With the Fourth of July only a week away, most of us are starting to plan our annual barbecue. What better way to celebrate than with a nice cold bowl of ice cream?

The ultimate summer treat, ice cream is now readily available thanks to refrigeration. But before freezers, ice cream was a winter treat for families in the mountains! Some families gathered snow and mixed it with cream and honey or sorghum syrup. This fluffy treat was called “snow cream” and was more like what we consider snow cones today.

 Contact Olene Garland shared her family’s method with the Foxfire students for the Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery:

 “We used two regular water buckets—which were lard buckets, a ten-pound and a five-pound bucket—and we would chip off the shoals from the falls—Sylvan Lake Falls—and chip it up fine enough to pack between the two buckets. We would pour the ice cream mixture into the smaller one; set it down inside the larger bucket; pack ice between the two and turn by the bail [bucket handle]. You had to put the lid on the bucket with the milk in it. We used to do that a lot. Sometimes we didn’t have to go to the trouble to get ice from the falls—it was so cold we could often get ice by chipping it out of our water buckets.”

 For anyone who’s used a hand-turned ice cream machine, Olene’s method was similarly labor-intensive!


Try this simple recipe for homemade ice cream. The recipe can be used in either a hand-crank machine or electric. If you have a table top electric ice cream machine, make sure to scale down the recipe. Try making it mountain-style by substituting honey or sorghum syrup for the sugar (remember, syrups are sweeter than granulated sugar! Adjust to your taste)

Homemade ice cream.

Hand-Freezer Ice Cream


2 quarts milk


2 to 3 cups sugar


2 tablespoons vanilla


Crushed ice


Rock salt



Pour milk, sugar, and vanilla into the freezer container; cover, then pack the freezer with ice and salt. Turn the crank slowly at first, faster as the mixture thickens. Crank until it’s almost too hard to turn. Eat right away, or firm up in freezer for a few hours.


Blend in some melted chocolate for a special treat!