Recipes: Then and Now

Recipes from the past updated for today


Post #5 Vanilla Ice Cream

May 1, 2014

No summer is complete without some home-made ice cream. I remember going to my grandparent’s house to share in the hard work of hand cranking the ice cream freezer. I was too young to be of much help but I had fun and it was good ice cream. Not many people have an old hand crank ice cream freezer these days, but that doesn’t mean we won’t enjoy some home-made ice cream. Even if we do use a new-fangled machine to freeze it.


Most of us think ‘vanilla’ when home-made ice cream is mentioned. So here are some facts about vanilla. The vanilla plant is a climbing tropical orchid with beautiful blooms. These blooms must be pollinated, mostly by hand, after which the plant forms what is called a ‘bean’. This is just the word used to describe the look of the seed pod, though it is not a true bean at all. It may take up to a year to allow the seed pod to grow and fully develop. After the pods are harvested they are cured. Curing is a complex process involving drying and aging the pods in the sun then ‘sweating’ them in blankets at night. This process takes up to 8 months to give us the characteristic vanilla flavor we all know and love. There are literally hundreds of different chemical flavoring components that are created in curing the vanilla ‘beans’. Artificial ‘vanilla flavor’ has only one. This is why only whole vanilla ‘beans’ or pure vanilla extract will give the best flavor. Extract is made by percolating alcohol, usually vodka, over the vanilla ‘beans’ to draw out the flavor essences. The best vanilla ‘beans’ come from Mexico and Madagascar.

I have decided to try several recipes and see how they compare. You might like to try all of them as well. This first one is from ‘The American Woman’s Cook Book’ of 1944, edited and revised by Ruth Berolzheimer. It melts down to pure cream, no eggs or thickeners of any kind. It is also one of the easiest ice cream recipes to make.

Philadelphia Vanilla Ice Cream

1 quart thin cream

¾ cup sugar

½ tablespoon vanilla extract

Dissolve the sugar in the cream, add the vanilla and freeze.


American Vanilla Ice Cream

The next is an adapted version of the American Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from the same cook book.

2 cups whole milk

¾ cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

2 egg yolks

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In the top of a double boiler combine the sugar and the flour. Stir in the milk and place over boiling water. Cook, stirring constantly over boiling water for 15 minutes. Beat egg yolks and stir in 2 tablespoons of the hot milk mixture. Stir in another 2 tablespoons of the hot milk mixture. Now pour in the egg yolk mixture into the hot milk in the double boiler. Cook and stir for another 2 minutes. Chill mixture overnight and freeze in ice cream freezer according to manufacturer’s instructions.


Vanilla Ice Cream

This last recipe is from Marion Harland’s Complete Cook Book of 1903, published by The Bobbs-Merrill Company.

Mrs. Harland says:

To which I say: “Wow, not much info here, is there?” So, after cutting it down to make a quart of ice cream, here is what I used along with some more detailed directions. This is a very sweet concoction. Did Grandma really like her ice cream so sweet? After trying all three this one came out on top. Very good ice cream.

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 cups whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups whipping cream

Beat the eggs into the sugar until well blended. Stir in the milk and cook over medium heat until custard is thick and coats the back of the spoon. Cool slightly and pour through a fine mesh strainer. Stir in the whipping cream and vanilla then chill overnight. Pour into ice cream freezer and follow manufacturer’s instructions.