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In the Catbird Seat

Delighting in winter ice cream

November 25, 2011
By Joe Kirkish , The Daily Mining Gazette

Call it "frozen custard," "frozen yogurt," sorbet," "gelato" or "glace," it's delicious and timeless. In the Persian empire, about 400 B.C., people poured grape juice over snow in a bowl and ate it as their treat - later using rose water, saffron, fruits and other flavors for variety.

In China around 200 B.C., a variation of our favorite frozen dessert was made with milk and rice and served as a real treat.

And shortly after the time of Christ, the Roman Empire brought ice from the mountains and combined it, crushed, with fruit toppings as a national dessert.

Actually, it was the Arabs who came closest to our ice cream, making their dish with milk, often mixed with yogurt and sweetening it with sugar rather than fruit juices - as far back as the 10th century, often adding rose water, dried fruits, and nuts.

In the U.S., before the development of modern refrigeration, ice cream was a luxury reserved only for special occasions. Making it was a laborious task. Ice had to be cut from lakes and ponds during the winter, then stored in various kinds of ice houses, insulated with wood chips or straw, for future use. The creamy dessert mix was laboriously hand-cranked, inside a tub filled with ice and salt, until chilled and thickened. Only recently, some enterprising inventors came up with refrigeration techniques that now do all the work.

Ice cream became so popular the making and selling of it turned rapidly into big business, so now our local stores sell it in a great variety of flavors and mixed-in fruits or nuts.

Ah, but enterprising families in rural areas where winter snow is relatively clean, also made their own ice cream in a simple way.

About 33 years ago, Carl Swartz of downstate Wayland saw a recipe for making ice cream from newly fallen snow. He tried it, really enjoyed it, then lost the recipe. Last winter, when he suddenly thought about how good that homemade snow ice cream would taste, he wrote a letter to "Can You Help Me?" and to his surprise, received more than 600 responses with recipes from across the country.

Among the many variations, he latched onto one, from Bobbie Schoning of Seward, Alaska, as his favorite - a recipe that came originally from an Athabascan Indian tribe. It goes like this:

"Start with 2 cups of powdered milk, 1/4 cup of honey, 1 cup of water, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1/4 cup of light cooking oil and 1 bucket of clean snow."

According to the original directions: "You put the powdered milk in a large bowl and form a well in the center. Add the honey, vanilla, oil, and enough water to make a paste without lumps.

"Continue adding water until the mixture is the consistency of cake batter.

"Add snow until it's the consistency of slightly softened ice cream. But be careful - too much snow will weaken the flavor."

Another favorite recipe called for: 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of cream (or milk or evaporated milk), 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and, as an option, 1 tablespoon of cocoa. Mix them all together, then add snow until it's of an ice cream consistency. Like all snow recipes, eat as soon as possible after making it.

And one more: Beat together in a chilled bowl, 1 cup of sifted powdered sugar, 1 cup of whipping cream and 1 1/4 teaspoons of vanilla. Stir in enough snow until it's a smooth consistency - and as an option, add chocolate chips for a tasty variation.

Carl reminds us that snow ice cream is a little grainier than store-bought, more like a sherbet. "But," he adds, "it's so good that I'm looking forward to snow this year so we can try some more recipes. And when the whole family joins in to make it, it's an all family delight."

Rotten Tomatoes averages: "Happy Feet 2," C+; "Breaking Dawn," D+

Note: Finlandia University is going all out next Thursday for a celebration of Finnish Independence Day; check the paper for details!



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