Hundred-Year-Old Directions for Freezing Ice Cream

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, February 2, 1913:  It was a very tight fit. The girls slept with me. It was very nice, especially where one must cling to the very edge for fear

Went to Sunday School this morning. Besse was out. We had ice cream today. Second time. Rufus took Helen home this evening, that is they both went to Christian Endeavor, but I stayed to studying General History. It’s awfully cold here, so I’m going to be. Good-night.

Picture source: National Food Magazine (June, 1910)

Picture source: National Food Magazine (June, 1910)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Based on the diary, I think that Grandma and her sister Ruth (called Rufus in this entry) shared a double bed during the winter months since the second floor of  homes were cold back in the days of wood and coal stoves.

The previous day Grandma wrote that a friend, Tweet (Helen) Wesner, came to visit.  Probably the three girls squeezed into the double bed.

A hundred years ago making homemade ice cream was often winter activity rather than a summer one. The Muffly’s did not have electricity and lived on a farm. Ice was more readily available in the winter—and it would be easier to store the ice cream.

Here are the directions in a hundred-year-old cookbook for making ice cream:

Directions for Freezing

Select a reliable freezer and one which runs easily. Keep the gearing well oiled.

Adjust the freezing can in the freezer, making sure that all parts fit and that the crank turns readily. Place ice in bag made of ticking or strong sacking, and with a wooden mallet, pound until very fine. Surround the freezing can with ice and rock salt, using three measures of ice and one of salt, for ice cream and sherbets; two measures of ice and one of salt for sorbets, frappes, etc.; equal measures of ice and of salt for molding and for freezing mousses, bombes, and parfaits.

For freezing ice cream, when the freezing can is cold, pour in mixture to be frozen, let stand five minutes, then turn the crank slowly for eight or ten minutes, then more rapidly until mixture is frozen. Remove dasher, scrape cream from sides of freezing can to the middle and press down so as to have the cream one solid mass; let stand to season, or if to be molded, pack in the mold.

Lowney’s Cook Book (1912)

28 Responses

  1. Though I’m not as old as your grandmother, everything in this post is so familiar to me. My cousin and I occasionally spent the night at our grandmother’s home where we tried to sleep in a bed that was wider than a twin but not as wide as a double bed. Clinging to the edge is about right!

    In the home where I grew up we used coal for many years and there was no venting to the second floor. It was very cold in the winter (and very hot in the summer!).

    And the ice cream freezer…. We had one that was just slightly more modern than the one above. We cranked and cranked and cranked. As I was reading the instructions for making ice cream I was surprised that they said to put the ice in a ticking bag and pound it. Then I remembered that their ice had probably been gathered from a nearby lake where it was cut into cubic foot-size pieces. Nothing like today where we buy a 20# bag of ice at the store in fist-size or smaller pieces.

    I love the girls’ nicknames.

    • I also have memories of how cold second floors of houses were before central heating. I remember occasionally staying overnight at the home of a friend from school. They had two coals stoves on the first floor, but it was incredibly cold on the second floor.

      Grandma’s family probably got the ice from a stream that ran through the farm. They may have also have gotten it from water troughs that they used to water the farm animals. I think that they sometimes froze over–especially overnight.

  2. Brings back some great memories of cranking ice-cream cranks. Or rather watching my Dad and his friends. It is a bit of a lost art. Packing the salt and ice just right so that you get a good level of ice-cold water and transference of the heat away from the canister.

    Also reminds me of my post on Winter Cuttings. http://bramanswanderings.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/winter-cuttings/

    • I also can remember cranking ice-cream cranks years ago. It seemed like the ice creams would never solidify–and everyone’s arms were very, very tired.

      Thanks for the link to the great post. It’s amazing how they once cut ice off lakes using horses and saws.

  3. I wonder how many people didn’t even know they had ice cream a hundred years ago.

    • My sense is that ice cream freezers were a relatively new “convenience” tool back then–and that many people were really into making ice cream. The ice cream section is much larger in the hundred-year-old cookbooks than what it would be in a modern cookbook.

  4. This reminds me of stories my mom and her 5 sisters used to tell. They had 6 brothers, so it was a house full, and I’m sure they “clung to the edge” of the bed many times too.

    • On the other side of my family, I have some ancestors who grew up in really large families. It was always really fun to hear about all of the antics of the siblings.

  5. You have a very special way of connecting the past with the present. Our neighbors took on the rigors of making ice cream the oldeay you describe. Quite a feat for sunny Southern California. It was quickly consumed. Almost like soup. Thank you for your lovely posts.

    • It sounds like a fun adventure (even if the ice cream turned out almost like soup). Thanks for taking a moment to write the nice note. It’s always wonderful to hear when someone particularly enjoys a post.

  6. I like icecream in the winter too… but now it has to be dairy free. Wahhhh

  7. Oh, my! I am old enough to remember making ice cream this way!

  8. Mmmmmm! Homemade ice cream! Makes me want to go back in time. It didn’t take much to make Grandma happy did it?

  9. Cute entry. She was sweet with bed full of girls. ‘Also I have precious memories of making homemade ice cream when our children were small and we lived on a very rural ranch — entertainment was homegrown — or homemade ice cream — as the case may be.

    • We still occasionally make home-made ice cream, but we have an electric freezer. It’s still a lot of work, but a little easier than in the days of hand-cranked freezers.

  10. Years ago we had ice cream after quite a while of cranking the ice cream maker with friends, each one of us taking a turn. It was the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Nothing else has even come close.

  11. So what did the Groundhog say this morning? I never heard the news.

  12. [...] The previous day the Muffly’s made ice cream. It must have tasted really, really good if Grandma ate four dishes (even if she’s paying for her indulgence).  Maybe she ate it with warm chocolate sauce. [...]

  13. We used to visit my Grandpa on the farm in winter and I remember some mornings the blankets being stuck to the wall because dad would get the stove going so hot we’d be just sweating…Thank goodness for flannel jammies and down quilts

  14. Interesting, I did not realize that ice cream was a winter activity, but it does make sense!

  15. Homemade ice cream is an old time favorite in our family. Dad used an old fashioned freezer, like the one you have pictured here, for many years.I remember taking a turn at the hand crank…but now Dad and I use the electric ‘old fashioned’ freezer!

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