Ben and Jerry have nothing on my pal Donelle Blubaugh. Every year she gathers friends to her Brightwood Park neighborhood for an old-fashioned ice cream social with dreamy, hand-cranked flavors. I used to think that she just liked having her own backyard block party. But it turns out that sharing a scoop of summer is in her blood.
"Making ice cream was a tradition in my family," she says. "Mom and Grandma experimented with flavors, then Dad and my uncle would take turns churning. As it got harder they'd ask one of us kids to sit on the ice cream maker to hold it in place. I don't think it really helped, but it was great backyard theater."
Though chocolate reigns as the family favorite, Blubaugh prefers fresh fruit flavors made with produce from local farmers markets. Her custard base gets pureed with peaches in a White Mountain Ice Cream Freezer patented in 1923, the same model her grandmother used. With its stainless-steel canister and whitewashed wooden bucket, it evokes the hot days of yesteryear.
Hand-cranking a couple of quarts easily takes a half-hour, so at this year's party, just as her family did, she invited energetic kids in on the action. They all took turns, getting a full-body workout in their zeal to create the fun-on-the-tongue treat.
Eyes lit up when Blubaugh started dishing out the creamy concoction. Scoops tumbled into cones and bowls, quickly followed by happy gasps and "mmm, mmm" sounds between licks. Kids with ice cream dribbled on their shirts headed back for seconds (and thirds), while adults caught up on summer plans with neighbors and friends. As Blubaugh sat on the patchwork of blankets she'd laid out in her back yard, she took in the scene and marveled at homemade ice cream's knack for producing a crowd of happy people, and full bellies, "without the effort of a whole meal."