How to Make Homemade Ice Cream the Traditional Way

Editor’s Note: Nothing beats homemade ice cream! Today Galen Lehman, son of founder Jay Lehman, is sharing how to make this sweet treat in a traditional ice cream freezer (like the one pictured above).

Our family spent 10 years in Africa doing missionary and disaster relief work. In those days, dairy products and especially ice cream were rarely available. Our version of a great party included homemade ice cream (if we could find the ingredients). Fortunately, the list is short: Cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla. And, if you can’t get the first three ingredients, Carnation Condensed Milk and vanilla makes a passable (but not especially great) substitute.

The real question with every homemade ice cream party is “hand cranked” or “electric”?

Of course, in the African bush it was always hand cranked. This has the added benefit that (supposedly) hand-cranked ice cream is smoother. And, that will be true if you are strong enough to increase the cranking speed as the ice cream hardens, which is a true test of strength and endurance. My job as a child was to stand on the hand-cranked freezer to help hold it down, since the men were all trying to “out crank” each other. (And, believe me, standing on the ice-cold cast iron crank head of an ice cream freezer is its own test of endurance. I even did it once…and ONLY once…in my bare feet.)

If testing your strength against your friends and sweating over the crank of an ice cream freezer isn’t your idea of a good time, then electric is the answer. In my family, it’s an excuse to stand around and talk while the electric motor on the ice cream freezer does the heavy lifting.

immergood ice cream freezer
The Immergood Ice Cream Freezer offers a hand-crank version (pictured above). Find it at

You will need 20 pounds of ice and one to two cups of rock salt (table salt can also be used). Funny story – the ice and salt go on the outside of the ice cream container to promote freezing, of course. The first time my brother-in-law watched us make home made ice cream, he saw us pouring all that salt over the ice and he commented, “Wow that is going to be some salty ice cream.”

For safety reasons related to uncooked eggs, the mixture should be heated to 160 degrees, NOT 110 degrees, and you should use a cooking, cheese or dairy thermometer and stir often to keep it from scorching.

Lehman Family Ice Cream Recipe
Here is the recipe we use (ignore all the handwritten notes). IMPORTANT: Remember to let the mixture reach 160 degrees, (NOT 110 degrees as listed).

Some tips:
• Too much salt and it freezes too fast, making the ice cream grainy.
• The only penalty of too little salt is that it takes longer to freeze.
• Make sure the weep hole on the side of the freezer is always open.
• Use a broomstick to pack the ice around the container.
• Remember that the salt water you will create in the process can harm concrete floors and will kill plants.
• Open the freezer carefully: Salt water and ice cream are not an especially great flavor combination!
• The ice cream hardens best if you let it set for 20 minutes or so when it’s done cranking.
• Kids love helping you clean the dasher competing to see who can scoop off the biggest drips of ice cream.

Watch the video below to see three generations of the Lehman family make ice cream.

This article was first posted July 2020.

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1 year ago

Sounds good, can it work with out the rennet tablets?

8 months ago

[…] The hand-cranked method was a test of both patience and endurance. As described by Lehman’s Simpler Living Blog, families would gather around, with children often standing on the ice-cold cast iron crank head of […]

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