Independence Day is a celebration of the United States of America. The holiday is marked by fanfare and large parties, complete with barbecues, fireworks and parades.

As a child growing up, the thing I remember most about the Fourth of July was making homemade ice cream at my grandparents. My grandmother made the slow stovetop-cooked kind that has rarely been duplicated in mass premade ice creams — except for Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla. It comes the closest that I’ve found.

A few weeks ago while surfing online food stories shared by folks at Pinterest and other food resources, I found some frozen treats that looked too good to pass up on the Fourth of July. Even though I’ve probably shared my grandmother’s homemade ice cream recipe in the past, it is such a holiday tradition, I’m sharing it again, along with some new ideas we never considered back then.

There was a way to make the custard ice cream unique and enjoyable for all. My grandmother liked diced peaches. With her sister visiting from Ruston, those tree ripened peaches were the best. Adding a little sugar to the chopped fruit made it that much more delicious. Strawberries were also available or chocolate sauce, any additive would do. My dad and I were purest. Give us plain vanilla and we were happy. Don’t forget to put the glass bowls in the freezer — keeps the hand churned (or electric freezer now) soft serve ice cream colder longer.

What are some tips for making frozen desserts at home?

The average American consumes more than 23 pounds of ice cream per year, says the International Dairy Foods Association. Even though a trip to the local ice cream parlor can yield many different opportunities to indulge, making ice cream at home is easier than one may believe. Also, creating homemade ice cream can be a fun way to experiment with unique flavors and textures. It is easy to customize concoctions based on what everyone likes best. Making ice cream also is a fun way to bring the family together with the reward of a tasty prize for all of the effort. Here are some tips for making ice cream at home.

• BUY QUALITY INGREDIENTS. Choose fresh, high-quality ingredients. Real vanilla beans or extract can produce better flavor than imitations. Select in-season berries and other fruits and, if possible, use organic milk. All of these ingredients will blend together for fresh flavor.

• FREEZE EQUIPMENT EARLY. Cold equipment is necessary to produce ice cream. Store the bowls of an ice cream maker in the freezer to keep them frozen and ready for when the mood strikes to make a batch of ice cream.

• AVOID ICE CRYSTALLIZATION. According to Food 52, a foodie equipment and recipe resource, ice crystals in the ice cream can ruin texture by making ice cream crunchy. Freezing ice cream quickly at very cold temperatures is essential. That means freezing the bowl and keeping the ingredient mix cold. Spinning the ice cream and transferring it quickly to the freezer helps keep ice crystals small.

• KEEP MIX-INS SMALL. Mix-ins, like cookie pieces or cake crumbs can add a different dimension to ice cream. Chill the ingredients and make sure they are small (roughly the size of chocolate chips). Add them after the ice cream is entirely frozen.

• WATCH ALCOHOL USAGE. Alcohol can create a tipsy ice cream experience, but adding too much can interfere with ice cream’s ability to freeze. Therefore, use alcohol sparingly.

• STORE ICE CREAM SMARTLY. According to David Lebovitz, author of “The Perfect Scoop,” store ice cream in a shallow container to keep it softer. Also, cover the surface of the ice cream with plastic wrap to prevent ice crystals from forming.

Homemade ice cream will last for roughly a week in the freezer, if any is left over at all. Making ice cream can be a challenging, but a rewarding endeavor.

What are some ways to create frozen desserts?

Ice cream is a go-to dessert in warm weather. Creamy, cold and refreshing, ice cream makes for the perfect complement to a hot afternoon. Ice cream can be served in various ways, including in a cup, on a cone, in sundae form accompanied by a bevy of favorite toppings, or mounded on a hot waffle. This cool treat is also stupendous in shakes or as the a la mode when served alongside pies and cakes. There’s just no end to the ways ice cream can be enjoyed.

What are some other flavor combinations for ice cream?

1. Add in crumbled bits of pretzels and peanut butter for a sweet and salty favorite.

2. Stir in bits of oatmeal cookie and cooked-down apple bits for an apple pie-inspired flavor.

3. Transform vanilla into peach ice cream with the addition of canned peaches.

4. Hazelnut flavors are all the rage, so be sure to mix in creamy Nutella and some chocolate cookie chunks for a cookies and cream variety that wins.

5. Evoke the taste of cheesecake with the addition of a little cream cheese, graham cracker pieces and blueberry compote.

6. Add freshly brewed coffee to your ice cream base and some caramel sauce for a dessert that’s straight off a coffee shop menu.

Holiday Safety Hints

July Fourth festivities are typically fun, but injuries, particularly those involving fireworks, are a concern that celebrants should not take lightly. An estimated 11,000 people visited the emergency room for fireworks-related injuries in 2016, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. However, fireworks aren’t the only danger this time of year. In order to remain safe, individuals can heed these tips.

• DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE. Alcohol consumption may accompany Independence Day festivities. For those planning on using a car to get to and from parties, it is essential to designate a driver who will not imbibe. Otherwise, utilize any number of ridesharing services or available taxis.

• SWIM SMARTLY. Always swim with a buddy and consider hiring a lifeguard if you’ll be hosting a pool party and cannot keep a watchful eye on guests in the pool. Adults also should not swim intoxicated, as it can impede the ability to stay afloat and may lead to risky behaviors.

• LEAVE FIREWORKS TO THE PROFESSIONALS. Watch a public fireworks display instead of lighting fireworks on the street or in the backyard. Erath’s are great.

• EXERCISE CAUTION WITH SPARKLERS. Kids running around with sparklers in hand could be a recipe for disaster, as sparklers burn extremely hot. Make sure children do not wave them around or others can get burned. Keep a bucket of water handy to properly extinguish the sparklers.

• REVIEW SAFE BOATING PRACTICES. If July Fourth festivities find you out on the water, be sure that life jackets are worn and set boating and water safety rules for the family.

• CHECK IN WITH A VET. The Fourth of July can be traumatic for pets not accustomed to fireworks and other loud noises or crowds. Behavior therapy, medication and ensuring that pets do not run away from home and get lost may be necessary.

• WATCH FOOD TEMPERATURES. Do not leave food out in the hot sun for too long; otherwise, harmful bacteria can grow and potentially cause foodborne illnesses. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service says to never leave food out of refrigeration for more than two hours. If the temperature is above 90 degrees, food should not be left out for more than one hour.

These are some of the safety strategies that can keep Independence Day celebrations both safe and enjoyable. Have a safe and happy Independence Day.


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