Ice Cream Machines
If you want to make ice cream, an ice cream machine is a must. There are several on the market, ranging from $17.00 to $2,000.00.
How They Work
To make ice cream (or sorbet or sherbet) a liquid fruit or custard base is churned with a paddle while simultaneously frozen. The paddle typically has holes of some sort, which incorporates air into the base. This part of the procedure is crucial. Without it, you have simply frozen blocks of sweet, sticky goo.
In the old days, the churning was done inside a bucket of ice and rock salt. The salt keeps the ice colder, and slows the melting, which is caused by the friction of the churning. Rock salt is used simply because it is cheaper. Table salt or kosher salt will suffice in a pinch.
Many home ice cream machines have a canister insert that must be completely frozen between each batch. These canisters are filled with some sort of blue-ice like stuff, and stays cold enough to produce very good results. The downside is that they are fairly small, and cannot typically make large or multiple batches (They are usually good for feeding a crowd of 4-6.)
The fancy-schmancy models are refrigerated. Typically used in food service, there are home models available … for a price. My only complaint with these is that the repair is often difficult, and replacement expensive.
Gelato machines are based on the same principles, but incorporate less air into the base, giving the finished product a creamier, denser texture. The same effect can be achieved by making a custard with more fat, usually with more yolks and heavy cream, or a thicker fruit puree.
What do I use, you ask? I prefer the old ice and salt machines. I have two: one old fashioned manual machine I bought at a garage sale for 2 dollars, and one motorized machine that I bought at Target for 17 dollars. Both work really well, and have lasted nearly a decade. I use the motor more often lately, as the kids are too old to be tricked into playing the “churning game.”