"Elbow grease" used to be the major necessity in preparing a brimming churnful of ice cream, but there now are numerous types of electric crank style freezers available. These may not create the great camaraderie that sharing in the steady cranking of a batch of ice cream used to, but they certainly are easier to use. And, by and large, they take less time than the old handcrank churns said.

Whether you make the ice cream the old way or the new, an ice cream freezer needs attention to turn out a perfect product.

One of the most critical points in ice cream making is to control the size of the ice crystals that form as your solution freezes. The constant, even turning motion of the dasher breaks up the ice as it forms, keeping the crystals minute and thus producing a creamier and smoother product. But the dasher can't do its job unless the temperature of the freezing medium of ice and rock salt is low enough. A proper balance of ice and salt and proper packing of the freezer will assure a satisfactory result.

Most homemade ice cream experts recommend using 4 to 6 parts crushed ice to 1 part Kosher (coarse) salt. If your freezer's instructions call for a different ratio, by all means follow the manufacturer's recommendations. Otherwise, the suggested formula will give the best results.

Another important factor in producing successful home-churned ice cream is to use crushed ice. The tiny ice cubes you often find at the market aren't small enough to provide an ideal ice pack around the cream container. They allow air space, thus raising the temperature in the churn to an undesired level. So either buy crushed ice or crush the packaged cubes well.

Once you place the cream container in place, unless your freezer instructions say otherwise, it's a good idea to fill the churn about 1/3 full of ice before adding rock salt. After that, you can add the ice and salt in layers until the churn is full, always keeping in mind the 4-to-1 or 6-to-1 ratio. Be sure the top of the cream container is completely secure and the crank is fastened firmly into place before adding any ice. Some electric freezer's instructions say to start it before adding ice. This avoids having the cream container freeze into place and possibly burn out the motor as it tries vainly to turn the cream can.

Another must for successful homemade ice cream is an adequate "ripening" period. Although churned ice cream may look completely frozen when you are through with the crank process, it isn't. It takes a couple of hours to finish the freezing process and let the ice cream mellow.

If you elect to ripen the ice cream in the churn rather than in the freezer portion of your refrigerator, be sure to pack it well.

And now that you know the basic rules for making a successful batch of ice cream at home, here are some suggestions for making a variety of different flavored creams. COCONUT MACADAMIA ICE CREAM (Makes about 1/2 gallon) 1 cup chopped macadamia nuts 1 tablespoon butter or margarine 2 eggs 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/4 cup teaspoon salt 1 1/2 cup freshly squeezed coconut milk or 1 can (12 ounces) frozen coconut cream, thawed 2 teaspoons vanilla 2 1/2 cups whipping cream 1 cup grated fresh coconut or canned flake coconut

Saute macadamia nuts in hot butter about 3 minutes. Cool and set aside.

In top of double boiler, mix together eggs, sugar, salt and coconut milk. Heat until slightly thickened. Add vanilla. Cool. Add whipping cream and coconut to cooled mixture. Refrigerate overnight or at least 3 hours. Pour into 1 gallon ice cream freezer. Freeze according to manufacturer's directions. Remove dasher and fold in nuts. Cover container and allow to ripen for 2 hours before serving. CHOCOLATE BANANA ICE CREAM (Makes about 1 gallon) 4 large ripe bananas 2 1/2 cups sugar 4 eggs 1 cup cocoa 1 teaspoon vanilla 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 quart milk 1 quart whipping cream 1 cup chopped pecans

Mash bananas to make 2 cups. Beat bananas, sugar, eggs, cocoa, vanilla and salt until blended. Stir in milk and cream. Pour into 1 gallon ice cream crank freezer. Refrigerate 2 to 3 hours. Using 4 to 6 quarts ice to 1 part ice cream salt, freeze according to manufacturer's directions. Remove dasher and fold in nuts. Cover and allow to ripen in freezer 2 hours before serving. GEORGIA PEACH ICE CREAM (Makes about 1 1/4 quarts) 1 envelope unflavored gelatin 1 cup cold water 1 can sweetened condensed milk 2 cups half-and-half cream 2 teaspoons vanilla 1 cup mashed peaches

In small saucepans, soften gelatin in 1/4 cup water. Heat and stir until dissolved. Stir in remaining water. Add condensed milk, half-and-half, vanilla and peaches. Refrigerate at least 3 hours.

Pour into freezer container and freeze according to manufacturer's directions. Allow to ripen about 2 hours before serving.

Note: To freeze in regular refrigerator or free standing freezer, combine softened gelatin and other ingredients. Blend well and turn into 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Freeze to firm mush, about 1 hour. Break into pieces and turn into chilled mixer bowl. Beat until smooth. Return to pan. Cover with foil and freeze until firm. CHOCOLATE CUSTARD ICE CREAM DELUXE (Makes about 3 quarts) 2/3 cup cocoa 2 cups sugar 2 tablespoons cornstarch 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 cups milk 3 eggs 1 tablespoon vanilla 3 cups half-and-half cream 2 cups whipping cream

Combine cocoa, 1 1/2 cups sugar, cornstarch and salt in saucepan. Gradually stir in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils. Boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Quickly beat eggs with remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Blend small amount of hot mixture into beaten eggs. Add to mixture in saucepan. Blend in vanilla, half-and-half and whipping cream. Chill about 3 hours. Fill ice cream freezer container 2/3 full. Freeze in ice cream freezer according to manufacturer's directions. GINGERED PINEAPPLE ICE CREAM 1 large pineapple 4 eggs, beaten 3 cups whipping cream 4 cups sugar 1/2 cup slivered chopped candied ginger

Cut pineapple in half lengthwise through crown. Refrigerate half of fruit for later use. Core and finely dice remaining fruit to measure at least 3 cups. Combine diced pineapple with eggs, cream, sugar, almonds and ginger. Pour into ice cream freezer container. Freeze according to manufacturer's directions.