makes good ice cream. I have fond memories of one similar to yours. Such nice wood…I am SURE that the old churn made it taste better. :yes: I have wonderful memories of my grandparents making the ice cream at Christmas gatherings with the ice chopped out of the dam ice, then served along with their homemade gingerale and homemade rootbeer. I miss those days and am proud that it is a part of my history! πŸ˜₯

  37. aquaexertion says:

    Guess what! I have the exact same ice cream maker you do!!! I bought it at a garage sale and can hardly wait to start using it. I see you have a manual! My ice cream maker did not come with the manual, and I cannot find it anywhere online. (I kind of doubted it considering it’s from the 60’s!) … I was wondering, is it possible for you to email or send a copy of your manual to me? I’ll send you my address if you want it. Or you can scan it and email it to me… I just feel so lost as to making sure I’m doing this right… and your ice cream looks sooo good! Eager to hear from you.
    Please let me know. πŸ™‚

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