Peach Ice Cream

Before the invention of the hand-cranked ice cream freezer in 1843, making ice cream was a time-consuming and laborious task.

Lettice Bryan describes the process in her 1839 book The Kentucky Housewife:

“Break up your ice very small, mix with it an equal portion of coarse salt, and put it in the ice tub. Having prepared your cream, put it in the freezer [a container with a lid], set it in the tub of ice, pressing up the ice closely to it; cover it with a folded carpet, turn it round constantly, taking care not to let a drop of the salt water get in, which would injure very much the taste of the cream. Raise the cover frequently, and with a long-handled spoon scrape down the ice from the sides of the freezer.”

The entire process of turning the freezer by hand, frequently stopping to open it and scrape down the sides, and then turning it again, would take about two hours. Then, the ice cream would either be placed into molds or back into the freezer for the “second freezing” for another two to three hours. The labor-intensive and time-consuming process, as well as the expense of the ice, meant that ice cream could generally only be made in wealthier households.

Although the basic principle of making ice cream – constantly churning or stirring cream as it freezes – hasn’t changed much since Lettice Bryan’s day, the invention of ice cream freezers has made the process dramatically easier. I made this ice cream using a modern ice cream maker, which only took about 15 minutes of hands-off time to freeze the mixture.

Peach Ice Cream:

  • 2 cups peach pulp (about 5 or 6 peaches)
  • 1/2 lb sugar
  • 1/2 nutmeg, grated
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  1. Peel the peaches. The easiest way to do this is to blanch them in hot water for about 30 seconds, then immediately rinse them or plunge them into cold water. The skins should slip off easily.
  2. Remove the peach pits and mash the peaches to a pulp, either by hand or with a food processor.
  3. Mix the peach pulp with the sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and heavy cream.
  4. Chill the mixture in the fridge for at least 1 hour, until cold.
  5. Freeze the ice cream in an ice cream maker according to the machine’s instructions (you need one that will hold at least 1.5 quarts); or, if you have a few hours to spare and want to build some muscle, try following Lettice Bryan’s original instructions.
  6. Pack the ice cream into a mold, if you have one, or simply into a container, and place it in the freezer until firm.

Tasting notes:

Probably because of the high water content of the fruit, this ice cream froze fairly hard. If you are serving this in intricately-designed molds, as Lettice Bryan suggested, this would probably be an advantage because the ice cream would keep its shape. If you are serving it straight from a container, however, you might need to let the ice cream thaw for a few minutes before scooping.

The balance of flavors in this ice cream is absolutely perfect. Although I’m normally tempted to experiment with the amounts of spices in recipes, I wouldn’t change a thing in this one. The subtle peach flavor is perfectly complemented by the cinnamon and nutmeg, and the amount of sugar is exactly right. The ice cream is so rich and creamy that it’s difficult to eat more than a little at a time; but a few bites are just the right thing for cooling down on a hot summer day.

References:

Bryan, L. (1839). The Kentucky housewife. Cincinnati: Shepard & Stearns. https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Kentucky_Housewife/RERv9slqYUsC?hl=en&gbpv=1

Quinzio, J. (2004). Ice cream makers. In A. F. Smith, (Ed.), The Oxford encyclopedia of food and drink in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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