a boy I often spent the hot, dog days of summer on my aunt and uncles
farm. After a long day of combining and chores we’d sit down
at their kitchen table for supper. I remember the twinkle in my
Aunt Margaret’s eye when she’d say, “We’ll
make fresh ice cream after supper.”
Uncle Ed dragged the wooden bucket ice cream maker out to the porch.
He poured in the ice, the fresh churned cream, eggs, sugar and salt.
With a paring knife his rugged farmer hands carefully sliced into
peaches picked that afternoon. “Ain’t nothin’
better than fresh peach ice cream,” he winked.
Then he began turning the hand crank handle, blades churning inside
the bucket. Before long I’d ask to help and he motioned me
over. I found it nearly impossible to turn the crank, but kept at
“Ready to take over again, Uncle Ed?” my exhausted voice
intoned after several minutes struggle.
“Hard work ain’t it?” I nodded agreement. “Well
worth it though,” he grinned.
The first taste out of the bucket, just to make sure it was ready,
brought widened eyes. Then my aunt would scoop out huge bowls full.
We’d sit on the porch watching the sun dip into the cornfield
tassels, listening to the crickets and cicadas tuning up for their
nocturnal symphony and enjoy the best fresh made ice cream I ever
Sitting here sweating in the heat and humidity the other day, I
got a hankerin’ for home made ice cream and figured if there’s
a time to talk about it, it’s now.
“Iced cream” was the term first used in North America
by the colonists. In 1774, a New York caterer Phillip Lenzi, newly
arrived from London, offered for sale various confections, including
iced cream. Thomas Jefferson even had an ice cream recipe: “2
bottles of cream, 6 yolks of egg and ½ pound of sugar. Mix
yolks & sugar.”
Aunt Sallie Shadd achieved legendary status among Wilmington, Delaware’s
free black population as a maker of ice cream. President James Madison’s
wife Dolly served Aunt Sallie Shadd’s ice cream at the President's
Inaugural Ball in 1813.
In the late 1820s, African American Augustus Jackson left his position
as a chef at the White House, moved to Philadelphia and created
several popular ice cream flavors. He distributed it in tin cans
to Philadelphia’s many ice cream parlors.
In 1846 Nancy Johnson invented the hand-cranked, wooden bucket freezer
with rotary paddles. Turning the crank handle agitated the mixture
in a bed of salt and ice until it was frozen. Using ice mixed with
salt to lower and control the temperature of the ingredients was
a major breakthrough in the creation of ice cream as we now know
it. The device my Uncle Ed used in the 1950’s was virtually
unchanged from Nancy Johnson’s creation 110 years earlier.
Clarence Vogt invented the first commercially successful continuous
process freezer in 1926, allowing mass production of the product.
In 1900 ice cream production reached 30 million gallons per year.
Today the manufacture of both soft and hard ice cream exceeds more
than one billion gallons a year, that’s a per capita consumption
of more than 19 pounds.
So as the mercury crept closer to the top of the glass tube I began
wondering where I could get a taste of fresh hand made ice cream
as good as Uncle Ed and Aunt Margaret’s.
Established in 1957, “The Red Barn” on 9H is one of
those quiet roadside eateries from another era. You expect to find
a youthful Bette Davis or Joan Crawford waiting to serve you. I
chose a stool at the counter and began scouring the menu’s
frozen delights. Danielle and Ashley, the adorable young ladies
I found working behind the counter, were enthusiastic about ice
cream, black raspberry and cookies & cream their respective
“Lemon ice cream is the favorite here,” Danielle informs
me, “because most people have never had it.” She releases
a tender smile when she tells me about the couple who’ve stopped
in every week for the past 35 years to enjoy a banana split.
I decided on two scoops, one fresh peach, one fresh banana and was
immediately transported to my aunt and uncle’s front porch.
The lovely Alexys at “Brandow’s & Company”
on Warren Street, Hudson was equally enthusiastic about the lengthy
list of hand made ice cream flavors Chris Froese creates there.
Alexys is partial to the butter pecan. “Oh, and we have tropical
fruit flavors of sorbet, too,” she beams.
There are two other places in the area to get hand made ice cream,
“Peoples” at Routes 9 & 20 in Nassau and Bev’s
on Railroad Street in Great Barrington. They all offer cone, cup
and packages to go.
Lots of places around have good hard packed and soft serve ice cream,
but few offer the heavenly hand made variety, the kind that makes
you want to kick back on the front porch and listen to the night
We’ll talk next time From The Road.