Ice cream that's only as pure as the driven snow

January 30, 2000|By ROB KASPER

Say what you will about the snow -- that it is cold, slippery and a nuisance. It also makes excellent ice cream.

I found this out recently when the tradition of making ice cream with snow returned to our home.

To make this ice cream, you need a lot of snow and a casual "why worry" attitude. You can't fret over what might be in the snow. You can't think about the possibility of particulates from coal-burning power plants in the Midwest traveling in the upper atmosphere to Maryland and descending in your backyard as "acid snowflakes."

Instead, you have to trust in the goodness of nature, in a little bit of luck and in the notion that during a 12-hour snowfall, some "virgin" flakes will make it through the atmosphere in an unblemished state. Having said all that, it is also an excellent idea to seek out likely landing spots for the "pure, driven snow," not the lumpy stuff next to sidewalks.

The other night, I sent the pickiest eater in our house, our 14-year-old son, out to fetch the snow for the ice cream. This kid has an excellent eye. He regularly spots tiny bits of onion in meatballs, or hidden in the salad, and complains to high heaven about their presence.

While I admire the kid's eyesight, I do worry about his palate. Nevertheless, because this kid is constantly on the lookout for "flecks" -- pepper, chili powder, herbs -- in his food, he was an ideal candidate for snow-gathering duty.

I knew he would bring back only the cleanest snow, the whitest of the white. The kid and his older brother had requested snow ice cream. They had recalled that in earlier years, the blizzard of 1996 and the substantial snowfall of 1986, we had transformed the white stuff in the backyard into a dessert.

The recipe came from a 1980 edition of "The Joy of Cooking." This cookbook originally appeared in 1931 when folks believed the air was clean and snow was magical. The latest revised edition , published in 1997, doesn't have the recipe.

The recipe calls for mixing the snow in a mixture of cream, sugar and vanilla. To my mind, there is little in this world that wouldn't taste good when mixed with that trio.

This time I made a few refinements. In prior years, I had simply dumped the cream, sugar and vanilla into the snow. This year, I dissolved the sugar in the cream, then stirred in the vanilla. I also doubled the amount of vanilla to a full teaspoon and cut back on the amount of snow. In prior years, I filled a 4-quart bowl with snow.

This year, I cut the snow in half, filling a 2-quart bowl with snow, then stirring in the cream mixture.

The result was a sweet, creamy, vanilla dessert. It looked somewhat like snow, but had the flavor of a good vanilla ice cream. It was also very cold.

The teen-agers said it was the best of all snow ice creams, superior to the '96 and '86 vintages. I question whether they can accurately recall those vintages. In 1986, the older boy now 19, was 6, and his brother, now 14, was 1 year old.

But I couldn't question their fervor. The 2-quart batch was gone in 20 minutes. Of course, as long as it continues to snow, there is ample opportunity to make more.

Snow Ice Cream

Serves 4 1 cup cream 3/4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla 2--uart bowl filled with clean, compacted snow

Mix cream, sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Pour cream mixture into bowl of snow, stir until well mixed. Serve immediately.

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