As summer rapidly approaches, my cravings for ice cream intensify daily. When it’s hot outside, there are few more perfect desserts. And as easy as it is to just score a pint of ice cream at the grocery store, it’s almost as easy — and always worth it — to make your own ice cream at home.
That’s even true right now, when you can find high-quality pints from top creameries like McConnell’s and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams on grocery store shelves across the country. Gone are the days when the only options were Blue Bunny and Haagen-Dazs; really great ice cream is more accessible than ever. But this new generation of ice cream comes with a pretty steep price tag. Some of these newcomers cost upwards of $9 a pint, and if you’ve got a serious ice cream habit, that might not be a sustainable addition to your grocery budget.
By making your own ice cream, you can very closely approximate your favorite fancy flavors with ease. A scaled-down version of the ice cream base recipe used by Jeni’s is widely available online, and founder Jeni Britton Bauer has written multiple ice cream cookbooks. That’s also true of the minds behind the popular Portland, Oregon, chain Salt & Straw, whose cookbook includes both a ridiculously easy five-minute ice cream base recipe and the methods for duping beloved flavors like roasted strawberry and sea salt caramel. The experts are openly sharing their secrets with us mere mortals, and we’d be fools to not take them up on their absolute wealth of knowledge.
For those of us who have rock-salt-scented childhood memories of hand-cranked homemade ice cream, the idea may still seem like it’s just too much effort. But ice cream freezer technology has come a long way since the ’90s, and many ice cream makers are eminently affordable. My personal recommendation is this cult-favorite Cuisinart model, which clocks in at less than $100 and involves little work beyond putting its ice cream chamber into the freezer for several hours and flipping a switch. After pouring your custard mix into the chamber, you only have to wait about 20 minutes to have more than a quart of perfectly frozen ice cream just waiting to be devoured in one sitting. But if you don’t want to splash out for an ice cream freezer, that’s okay, too: as long as you have a loaf pan, you can make no-churn ice cream at home. And matter how you make ice cream, you can pack it into your own adorable reusable containers to really kick things up a notch.
The best part about making your own ice cream, though, is that you can customize every single step along the way. Wish that the chunks of cookie dough in chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream were bigger? Love the idea of swirling pomegranate molasses or fig syrup or spicy chile crisp through a vanilla-spiked base? You can make all of that happen. You can also substitute plant-based milk if you’re not into dairy, and really splurge on the ingredients that you love, like top-quality vanilla or lush, vibrant saffron strands. The real luxury, though, is making a totally bespoke ice cream that suits your taste — and only your taste — perfectly.
Sonia Lazo is an illustrator from tiny, tropical El Salvador. They’re also a book author and tattoo artist, and like creating colorful, fun, and silly art that can make you smile.