I is for ice cream, and though I'm a fan of ice cream from the store, I'm a sucker for homemade ice cream.
When I was young, it was a winter treat and one of my dad's favorites. We'd pick up black walnuts in the autumn--our hands were stained for a week after cleaning the thick skinned hulls off of them. We'd pick them up from beneath the walnut trees, and throw them on the road. After they'd been run over a time or two, we'd gather them up, knock off the worst of the thick, inky mush that remained, and lay them out to dry in the sun.
On cold late autumn-early winter evenings dad would sit close to the fireplace in the evenings and use a "Freeport" (kiln-baked red clay) brick setting on the hearth as a base, and hit the nuts with a ball peen hammer. Then he'd pick out the nutmeats and stash them away for a bitter cold stretch in the heart of winter.
When the day arrived, dad sent my brothers to the creek with a bucket and a hatchet. They returned with a bucketful of ice and smiles of anticipation.
Mom 'cooked up' a 6 quart kettle of vanilla custard--using rich, whole fresh cow's milk, vanilla, sugar and eggs, thickened with cornstarch, and it was set to cool.
Dad used an icepick to break up the creek ice, and layered it with rock salt, then ice, then more rocksalt, and more ice. Part way through the ice filling, the cooled custard was poured into the center can, the outside of which was surrounded by ice. After the ice was full to the top, we cranked...
And cranked some more.
Everyone took a turn (pun intended). Homemade ice cream was labor intensive back in the day--before electric ice cream freezers became the norm.
That's okay. No time was wasted. Mom made homemade butterscotch topping, and homemade chocolate syrup using Hershey's cocoa. We'd line up with our bowls full of the frozen white confection, and she'd pour the sauce over it. The butterscotch ran down over the the ice cream, melting it into puddles around the outer edge. And that was just as tasty to drink as the rest was to eat. And dad added his black walnuts to his bowl.
Life was good. :-)
What was left (it was a big ice cream maker) stayed in the can resting in the salt/ice mixture, on the back porch, where it stayed frozen until it was all eaten.
Looking back, yep, I can remember how good it tasted, but what was even better was the doing. The actual act of making it, from nut gathering to cranking the freezer.