This summer I noticed that, at least in the US where I live, the internet is going crazy about homemade ice cream. We have had some extremely hot days this year, so it was impossible to avoid making these ice creams, especially with the internet making sure you did just that.
Of the ones I started out making, Mason jar ice cream — which only requires two key ingredients, heavy cream and sugar — turned out quite delicious. For more flavour, you could add melted chocolate and/or fruit, and then shake the jar vigorously for five minutes. After that, place it in the freezer for 3 to 4 hours. The result is amazing.
While I loved this ice cream, it was the Mexican no-churn ice cream that captivated me even more. The recipe for this is simple, comes with an elaborate history, and is simply to die for. It’s so soft and silky that it’s hard to believe it’s not machine-made.
In her book Mexican Ice Cream, Fany Gerson, while narrating the history of this dessert, says that, in the pre-industrial era in Mexico, snow from volcano tops was meshed in with fruit to make ice cream. Since the snow needed to be heatproofed, to prevent it from melting, this ice cream was reserved only for royals and elites.
The industrial revolution made ice more accessible, and ice cream followed in terms of availability. While it’s true that average people could now eat ice cream, the Mexican method of ice creaming differentiated it from that made in big industrial machines. Mexican no-churn ice cream is unique in texture and taste, as it is handmade and closer to gelato made by Italians, many of whom immigrated to Mexico in the pre-industrial era. This method, at some point, may be phased out as machines continually replace humans.
You don’t need an ice cream maker for this rich, most decadent, Mexican no-churn ice cream
Mexican ice cream makers use garrafas, which are large metal cylinders placed inside wooden containers with ice and salt. A mixture of heavy cream, condensed milk and fruits or flavours of your choice are placed inside the cylinder, and it is stirred by someone with a very large wooden paddle, instead of churning by machine, until it is rich, creamy and frozen.
Mexicans are big on flavours both in savoury and sweet dishes. Fruits are in abundance in the country, and many of them are used to flavour dishes and desserts like ice cream. The garrafas process is laborious but the taste is unique, and while savouring it, you might be fascinated that a machine didn’t make it.
Nowadays, you can make Mexican no-churn ice cream at home. However, the process is not so labour-intensive, as you don’t need a garrafa. This version is so simplified that you could make it every day, and eat as much as you like. And since you are making it yourself, you can control what goes in, and choose healthier options such as fruits and good quality sugar or alternative sweeteners.
Personally, I am not so crazy about very sugary stuff, so I tend to use less sugar than an average person. I also made this recipe using a sweetened coconut condensed cream instead of regular condensed milk, so it is possible to experiment with non-dairy ingredients too. However you prefer your ice cream, I’m sure you’re more than ready to learn how to make this delicious Mexican ice cream.
Mexican No-Churn Ice Cream
2 cups of heavy cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla or any other essence
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 large loaf pan for pouring the ice cream mixture into
1 big mixing bowl
1/2 pound of fresh strawberries diced
1/4 pound of diced toasted almonds
4 teaspoons of sugar
8 teaspoons of water
A pinch of salt
Put 1 cup of heavy cream and vanilla essence inside a food processor and work it for 3 minutes. Alternatively, you could also whip the heavy cream and vanilla with an electric beater until it turns creamy and stands somewhat in stiff peaks.
Whichever way you choose, empty the cream into a big mixing bowl after it is whipped. Now repeat the process with the other cup of heavy cream, and when whipped, add to the mixing bowl. Now slowly fold the condensed milk into the whipped cream, without trying to get too much air into the mixture. Don’t over mix. Once blended well, pour it into the loaf pan, cover tightly with a plastic wrap, and then with aluminium foil, and freeze for 6-7 hours.
As the ice cream is freezing, put the sugar and water into a pot on low to medium heat. In about 2-3 minutes when it turns into a syrup, add the strawberries and stir for a minute. Then turn the stove off as the fruit may leave water, and when it cools down, chill it in the fridge. Once the ice cream is frozen, pour this syrup and fruit over it. Sprinkle with toasted almonds, and serve. Enjoy on a very hot summer’s day, or any day!
Originally published in Dawn, EOS, August 15th, 2021