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Cool treat for hot days

August 25, 2004|by CHRIS COPLEY

chrisc@herald-mail.com

When I was a boy, there were few things more magical than making homemade ice cream.

My mother mixed up a sweet, milky "batter." My dad dumped it into the shiny metal can of our old ice cream freezer, centered the can in the freezer bucket and filled the bucket with alternating layers of rock salt and chipped ice. On went the mechanical "bridge" and cranking handle, then he and I and every able-bodied male in sight (even my little brother) cranked the handle.

After a half-hour that seemed to take all eternity, we disassembled the machinery, opened the can and scooped out a wonderful, creamy dessert that, in my childhood memory, was unrivaled.

Homemade ice cream.

Just the words make my mouth water. So when I had a chance to see the ice cream making contest at Washington County Ag Expo this year, I jumped. Four teams competed, each producing a different flavor. Five judges sat to the side, tasting and scoring.

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When it comes to ice cream flavors, I'm a coffee-chocolate-nut sort of guy. So when I realized three of the entries were fruit flavors, my enthusiasm waned. But in the interest of journalistic integrity, I sampled all four.

And boy, was I surprised. All four were tasty, especially the fruity entries.

Mary Ann Head of Hedgesville, W.Va., was part of the four-person U.S. Department of Agriculture Service Center team. The USDA team won the ice cream contest with Strawberry-Cream Cheese Ice Cream, a recipe Head uses at home. She said she makes ice cream several times a year. She and her husband, Mike, like peanut butter and chocolate, but they chose a fruit recipe for the texture.

"It was smooth," Head said. She added that the recipe could be altered; she suggested that peach-cream cheese might be good.

Jim Schlossnagle's wife, Sue, provided the Toasted Almond Chocolate Ice Cream recipe used by the ice cream team from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, of which Jim Schlossnagle is a member. The NRCS team placed second at Ag Expo. Nut flavors are popular with the team.

"The last couple years, we won with a butter pecan ice cream," said Schlossnagle of Williamsport. "This year we tried something different."

Deluxe Fruit Ice Cream, a six-fruit concoction, was the contest entry of Terry Bearer of Hagerstown, and her team of two nieces and a friend. They placed third at Ag Expo. I feared the sample I tried would be overpoweringly tooty-fruity, but it was deliciously mild and the texture of soft serve. I liked it.

Bearer said the recipe came with her from Southern California when she moved to Maryland two decades ago. It called for fresh apricots, which grow in California. In Maryland, Bearer substituted peaches.

Homemade ice cream was part of Bearer's childhood. Her neighbors had an old hand-cranked ice cream freezer.

"If we came over after church and helped crank it, we got to partake in it," she said. "When I decided to enter the (Ag Expo) ice cream contest, I looked for (a freezer) like the old churning one but couldn't find it."

The team from MidAtlantic Farm Credit produced Orange-Pineapple Ice Cream. Again, the flavors were delicate; bits of orange scattered in the ice cream offered visual appeal and pleasant texture.

Michelle Trumpower of Hagers-town headed the Farm Credit team. She said she has made ice cream her entire life.

"I grew up with homemade ice cream," Trumpower said. "It's a family thing I do. It's not any cheaper than buying commercial ice cream. It can be costly with all the ingredients."

But Trumpower's view on ice cream echoed my own. Making ice cream at home is not about economizing. It's more about passing on a family tradition.

"I do it for fun," she said, "and for the younger generation to see how ice cream is made."

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