by Peggy Rice Wright
Making a freezer of ice cream was one of the most anticipated childhood events! The memory of the last freezer of the previous summer was still fresh, and now we were again to experience the excitement of removing the excess ice, pouring off just enough salt water so it wouldn’t seep into the ice cream and carefully taking off the lid to expose its glorious contents.
The process began several days before when Mother froze pans of water to supply the cedar bucket’s feeding frenzy. She put the metal container, lid and dasher in the freezer while she prepared a special mixture for ice cream. Her recipe for a gallon of true ice cream called for 6 fresh eggs in the bowl of a mixer. Eggs were whipped until they were smooth. Two and one-half cups of sugar mixed with two heaping tablespoons of flour were slowly added while the mixer, now on low speed, creamed the prized ingredients. Two cans of cold condensed milk with enough whole milk and cream to fill the gallon freezer bucket and about a teaspoon of vanilla were stirred into the egg mixture. Mother stopped the mixer periodically to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, then continued to mix well and then pour the mixture into the chilled waiting metal container, which was carefully placed in the cedar bucket with the lid firmly in place.
The metal clamp was hooked into one side of the bucket and the other side where the handle was attached was clamped firmly in place. Ice was quickly dropped into the receptacle, which was now resting in a large metal pan to catch the drippings of brine that soon found its way out of the small hole on the side of the bucket. A generous sprinkling of ice cream salt was alternated with the ice.
When the bucket was filled to capacity, newspapers were placed on top, then old towels. I sat on the freezer to hold it steady and occasionally ensured that ice was not plugging the hole for salt water to escape by poking in my finger while Daddy paused from turning the crank. As the ice melted, I rose from my perch to allow more ice and salt to be loaded into the wooden bucket. The handle eventually began to meet with resistance as the rich, sweet mixture slowly began to freeze.
Bowls and spoons, chilled in the freezer, awaited the first spoonfuls of the tasty concoction. My jaws ached with anticipation, my mouth watered. This was the moment I’d been waiting for! The handle balked at making another turn. Mother removed the crank and excess ice, gingerly tipped the bucket to allow a little more brine to seep out the hole, then took off the lid to reveal the long-awaited treasure. She held the dasher upright in a big bowl. I had a spoon and scraped the first ice cream off the dasher. As a privileged only child, this was another of my liberties. I wanted a big bite and hurriedly allowed the frosty, sweet ice cream to slide down my waiting throat. When my head did not explode and finally stopped hurting, I slowly savored each half-spoonful thereafter, ensuring pleasure and not pain! A lesson well learned was that ice cream was not to be eaten hastily, but to be savored with proper respect and appreciation.
The cedar bucket, clamp, crank, and metal container were thoroughly scrubbed and rinsed free of any remaining trace of salt. Salt water was poured on determined sprigs of grass that had found their way through the rocks on the road in front of our house, and the equipment was carefully put away for the next event.
After bathing away his long day of working on the farm and finishing the supper Mother prepared and put on his plate, Daddy retired to his favorite chair and had another bowl of cream. The preparation of ice cream was a process oft repeated, and we enjoyed it throughout the summer. Mother occasionally added fresh peaches to the mix, but vanilla was our flavor of choice.
We seem to be too busy now to sit outside under the shade of a tree, talk about the day, make ice cream and savor the goodness and the memories provided by a few simple ingredients. Maybe our world would be a better place if we found the time.
Peggy Rice Wright put down roots in the small Limestone county town of Mexia, Texas, about one hundred miles south of Dallas, as soon as she married her newspaperman husband Bob. Defecting from the Baptist church as a bride, she is a member of First United Methodist Church and proudly notes that fellow family tree resident Col. Samuel Doak McMahan established Methodism in Texas in September of 1833 amid the pastoral setting of majestic pine trees not far from St. Augustine, near Nacogdoches, Texas. Peggy was Mexia FUMC’s first librarian, served on the charter board to establish a pre-school, directed a children’s choir, was officer and member of the administrative board, taught children’s Sunday School classes and sings in the choir.
She is a longtime employee at Mexia ISD and is currently secretary to the counselors at Mexia High School. She also spends a great deal of time with her Mexia Daily News editor husband.
She is a member of the Jonathan Hardin Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and a charter member of the Limestone County Republican Women.
Peggy and Bob have two sons, two daughters-in-law, four grandchildren and a grandpuppy named Buddy.
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