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Even premium brands of commercial ice cream...

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Even premium brands of commercial ice cream can’t compare in taste to ice cream made at home with the best ingredients. And with an electric machine, you can whip out a batch with little effort.

Ice cream makers range enormously in price, from about $50 to $700. Top-end models have internal chilling units, but if you don’t mind doing a little more work, even inexpensive models turn out good products.

Less expensive units require layering ice and salt around the ice cream can to chill the mixture as it freezes. To achieve a smooth-textured ice cream, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s directions for the proportions of ice and salt.

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Also be sure to check what type of salt the freezer requires. Some ice cream makers use rock salt, others table salt, and in some the two are interchangeable.

Layers of ice and salt should be added until they reach the top of the rotating ice cream can. During the 30- to 40-minute churn-freezing process, ice should be added to maintain this level.

It takes about 15 pounds of crushed, cracked or chipped ice to make a batch of ice cream. Finer ice produces a smoother ice cream texture.

If the motor stops, immediately unplug the machine. When this happens before the churning is complete, check for ice jams by twisting the ice cream can by hand. Plug in the cord to restart the churning process.

After churn-freezing, the ice cream needs to ripen and harden for two to three hours before serving. Unless you need it to make additional batches, the ice cream can be packed down in the can, covered and placed in a freezer.

If a freezer isn’t available, drain the salt water from the bucket and repack the ice cream can with layers of ice and salt, covering it completely. Place a towel or some newspapers over the top for insulation.

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1. Insert the dasher into the cooled ice cream can, making certain it fits into the indentation at the bottom.

2. Pour the chilled ice cream mixture into the can, filling it no more than 3/4 full to allow for expansion.

3. Cover the can with the lid, then lower it into the ice cream bucket so it engages the drive hub in the bottom.

4. Position the motor over the can so that the stem of the dasher fits into the slot in the motor drive.

5. After churn-freezing, remove the dasher and pack the still-soft ice cream down into the can.

6. Cover the ice cream with a sheet of wax paper, replace the lid and plug the hole with a cork.

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VANILLA ICE CREAM

If you like, add 3 cups of pureed strawberries or peaches to the chilled mixture before freezing.

2 cups milk

1 3/4 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups half and half

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 quart whipping cream

Heat milk in saucepan until bubbles form around edge. Add sugar and salt, stirring until dissolved. Stir in half and half, vanilla extract and whipping cream.

Cover and chill 30 minutes. Churn to freeze.

Makes 1 gallon.

Each 1/2-cup serving contains about:

173 calories; 112 mg sodium; 48 mg cholesterol; 13 grams fat; 13 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0 fiber.

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