Happy 4th! It's a rainy one here in the 'burg, but hotter 'n heck nonetheless -- as the 4th tends to be in these parts.
Some years the family got together on the 4th, some years we didn't. Sometimes the picinic was on the shrimp boat, some years it was in the back yard, other years we dragged everything -- including the big old heavy ice cream maker -- up to Flint Creek Water Park in Wiggins.
Homemade ice cream was the one constant (other than sparklers and bottle rockets) in our Independence Day celebrations. Ours was an old-fashioned hand-cranked monster that required a team of child laborers working in shifts over what seemed like several hours to crank out decent soft-serve. But, oh, was it so worth the sore arms.
We didn't get exotic with our flavors. Our preferred ice cream was always vanilla, unless someone happened to pick up some good peaches at a farm stand.
After we'd slurped it down (it always tended to be soft soft-serve, the kids hurried down to the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor and onto my uncle's motor boat so we could catch the fireworks display.
The best place to watch the show was in the channel between Fishermans' Wharf restaurant and Deer Island. The fireworks exploded like giant chrysanthemums over our heads and hurtled down like shooting stars into the water around us, as the shore exploded into a panorama of bottle rockets, firecrackers and Roman candles. As hot as it always was, the sight always made me shiver.
This year, it's been so dry (just not today) that most cities have called off their fireworks displays.
But I still made ice cream. I've replaced the ancient behemoth with a nice little electric number that pumps out gourmet sorbet or gelato in less than half an hour.
However true to my roots, on the 4th, I keep it simple. Plain ice cream flavored with farm-fresh peaches.
You can't beat it.
Perfect Peach Ice Cream
3 cups of fresh peaches, peeled and sliced *
4 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 -1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1 -1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 - 1/2 cups whole milk
2 -1/2 cups heavy cream
Mix the peaches with 1/2 cup sugar and the lemon juice let the fruit macerate in its own juices for @ 2 hours. Drain fruit, reserving juice and mash half of the peaches.
Mix milk with the rest of the sugar in medium bowl until sugar dissolves (1-2 minutes). Add cream, vanilla, peach juice and mashed peaches.
Pour into ice-cream maker per manufacturer's instructions. About 5 minutes before ice cream is done, add the rest of the peaches.
My preferred way of eating the ice cream is nice and soft, right out of the machine, but if you like it a little firmer, pour ice cream into freezer-safe containers and freeze for about 2 hours (thaw about 15 minutes before you plan to eat).
* This recipe is also good made with fresh strawberries.