Feature Stories Summer 2011 Issue

Behold the Power of Ice Cream

By Missy Kampling | Photos By Jim Klousia 0

Never in my life have I met a man, woman or child who’s confessed to hating ice cream. In fact, statistically speaking, when you ask, “what’s your favorite food?” ice cream is likely to be one of the top three responses.

Now, regardless of my personal hesitation toward sweet treats, the country’s love of ice cream has become as much of a mystery to me as bees navigating their way back to the hive. At times I’ve even been obsessed by this mystery, wondering what could possibly be consuming us to believe that ice cream is one of the best inventions on this planet? Is it some special ingredient or technique I don’t know about? In order to quench my thirst for knowledge, I years ago embarked on a journey to discover the truth around why ice cream is a popular favorite food.

As I started out on my voyage to ice cream enlightenment, I learned one lesson very quickly: Ice cream is almost always easy to make, especially when you use the best ingredients. On one infamous day, I looked in my fridge for a few staple ingredients and took a liking to a “close to expired” carton of cream; I certainly did not want any of my milk and cream to go to waste. It was only later—after I went through the entire ice cream making process—that I began to regret my decision about the cream. My ice cream did not taste horrible, but it did not taste that great either.

So to comfort my woes, I turned to the blogosphere to better understand what exactly went wrong. The answer was that I was improperly handling and storing my ingredients. More specifically, I wasn’t using the highest quality ingredients. In fact, among a handful of foodie bloggers, it was one of the most common mistakes made, but also one of the easiest to correct. If you accidentally burn the milk while cooking it, use “close to expired” ingredients or spices that are more than a year old, two things could start to happen: your recipe will be less flavorful, or the flavor will be changed altogether (and not in a good way.)

By using the freshest, local, seasonal ingredients, you can easily make a great tasting treat. As quickly as I purchased fresh organic cream, milk and half & half and replaced all my spices with new ones, I ran into my second biggest problem: my ice cream machine. I will admit that during certain stages of my life, I made the mistake of thinking that something is more valuable because of its bargain price rather than its quality. Simply put, I purchased a poorly constructed ice cream maker because it was on sale.

After making a few batches of ice cream, I started to notice an unwanted characteristic. My ice cream tasted salty. I made batch after batch blaming the recipe, the ingredients and eventually my sanity. I even started to question my culinary abilities. Finally, I happened to be cleaning the ice cream canister one day and discovered very tiny holes—the rock salt and ice had been puncturing the thin, cheap aluminum.

I realized the hard way that purchasing an ice cream maker based on a cheap price will only lead to a slow and painful waste of good cream and my money. I should have listened to my mother’s advice: “you get what you pay for.” Spend a few extra dollars on a nice, high-quality ice cream maker. If you use rock salt and ice, be sure to replace the aluminum canister on a yearly basis in order to avoid corrosion, or invest in a new fancy gel canister that attaches to any utility mixer; it can be less of a mess.

Now, nearly 80 batches of ice cream and almost two years later, my journey still led me back to this burning question: Why does ice cream hold this power over our culture? Obviously taste, texture and flavor all play a vital role in making ice cream a favorite food, but I intuitively felt as though I was missing a key piece of the puzzle.

The scoop (pun intended) is that our deep love for ice cream stems from something beyond culinary or scientific justification; it’s entirely emotional. In my final task on this journey of enlightenment, I carefully listened to the fondest memories of others and discovered that ice cream plays a pivotal role in American culture—ice cream can make almost any situation better.

As a case in point, when someone breaks up with you, it’s best that they buy you double scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough and then confess to “seeing someone else.” Another example would be finding yourself running down the street on a hot summer day pretending to get some much needed exercise, when in fact you are chasing down the local ice cream truck with a mob of screaming kids. Whatever circumstances you might be under, ice cream can make some of the most difficult situations in life a little bit easier to bear. Hopefully my ice cream mishaps will lead you on your own journey of good ice cream fortune.

We hope you enjoy these ice cream recipes by Missy this summer. 

Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Honey-Nut Brittle

Buttermilk Rhubarb Ice Cream

Sweet Cream Ice Cream

Missy Kampling has worked in the organic industry for six years, starting as a graduate in organic agriculture at the University of California-Santa Cruz. Her deep agriculture heritage and love for nature led to a passion for cooking and writing. Missy and her family own Cosi Bella Vineyards in Lodi, California, where they grow Sangiovese grapes. Missy now resides in Wisconsin and is a newly-joined cheese and butter marketing aficionado at Organic Valley.

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