Ice Cream: No Machine Required

Hi! If you’re here, you probably want to know how I made all those ice creams (prior to my birthday) with no ice cream maker. Don’t worry, it’s very easy (don’t be scared by the amount of text here, I’m just really wordy when it comes to instructions)!

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • If you’re making anything but a custard-based ice cream, you can easily whisk everything together and then freeze it in one pre-chilled metal bowl. If you’re like me and happen to have corresponding lids for those bowls, then everything is easily self-contained. If you aren’t so lucky, you can just cover the bowl with plastic wrap, making sure it’s sealed well around the edges.
  • If you ARE making a custard-based ice cream, you can take the opportunity to pre-chill a freezing receptacle while the custard cools. And if you’re extra prepared and have a container chilling while you make the custard, you can just speed up the custard-chilling in an ice bath.
  • Sugar is your friend. It will keep the ice crystals from getting too big. It will also be muted by freezing so it’s not a huge deal if you slightly over-sweeten an ice cream.
  • Alcohol is also your friend. I was so excited when I first figured this out. It’s helpful in homemade ice creams made both with and without a machine, because it will keep the ice cream from freezing too hard. In commercial ice creams they whip a buttload of air into the ice cream to inhibit excessive hardening. I’d rather have a few drops of vodka in my ice cream than a whole bunch of air, wouldn’t you? You can also add alcohol that corresponds with your ice cream flavor – I’ve used blackberry brandy in Meyer lemon-blackberry ice cream, Tia Maria in espresso-chocolate ice cream, rum in a tropical concoction…you get the idea. I use vodka most commonly because it is flavor-neutral. Don’t worry – your ice cream won’t taste alcoholic. And if you are serving to small children, pregnant ladies or anyone else who shouldn’t be consuming alcohol, you can leave it out – you’ll probably just have to defrost the ice cream in the fridge a little bit before you scoop.
  • Another note about alcohol: If you are adding it to an ice cream you want to swirl with something like fudge or a fruit compote, add a little of the alcohol to the cooled sauce/compote before swirling. It will keep the swirl from freezing harder than the ice cream and throwing off the texture.

So, how DO you make ice cream without a machine? Well…

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A Trusty Ice Cream Receptacle. This can be a medium-sized metal mixing bowl or a sturdy plastic container with a lid. Keep in mind that if the plastic container is old-ish, it could break if you drop it while frozen. Yeah, that happened to me. Luckily I was able to save the ice cream. I kind of prefer the metal mixing bowl, though, as it’s shatter-proof and, as stated above, you can just mix simple recipes right in it.
  • A Stirring Implement. I usually use a large spoon because you can scrape the sides of bowl with it, but it can be hard to beat out big chunkies with it. A heavy-duty whisk would work well, too – just make sure it can withstand beating large frozen-ish chunks o’ stuff.
  • An Ice Cream Recipe. It can be a cooked custard, a simple Philadelphia-style mixture, a blend of yogurt, sugar and flavoring, a sour cream concoction, a dairy-free mixture – look around online and in books for recipes, or just come up with your own!

To make the ice cream:

Prepare the custard or mixture for freezing. Pour into your Trusty Ice Cream Receptacle (or keep it there if you mixed it up in there), cover and place in the freezer for 2-3 hours. Check on it – if it’s starting to freeze a bit to the sides of the bowl, scrape and stir thoroughly. If not, come back in intervals of half an hour or so until it does start to cling to the sides. After that first stirring, come back to scrape and stir once an hour, until it is the consistency of soft-serve. At this point if you have anything you want to mix or swirl in, add it, then freeze another couple hours until hard and scoopable.

Need a Recipe?

I have plenty of ice cream recipes right on this site! I’ve made ice cream many, many times in nearly every different style so if you don’t know exactly what you want to try first it’s a good place to start. Click for recipes!

Want to try something different? Have a flavor in mind but don’t know how to go from delicious idea to creamy reality? Leave me a comment here or email me: I’d love to help you develop your very own ice cream recipe!