You Scream, I Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream

By RENE’ DAY / Community Columnist

The dog days of summer have begun, and anyone who’s lived in Alabama for more than a few weeks knows what that means. Hot, sticky, and as James Spann often says, “Air you can wear!” Fortunately, there is one sure way to help those around you cool off.  It has been a favorite in the South for years and years – homemade ice cream. If you have never gotten a taste of the kind made in the old-fashioned, hand-cranked freezers, then you have my condolences. Ask any native of Shelby County over the age of 45 and, most likely, some of their favorite memories will be of sitting on a towel on the crank to keep just the right weight on the dasher or of taking turns at the crank. In many families, that was always the kids’ job until the handle got too hard to turn and the adults had to take over – a sure sign it was almost time!

In fact, so many millennials today want the “original” freezers that up-scale home stores now offer the old hand-cranked versions made of exotic woods and new-age metals. But, you can always find a moderately priced electric version and stand back to watch the magic. It doesn’t really matter what’s happening on the outside; the real magic is happening inside. And, that is where your local produce stand or farmers’ market has you covered. A recent stop at Burdette Farms on Highway 17 outside of Helena netted some of the best Chilton County peaches to be found this year. Wayne’s Produce between Alabaster and Pelham is always a good “go to” for peaches and other fruits. Strawberries are another good buy in early summer since our neighboring county to the south grows an abundance of them.

For many, perfecting a vanilla ice cream recipe is a bit like finding the holy grail. And, certainly, it is the simplest and purist version of the cold delicacy. But, with so many options, why stick with just vanilla? Almost every community in the county now offers a weekly “market” where local growers bring their produce to sell. Add in the myriad of individual stands along the roads you travel each day, and you can take home any number of things to spice up your cream. If you feel a bit like going “gourmet,” try adding fresh cantaloupe. There are even recipes now available for things like lemon-basil ice cream, or how about a strawberry and rosemary combination? With the fresh ingredients available around you – the only limitation is your imagination.

Check with your local community for information on when and where your farmers’ markets are scheduled or look a little more closely at the local offerings at your neighborhood grocery or farm stand. And then tune up your vocal cords for all the screaming that comes along with homemade ice cream!