Ever since The Jersey Shore first aired on MTV, America’s image of the Garden State has become increasingly…orange. A pale Jersey girl myself, I feel misrepresented. For those who spend summers at the shore—Snooki aside—NJ beaches aren’t about fake tans. They’re about body surfing, collecting sea glass, biking everywhere, and, of course, chasing the Good Humor truck down the street, shamelessly, every night.
Four generations of my family have gone to Long Beach Island every summer, and I’m already looking forward to our annual reunion next week. Like other Jersey beach-goers, by day we’re in front of the ocean, and by night we’re in front of the grill. The past six years, though, we’ve strayed from the traditional Good Humor mania. (I still love you, Toasted Almond.) Instead, we’ve taken up churning our own ice cream. And very seriously, at that.
It was 2006 that my mom first bought an ice cream machine. Our neighbor had just purchased one, and it seemed quite the trendy appliance. (When it comes to her kitchen, my mom is scrupulous about staying in style.) She immediately ordered one for herself, along with the Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book, and embarked on a delicious new hobby.
Her summer became consumed with conquering ice cream basics. Learning the French method and the Philadelphia (the first, custard-based, the second, uncooked), deciding which she preferred (the Philadelphia, for its accessibility and speed). Mastering how long the bowl needs to completely freeze (at least 24 hours), how long the ice cream needs to churn (around 30 minutes), and how to add mix-ins (chill thoroughly, then fold in swiftly at the end). She made simple flavors like Sweet Cream, Blueberry, and Peach, Banana, Coffee, and Mint Chip.
My immediate family and all our extended relatives became as obsessed with eating the ice cream as my mom was with churning it. As the Good Humor truck rang its way down the street, our heads were buried in our bowls, and we barely even heard it.
Like the Picasso of frozen desserts, my mom deviated more and more from recipes over the years, and started experimenting with new creations. Spatula in hand, I followed along, a loyal test taster and dutiful apprentice. Soon, the top two shelves of our fridge were completely filled with heavy cream containers, and you couldn’t open the freezer without a Tupperware container of ice cream flying at your face.
The summer of 2007, we made 22 flavors (some of them multiple times). The most popular were Fresh Fig, S’mores, and Elephant Ear. (A local bakery treat, an Elephant Ear is a puff pastry round the size of my head, baked to crispy perfection and covered in cinnamon and sugar. We crumbled then froze it, and mixed it into a Sweet Cream base.) In 2008, Chai with Crystalized Ginger, Maple with Sesame Brittle, and Roasted Banana with Brown Sugar were the standouts. 2009 was our first experience with Salted Caramel, now a cherished member of our family, unfailingly stocked in the freezer. The past few years, my mom and I have figured out what all our family members like best, and accordingly cater to their dairy desires. My dad loves Strawberry, my aunt Coconut, my grandma Anise with Licorice Pieces, my brother Banana with Peanut Butter Swirls.
I’m a classic Mint Chip kind of gal, but can be oh-so easily swayed. Last year, I was wooed by Roasted Pistachio and Wicked Chocolate, then courted by White Chocolate with Smashed Blackberries and Toasted Almond with Candied Cherries. (My latest affair was with Malted Milk.)
At the Super Duper Market last week, my mom and I met the chef and co-owner of Humphry Slocombe, a famous San Francisco ice cream shop. Utterly and entirely starstruck, we devoured a large cup of Smoked Salt Chocolate Ice Cream and bought their book, gushingly grateful to have access to the recipes we’ve been idolizing for years. The flavors look incredible, and I can’t wait to get out the ice cream maker and start trying them next week at the beach.
MTV may disagree, but to my family and me, the Jersey shore isn’t about that notorious, unnatural orange glow. It’s about the off-white color of heavy cream, churning it at least once a day, and enjoying it together every night—bathing suit season be damned.