We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wilkins Family Lemon Ice Cream

by Michelle

   Our mother fondly recalls her grandparents making lemon ice cream on hot summer days with the young and old taking turns cranking the dasher by hand - easily in the beginning and then increasingly more difficult -as the cream gradually thickened under the influence of the constant churning and as the rock salt lowered the temperature of the melting ice cubes. The setting was the mountains, where our great-grandparents built a general store and cabins in California's Mill Creek Canyon located east of Redlands. In the summers, mother spent days exploring the area and looking forward to the ice cream flavor of the afternoon.
   In the evenings, the folks would play cards, or the rugs would be rolled up to expose the hardwood floors. Great-grandad would play the mandolin and great-grandmother, the piano. Our mother, but a young girl at the time, would fall asleep in the rocking chair watching the adults dance the night away to a particular style of ragtime music called "cornball".

   The frozen dessert tradition continued with our mom and dad making lemon ice cream for special occasions ranging from birthday celebrations to the 4th of July. Our generation has continued on as well, pairing the divine concoction with Old Fashioned Berry Crisp, pies, cakes and sandwiched between cookies.
   We have topped the ice cream with fresh fruit and sauces such as yummy Brandied Cherries, but in the end, we all agree that our favorite preparation is simply two scoops in a bowl eaten slowly with a spoon. The silky texture of the ice cream is heaven.
   The original ingredients include raw eggs. As we mentioned in our Caesar Salad post, the risk of getting salmonella from an egg is very low. For those with greater risk factors or concerns over using raw eggs, we have also included a "cooked custard" version that takes longer to prepare but is equally delicious.
    One last note, you can make your own fruit extracts. We made this happy discovery while preparing a Trio of Fruit Liqueurs. Simply remove a portion of the "extracted" liquid - after you discard the spent peels or fruit and before adding the simple syrup - and store in a bottle (with a tightly fitting lid) in a dark place, such as a kitchen cabinet. The extract will last indefinitely and the flavor, like the liqueur, will continue to improve with age.
    This is easily our most requested recipe. Without further ado, here are two versions of our family's much loved and sought after recipe.

Wilkins Family Lemon Ice Cream

   We learned many years ago that adding alcohol to the "bases" of homemade ice creams and sorbets lowers the freezing point of the mixture. In other words, by adding alcohol, frozen desserts keep well in the freezer without becoming too icey or difficult to scoop. With alcohol in a recipe, be warned, more is not better. If you add too much the end result will likely taste boozy and in the case with frozen desserts, will not harden properly, so please be careful with your measurments.
   Finally, beware of using store-bought Limoncello in this recipe. All of the brands we have tried are either downright awful or have a slightly metalic taste. If you are not inspired to make Limoncello, then use unflavored vodka.

4 extra-large eggs, of the highest quality
1 egg yolk
6 cups half-and-half
2 cups granulated sugar
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsps plus 1 tsp lemon extract, or homemade
1/3 cup vodka 80% proof, or homemade Limoncello

1. Whisk the eggs and yolk in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the half-in-half, lemon extract, vanilla extract and Limoncello or vodka.
2. Place a sieve over the mouth of the ice cream canister. Transfer the mixture, pouring through the sieve, into the canister. Freeze following the manufacturer's instructions. Yield: 2 quarts

Wilkins Family Lemon Ice Cream (Custard Base)

2 cups whipping cream
1 pint half-and-half
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 extra-large eggs
3 cups whole milk
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsps plus 1 tsp lemon extract, or homemade
1/2 cup vodka 80% proof or homemade Limoncello

1. In a stainless steel saucepan, heat whipping cream until almost scalded. Meanwhile, whip eggs until blended and frothy. Add sugar to whipping cream and stir until dissolved and the mixture is thicker, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
2. Add about a cup of the sugar-cream mixture to the eggs while whisking quickly to incorporate. Then add the egg mixture to the saucepan. Whisking constantly, heat again for another 1-2 minutes until hot.
3. Through a sieve, pour mixture into a gallon container. Add milk, vanilla extract, lemon extract and vodka or Limoncello. Stir well. Refrigerate until very cold, or overnight.
4. Freeze following the manufacturer's instructions. Yield: 2 quarts


  1. I savor the memories of having your refreshing homemade lemon icecream for dessert on a hot summer day (or anytime). I feel honored to receive the recipe!

  2. I am so glad to see this family recipe. My dad, the son of Ada Wilkins, made the vanilla version and there is none better. We had it at any occasion we got together.
    Great stroll down memory lane with the cookies, Los Olivos etc. Miss you guys!


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