Savoring the last weeks of Midwestern summer with time outdoors and homemade ice cream

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By: Rachel Shenk

Rachel Shenk/La Bonne Vie

With the arrival of August, I feel summer turning toward fall. Maybe it is because I have turned a year older. Or maybe it is because the scent in the air is rich with the smell of drying grasses and fruitful harvest.

The earlier explosion of green is giving way to the washed-out colors of late summer. Tonight I sit alone, listening to the overwhelming song of cicadas as I watch dusk settle in.

Yesterday we had a glorious time with friends. Before the start of another school year, we invited our teacher friend and her photographer husband to bike along the Pumpkinvine Trail and then come to our place for supper. Joe and Jacque had mentioned doing the bike ride with us, and memories of a ride with them two years ago prompted us to do a repeat.

As we wound our way through the dappled light of the woods, we noticed the first fallen leaves. Bursting back into the full sunshine, we biked through cornfields taller than our heads. With a clear blue sky above and hot August weather, the geography and culture around us shone out as purely Midwestern.

It reminded me of what I love about this place: flat lands with gently rolling hills, fields as far as the eyes can see dotted with woods, native wildflowers, red barns and silos, the sweet smell of a deep summer day, the clip-clop of horses’ hooves on the county road.

As the mile markers came and went, we soaked it in and absorbed it, reminded of the beauty of this place we call home.

When we got back to the house, muscles sore from the work, our bodies burnished by the sun and the hot summer wind, we lounged on the deck as Jim built a fire for pizza in the wood-fired oven.

Tall glasses of iced water and the sangria waiting in the fridge were the perfect remedy for tired bodies and thirsty throats.

We slowly let go of our work and worries, ate a casual meal of pizza and fresh salad. We spoke of the world out there and the world right here. And reminded ourselves that this is the good life. We topped it all with chocolate cake, homemade ice cream, and farm-fresh peaches and raspberries.

Finally, the mosquitoes chased us inside. Our friends loaded up the bikes and we said our goodbyes.

All of a sudden, summer seems to be coming to an end. The time is coming for canning and preserving the summer’s bounty. Meanwhile, I will try to enjoy these last few weekends of time spent outdoors with friends.

Here is the basic recipe I use to make ice cream in my Cuisinart ice cream maker. The variations are infinite.

Basic ice cream recipe

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups organic heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups 2 percent organic milk
  • ⅔ cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons cream cheese
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Mix ¼ cup of milk and the cornstarch together in a cup until smooth. In a mixing bowl, mix the cream cheese and salt with a fork. Put remaining milk, cream, sugar and honey in a saucepan. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Heat to a roiling boil, then let bubble for four minutes.
  2. Slowly whisk in the cornstarch mixture and keep stirring for another 1½ minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Pour a little bit of this mixture into the cream cheese until dissolved. Then add the remainder, whisking to make it smooth. Add the vanilla. Let cool. Cover and put in the fridge overnight. Freeze as instructed.
  3. I usually let my Cuisinart work 20 minutes and then the ice cream is usually done. I then put it in a container in the freezer to firm it up.

You can tweak the recipe to make your own favorite flavor pretty easily.

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