Snow Cream - Gastro Obscura
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Snow Cream

Ice cream made with fresh snow is a beloved Southern tradition.

Many American Southerners have fond childhood memories of snow. The sight of falling flakes meant a rare day of sledding, snowball fights, and building snowmen in the otherwise warm climate. It also meant their mothers or grandmothers would whip up a batch of fresh snow cream. 

While snow cream can be made anywhere it snows, and is also quite popular in Canada, it has a passionate fanbase in the South. In her book You’re Cookin’ It Country, singer Loretta Lynn recalls her mother making snow cream in her home state of Kentucky. She would go out to the porch, collect the freshly fallen snow in a dishpan, then blend it with three beaten eggs, vanilla flavoring, and sugar. 

More recent iterations have lost the eggs, but the basic recipe for snow cream remains incredibly simple: snow, milk or condensed milk, and vanilla extract. Parents often add a dash of food coloring for kids stuck home from school on a snow day. For other flavors, makers mix in the likes of cocoa, honey, lemon, coconut, or, for an adults-only twist, rum. Using a metal bowl to keep things cool, they then fold the ingredients into one another.

What is the best snow for making snow cream? It should be fluffy and not too densely packed. You obviously want clean snow, untarnished by dirt or animal tracks. Most recipes recommend digging deep below the surface. Or, for those with foresight, simply place a large bowl outside and catch your batch as it falls. However, scientists advise waiting a few hours into the snowfall. Though children might be excited to catch those first few snowflakes, these will contain more pollutants from the atmosphere (though levels are still very low). Since snow itself cleans the atmosphere of particles like soot, the longer it falls, the cleaner the snow will be.

In the era before refrigeration and manufactured ice, if you wanted cold ingredients, you had to rely on the weather. Even though packaged ice cream now crowds supermarket freezers, snow cream is making a comeback. Unusually high levels of snow in the South have likely played a large role in its resurgence.

When enjoying snow cream, remember that it does melt rather quickly. But if it’s still winter, simply putting the bowl outside for a spell should return it to its chilly glory.

Need to Know

The best way to try snow cream is to simply wait for the next snowfall and whip up a batch yourself. Recipes abound online and in cookbooks from the American South.

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