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During a bright, sparkly morning of cross-country skiing at Barn Island Monday, a friend told me about the snow ice cream her husband had made for her the night before, something he'd learned from his grandmother.
Intrigued, I Googled the recipe and found myself eager for the fresh snowfall predicted for Tuesday morning. With so many folks getting grumpy about all the snow on snow on snow, making snow ice cream sounded like a fun way to smile back at Old Man Winter's onslaught.
The ingredient list and instructions were simple: sugar, milk, vanilla and fresh, clean snow, blended quickly and eaten immediately. On the advice of some friends at work, I decided to try a few variations. To one I added a couple of tablespoons of real maple syrup. For another, I mixed a couple of tablespoons of chocolate Ovaltine with the milk. A third, borrowing from a favorite Korean frozen dessert, substituted a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk for the regular milk.
First I mixed up four portions of the sugar, milk and flavorings. Then, in a new twist on the "farm to table" theme that's popular among locavores, I pulled on boots, jacket and gloves to gather the main ingredient for my "deck to table" fare, scooping a large bowlful of fresh snow off the top of the outdoor dining furniture that we never got around to taking in for the winter.
Articles on the Internet, one by a chemist and another citing snow research at Brigham Young University, assured me that snow is safe to eat, as long as it's clean and fresh, and not collected near roads where it can be contaminated with exhaust.
It is, after all, just crystallized water, one of the articles noted, and is one of the purer forms of precipitation and a standard source of water for mountain camping.
My husband and I tried the first batch, made with the maple syrup.
"Yummy," he said. "It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, 'snow day.' Instead of getting a day off you get to stay home and make snow ice cream."
I quickly made up three more batches, packed it in a cooler and brought it to work. Living close to the office has been especially welcome this winter, even more so when I was driving through the morning snowfall Tuesday with a cargo of freshly made snow ice cream in urgent need of consumption by willing editors and reporters in the newsroom.
Among the dozen or so who tried the concoctions, most were pleasantly surprised by the novelty and enjoyed the flavor. The vanilla with sweetened condensed milk, with a creamy texture, and the maple, in keeping with the outdoorsy New England theme, were the most popular. Some said it was more like Italian ice or granita than ice cream, or had a lumpy consistency reminiscent of mashed potatoes, but nevertheless tasty. I stored the leftovers, quickly turning slushy, in the office freezer for some of the later-arrivals to try. Happily, they said it was still good after a couple of hours.
SNOW ICE CREAM
1 cup of milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cups sugar
4-5 cups clean snow
Collect 4 to 5 cups of fresh, clean snow. Don't pack the snow, just scoop it up. Bring it in the house and set it in the freezer while you prepare the other ingredients.
Mix together the milk, vanilla and the sugar. Stir this mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Slowly add the snow to your mixture, stirring constantly, until it is as thick as ice cream. Serve immediately.
Recipe by Sherri Osborn via About.com.