There are few things better than homemade ice cream: You get both delicious flavor and the satisfaction of a job well done. But cooking, cooling and freezing an ice cream base can be difficult and time consuming, and not everyone has an ice cream maker. This simple recipe (cream, milk, sugar, vanilla) is a perfect activity for the kids with rich and creamy results. Start with the delectable vanilla ice cream base, then mix and match your way to your favorite flavor with our easy variations.
a 3-pound metal coffee can with a lid (empty and clean); a 10-ounce to 1-pound metal coffee can with a lid (empty and clean); duct tape; rubber gloves; a yoga mat, optional
For the vanilla ice cream base: Add the heavy cream, milk, sugar and vanilla to a 10-ounce metal coffee can with a lid (see Cook's Note). Close the lid and secure it with duct tape, making sure the can is completely sealed. Shake the mixture lightly to combine. Place the sealed can into an empty 3-pound coffee can with a lid.
Put on rubber gloves to protect your skin from the ice and salt. Add the ice around and on top of the sealed can, so the can is completely encased in ice. Pour 1 cup of the rock salt over the ice. Close the large can with the lid and secure it with duct tape. Place the large can on its side directly on the floor or a yoga mat, if desired (see Cook's Note). Roll the can back and forth, making sure to make a full rotation with each roll, about 20 minutes. The rolling is easier with a partner, but it can be done alone.
Open the large can and discard the ice and salt. Rinse the small can with water; this will help keep any salt from getting in the ice cream. Open the small can. The mixture should be partially solid with some liquid with crystals forming. Use a large metal spoon to scrape any solids that have accumulated on the sides and bottom of the can and stir them into the rest of the mixture.
Seal the small can again with the lid and duct tape. Refill the large can with ice and the remaining 1 cup salt. Seal the large can again with the lid and duct tape. Roll for another 15 to 20 minutes. Open the large can and discard the ice and salt. Rinse the small can and open. Scrape the sides and bottom with the large metal spoon. Serve immediately or transfer to an airtight container.
For the coffee ice cream: Follow the instructions for the vanilla ice cream base, substituting the cold brew or strong coffee for 1/2 cup of the whole milk.
For the chocolate ice cream: Follow the instructions for the vanilla ice cream base, substituting the full-fat chocolate milk for the whole milk. In addition, add the chocolate syrup to the milk mixture, if desired, for a richer flavor.
For the cookies and cream ice cream: Follow the instructions for the vanilla ice cream base. After rolling the mixture for the first 20 minutes and stirring in any solid ice cream, stir in the crushed chocolate sandwich cookies. Seal and continue to roll following the instructions.
For the chocolate chip ice cream: Follow the instructions for the vanilla ice cream base, adding 1/3 cup finely chopped chocolate (2 ounces) to the cream and milk mixture before rolling.
For the mint chocolate chip ice cream: Follow the instructions for the vanilla ice cream base, adding 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract to the cream and milk mixture before rolling.
For the small can, any size from 10 ounces to 1 pound will work. If you are doing this indoors, a yoga mat can help dampen the sound and keep any salt off your floor or rug. Clean the mat after with soap and water.
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