Guest post by the author of “Lake Erie”



by Wilma Kahn

Real frozen custard―any custard―is a food made with eggs and a milk product. Hence, eggnog is an uncooked custard, flan is a cooked custard, pumpkin pie is a pumpkin custard, rice pudding is a rice custard, cheesecake is a cream-cheese custard, and ice cream made with cream and raw eggs is a frozen custard.

A new ice-cream stand in Portage claims to serve “real frozen custard.” This boast is puzzling, since salmonella has made raw eggs unsafe to eat. On the other hand, people still drink eggnog, whose eggs have somehow been rendered harmless. Perhaps they have been powdered, pasteurized, or zapped with radiation. Is this how eggs in this new “real frozen custard” are made safe? Or is it egg free and, therefore, not custard at all?

Despite misgivings, I decided to taste this frozen custard. The minuscule serving was overpriced, and the consistency was that of compressed pudding. Nevertheless, this place gets plenty of business, making me doubt that its customers have ever eaten the real thing. If they had, they would never accept this oafish substitute.

My mother loved frozen custard. In 1957 she began saving S&H Green Stamps to purchase her own ice-cream freezer. Week after week, my sister and I dutifully licked and pasted the stamps into their books until Mother finally took them to the S&H Service Store to trade for the ice-cream freezer.

From the outside, this machine resembled a tall grey bucket, while inside stood a steel canister, and within that, a series of paddles called dashers. On top of the machine was a heavy steel cap attached to a crank. How, I asked myself, could ice cream come out of that?

Mother assembled the ingredients―light cream, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. She beat them together in a big bowl and poured the mixture into the metal canister. She placed the canister in the bucket, inserted the dashers, clamped down the metal cap, and poured cracked ice and coarse salt all around the canister.

Word spread on the wind that Mrs. Kahn was making frozen custard. Neighborhood kids abandoned their games of hide-and-seek, their swimming, and their castles in the sand. They stood sandy-footed in swimsuits, watching us crank the freezer.

The cranking was necessary, Mother told us, to turn the dashers to keep ice lumps from forming in the custard. So we cranked and cranked as the cracked ice melted and was replenished then melted again. As my arms and those of my siblings wore out, other children pitched in. When the crank was nearly impossible to turn, Mother told us to keep cranking. Finally, the crank refused to budge. She removed the metal cap, and we gazed at the frozen custard inside.

My mother carried the canister to the kitchen, where she pulled out the dashers and placed them in a bowl. When she had scraped off most of the frozen treat, she passed the dashers to a lucky child to lick clean. Mother dished up servings into grey and yellow Melmac bowls then handed them around to all the children. By this time, our imaginations and hunger had grown into a giant icy bubble of excitement. I spooned into my mouth something pale yellow, cold, sweet, soft, slightly granular, melty―delicious.

Real frozen custard, as I know it, does not hunker down in a Styrofoam bowl, heavy as cowflop. It comes from my mother’s own ice-cream freezer. Real frozen custard, like life, is an ambrosia that takes planning, saving, cranking―time―and it is eaten quickly, before it melts, for it is as ephemeral as a snowflake on the tongue.

Mother’s Frozen Custard Recipe 

  • 1 gallon Half & Half  (4 quarts)
  • 6 eggs *   **
  • 3 ¾ c. sugar
  • 3 T. vanilla
  • 1 ½ t. salt

Beat eggs until light. Add sugar ¼ c. at a time. Add salt, H & H, and vanilla. Crank freeze.

* Most frozen custard recipes call for egg yolks, not whole eggs. Whole eggs may have given my mom’s frozen custard its distinctive taste and texture.

**Remember, raw eggs may carry salmonella, a potentially deadly illness.

Wilma Kahn is a writer and writing teacher living in Southwest Michigan. She wrote “Lake Erie,” which was posted on Writer Site and subsequently Freshly Pressed.


Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction

13 responses to “Guest post by the author of “Lake Erie”

  1. Thanks for sharing this post, Luanne! I loved reading how Wilma’s mother took the time to make this special treat for her family and neighbors. Certainly a lot of love went into that custard.

  2. jeannieunbottled

    Thanks for your comments, Jill, and thanks for posting this, Luanne!

  3. Nancy Wise

    I was one of those neighborhood kids!! We lived right next door to the Kahns. Ice cream making (as I remember calling it), was a huge, fun, neighborhood happening!! It started with the youngest kids cranking 1st and as it got more difficult to crank, the older ones would take over. Such wonderful memories!! Edythe Kahn also gave great birthday parties for Wilma’s July birthday, and some of them included making ice-cream!!

    • jeannieunbottled

      Hi Nancy, Thanks for reading my essay! Yes, that’s right about who cranked when. Only the older, stronger kids could turn the crank at the end. Wonderful memories and ice-cream!

  4. Luanne

    Wilma, the ice cream (not custard) machine was one of those gotta have items for Christmas presents for my grandmother and her sister-in-law when I was a kid. Way too much work for my mom.

    • jeannieunbottled

      Luanne, I guess those ice-cream machines were pretty popular. You need to enslave lots of children to crank one of those things to fruition. Thanks for your response!

  5. Wonderful memories for home churned ice cream and frozen custard. Nothing tastes as good as homemade! Great post, enjoyed it immensely!

  6. Oh my goodness. I have memories similar to yours. My Aunt Madeline, who was also my godmother, purchased an ice cream maker with her S&H Green Stamps when I was about twelve years old or so. She lived next door to us as did another aunt (my mother’s sisters) and her family. When Aunt Madeline announced that she was going to make ice cream, we all got excited and wanted to help. I remember the crank getting so hard to turn that the job was given over to the dads and uncles after we cousins and our mothers had our turns.

    When my aunt passed away in 1993 at the age of eighty-eight, the job to clear out her home befell to me. Lo and behold, there was the old green Alaska ice cream maker, still in its S&H box. I brought it home and it has resided in my garage these twenty years. Now my husband is on a mission to clear out the garage and sell all the things we don’t use. Seeing that ice cream maker brought back a lot of happy childhood memories. It is an added bonus to have read your story too. Thank you for posting it.

    I’m seventy-two now and I’d love to make a batch of ice cream with my grandchildren in that hand-crank machine, but they have an electric machine and are not keen about cranking the Alaska. So, eBay, here it comes.

    • jeannieunbottled

      Oh, gosh, Monica, thanks for sharing those wonderful memories. Maybe you and I have been living in a parallel universe with these old hand-cranked ice-cream machines. Best of luck selling yours on eBay, and may it go to a loving home.
      All the best —

  7. Pingback: Day 11 of Tupelo Press 30/30 Project: “A Tale of Dwindling Lungs” #poetry | Writer Site

Leave a Reply