One of my favorite childhood memories centers around July 4th celebrations. Though we always enjoyed watching our neighbors sending up their own fiery sparks, the memory has little to do with fireworks. It seems the best family memories are often centered around being together and sharing a meal. Summer cookouts were relaxed and delicious. Another golden memory, sweetened with the passing of time.
We had the usual cookout fare. Grandmother made hamburger patties, by hand, with a dash of Italian seasoning. My grandfather put these on the grill alongside plump, perfect hot dogs. He brushed them with savory, homemade barbecue sauce and seared them to perfection. Along with these, he grilled corn on the cob and served it, sweet and juicy, with a stick of butter. We had garden fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions and crisp, cold cucumbers to top the burgers. Grandmother also served up tender, home-grown green beans, macaroni salad, potato salad, and deviled eggs. But, the best part was homemade ice cream!
Grandmother always cooked the ice cream mixture the day before and cooled it in the refrigerator overnight. It was a simple, sweet vanilla cream base. The next morning, she and Grandad poured it into the electric ice cream freezer and started it up. It always seemed to take forever. No matter how long it took, it was worth the wait. It always came out creamy and perfect. It was not frozen hard, like the store-bought ice creams. Grandmother’s ice cream, like most things she made, was perfect.
Although she always made vanilla ice cream, the add-ins and toppings made it special and memorable. We had chocolate chips, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, strawberries, and even rainbow candy sprinkles! Chocolate, caramel and even pineapple toppings were lavished on top of our bowls of ice cream along with cool whip, cherries and colored sugar sprinkles to make it festive. We all had our favorites–Grandad loved pineapple and caramel. I loved chocolate chips and strawberries with rainbow sprinkles on mine.
The most unlikely family favorite, some would even say strangest, ice cream add-in at Grandmother’s house happened to be grape-nuts cereal! I didn’t particularly like this one when I was little. The cereal was too crunchy, and it interrupted the smooth, creamy simplicity of my ice cream. But as I grew older, grape-nuts ice cream became my all time favorite. I craved it when I spent July 4th away from home, and I crave it even more now. It gave a unique nutty flavor to the ice cream, even though the cereal contains no nuts at all. I found all kinds of recipes for it online, but I’ve never actually had grape nuts ice cream anywhere but home.
I rarely make ice cream now, and when I do, the recipe doesn’t involve any pre-cooking. I make plain vanilla and chocolate with my kids. I use a basic recipe and double bag it in zip-loc bags, with rock salt in the outer bag. We wrap the bags in newspaper and duct tape and play a game of catch with them until cold, smooth and creamy. The ice cream is almost as good as Grandmother’s, but never quite as yummy as I remember it.
Summer is too short now and not nearly as sweet.
Here is the recipe for grape nuts ice cream I found on the Washington Post website:
6 large egg yolks.
2/3 cup sugar.
2 cups heavy cream, warmed.
1 cup chilled whole milk.
1/4 teaspoon salt.
1 cup Grape-Nuts cereal, plus more for optional garnish.
2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
Grape-Nuts Ice Cream – The Washington Post