Old-fashioned Black Walnut Ice Cream Recipe

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

Sunday, March 1, 1914:

March comes in like a howling lion,

How it goes out, I do not know.

This month at least is a howler,

Or the beginning is for the winds do blow (fiercely).

Went to Sunday School this morning. This afternoon it began to get pretty breezy and by now the winds are howling to beat the band. We had ice cream. Whether attracted by the scent or not, Besse and Curt came out. Besse usually manages to get out when we have ice cream.


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

Besse and Curt Hester were Grandma’s married sister and her husband. They lived in nearby Watsontown.

Throughout the diary, the Muffly’s made ice cream once or twice each winter. Today we think of ice cream as a warm weather food—but I guess in the days before refrigeration that maybe it was a cold weather food. It would have been easier to get the ice needed to make ice cream during the winter months.

What kind of ice cream did they make? Maybe they made Black Walnut Ice Cream. The previous fall Grandma gathered nuts after they fell from the trees—and Black Walnut is an awesome old-fashioned ice cream flavor.

Black Walnut Ice Cream

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 cups half and half

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla

1 cup chopped black walnuts

In a saucepan combine sugar, flour and salt. Stir in 1/2 of the half and half (2 cups). Stir and cook over moderate heat until thickened. Cook 2 minutes more. Stir a small amount of the hot mixture into the eggs, and then add the egg mixture to the pan. Cook 1 additional minute. Remove from heat; add vanilla and additional half and half. Strain to remove any lumps. Chill for several hours. Stir in black walnuts before putting into ice cream freezer.

Follow freezer directions to make ice cream.

Makes approximately 1 1/2 quarts. Recipe may be doubled or tripled for larger freezers.

This ice cream turned out wonderfully—and my husband says that I should have doubled the recipe because it didn’t last long enough.

This is one of my favorite uses of black walnuts. The coldness of the ice cream and the robust flavor of the walnuts combine to create a wonderful taste treat.

Monthly Poem

The first day of each month Grandma included a poem in the diary. For more information see, the following post:

Monthly Poem in Diary

Old Cocoa Fudge Recipe

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

Friday, November 10, 1911:Must begin to study harder if I ever want to graduate. Teacher gave out our reports and also gave quite a lecture about our marks also this afternoon. Ruthie expected a friend this evening and made chocolate fudge, but she didn’t come but the fudge however was not wasted.

Cocoa Fudge

Cocoa Fudge with Black Walnuts

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

Rough day at school!–Good thing Grandma’s sister Ruth made fudge!  Chocolate is a wonderful comfort food.  :)

I found an excellent central Pennsylvania fudge recipe that is more than 100 years old in the Lycoming Valley Cook Book by the Ladies of Trout Run M.E. Church (1907).*

Cocoa Fudge

One-fourth cup of milk, one and one-half tablespoonfuls butter, one and one-fourth cups powdered sugar, nine tablespoonsful cocoa, a pinch of salt, one-half teaspoonful vanilla. Put the butter and milk in a sauce-pan, and when the butter has melted, add the sugar, cocoa and salt. Stir until dissolved, then cook, stirring occasionally, until it strings, which will be about eight minutes. Remove from stove, set in a pan of cold water, add the vanilla, then beat gently. The instant it begins to thicken, pour into a buttered pan. When hard, cut in squares. Great care must be taken not to beat it much, because, if beaten too thick, it cannot be poured into the pan.

Grace Harbor, Trout Run, Pa.

I stirred black walnuts—see yesterday’s post— into some of the fudge before I put it in the pan. The resulting fudge was awesome and brought back memories of fudge I ate many years ago when I was a small child.

Black walnuts have a wonderfully intense flavor that co-mingled beautifully with the rich cocoa flavor in the fudge.

My Cook’s Notes About How I Interpreted the Recipe:

  • I assumed that “strings” meant ,when I lifted my stirring spoon above the pan and then tipped it so that the chocolate mixture could flow back into the pan, that a “string” of chocolate went from the spoon to the pan.  It did not take 8 minutes for the mixture to reach this stage—it probably was more like 5 minutes.

    When I first stirred the powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar) into the mixture it was very dry.

    The sugar melted as I heated and stirred the mixture.

  • The mixture started to thicken only a few seconds after I set the sauce pan in cold water and began to stir.
  • After the fudge hardened, I had a little difficult getting it out of the pan, so I set the pan in hot water for a couple minutes. It when came right out and was easy to cut into squares.
  • I was surprised how little fudge this recipe made.  I put it in a small 5 inch by 5 inch casserole dish that I usually use for left-overs.  Families were larger a hundred years ago than they are now—so I would have thought that the recipe would make a large quantity rather than a tiny amount. Maybe cooks typically tripled or quadrupled the recipe.

Last spring I did another post on old fudge recipes—one even used molasses as in ingredient. Click her to see 1911 Chocolate Fudge Recipes.

* I got the recipe out of a 1992 reprint of the  1907 book.  Kwik-Kopy Printing, Williamsport PA published the reprint.

How to Crack Black Walnuts

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

Thursday, November 9, 1911: Nothing to write.

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

A few weeks ago Grandma mentioned hulling walnuts. At that time I gathered some black walnuts and hulled them. I then spread them out to dry. My husband I have now cracked some of them and taken the nut meats out.

We put them into a vice to crack them–and had problems with the walnuts flying all over the garage.

We then covered the walnuts with a piece of cloth before cracking. This worked really well at containing everything. Once the shell was cracked it was easy to get the nuts out.

The walnuts tasted great–just like I’d remembered from my childhood. The flavor is more intense than grocery store walnuts–but it is really good.

Hulling Black Walnuts

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

Saturday, October 7, 1911: Hulled some walnuts this afternoon. Tried to be careful of my hands, but they got stained somewhat.

Black Walnuts

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

Black walnuts grow semi-wild in Pennsylvania–and across much of the US.

The hull is the outer  husk. It must be removed to prevent spoilage. The nuts are then dried. After they are dried they can be cracked.

Crack hulls with feet. Then use hands to remove.

Last week-end my husband and I gathered some black walnuts at a park. We took them home and hulled them. We put the nuts in an old net onion bag and hung them in the garage to dry. They’ll be ready to crack and eat by December.

Walnut stains on my hands. This is one powerful stain. Three days later my hands are still brown, and everyone at work is teasing me about being an auto mechanic. (Bottom line: Wear gloves when hulling walnuts.)

Oct. 15 Addendum: I mentioned putting the walnuts in a net onion bag to my father. He was horrified and said that they would mold. He said they should be spread out on newspapers in a cool dry place (an attic is ideal).  So I checked my walnuts and noticed that two of them had a spot of mold of them. I discarded those walnuts–and spread the rest out on newspapers to dry.  Stay tuned . . .

Nov. 9 Addendum: I’ve now successfully cracked some black walnuts. Click here for today’s post on How to Crack Black Walnuts.


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