Homemade ice cream is so good and you can make it with just a few ingredients and no special equipment. Most cookbooks and magazine recipes expect you to have an ice cream maker at home, but you can imitate the churning effect of an ice cream maker by shaking or tossing around the ingredients inside a tightly sealed ziplock bag.
The best part of this method is how quickly it comes together. In just 5–10 minutes, you can make a delicious, creamy batch of homemade ice cream.
Why You Need Salt to Make Quick-Freeze Ice Cream
One essential ingredient in this method is salt. When you mix salt with ice, it lowers the freezing point of the ice. Water normally freezes at 32°F, but a 20% salt solution freezes at a lower 2°F. That's why we sprinkle salt on icy roads in the winter; the salt causes the ice to melt.
In this vanilla-flavored recipe, the icy solution is so cold that it quickly and easily freezes your flavored milk (or cream) into ice cream. You could also use this trick to make instant slushies using your favorite soft drink.
- 1 cup milk
- 1.5 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2–3 cups ice, crushed or cubed
- 1/3 cup kosher or coarse salt
- 1 quart-sized plastic ziplock bag
- 1 gallon-sized plastic ziplock freezer bag
- Combine milk, vanilla, and sugar in the small plastic bag. Seal bag tightly, making sure to press out any air trapped inside the bag.
- Mix ice and salt in the gallon-sized plastic bag.
- Place the small bag into the large plastic bag and seal tightly.
- Shake the bag vigorously for about 5 minutes. You can have fun tossing it around with friends, but you might need to wear winter gloves as the bag will be very cold.
- After about 5 minutes, you will see that the liquid inside the smaller bag has hardened. Without opening the bags, let them sit on a plate or towel for another few minutes, rearranging the ice in the larger bag so that it's surrounding the smaller bag.
- Open them up and scoop out the ice cream from inside the small bag. Serve immediately.
Tips for DIY Ice Cream:
- Making more: This makes two small servings, but you can double the recipe and then place the mixture inside two quart-sized plastic baggies if you have a strong, larger bag inside which to shake them. You can also do this in larger portions using empty coffee cans.
- Freezer bags: Do your best to use freezer bags as they are stronger than regular gallon-sized plastic bags and will help prevent any possible leakage.
Variations on This Recipe:
I used milk in the version pictured here, which creates a lighter, less dense ice cream. You can use half-and-half for a creamier ice cream. Use organic ingredients for organic ice cream, and feel free to add chopped fruit, chocolate chips, or nuts to create the flavor you like.
- For creamy ice cream: use half-and-half
- For frozen yogurt: use a mixture of yogurt and milk
- For dairy-free ice cream: use coconut milk instead of cow's milk
- For sherbet: use a combination of milk and fruit juice
- For chocolate ice cream: use chocolate syrup (cocoa won't be strong)
Get More Ice Cream Tricks & Tips
The above method isn't the only way to make your own ice cream at home. You could use dry ice instead of regular ice, or use no ice at all and just stick to the power of your freezer. You could also make semifreddo, a no-churn ice cream popular in Italy, or snow cream, a wintery ice cream made with real snow.
Sick of sore wrists when scooping rock-hard ice cream? This trick solves that problem. And if you've got any leftover ice cream (hah!), you can turn it into a loaf of sweet bread. Amazing, right?
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