When I was growing up, I thought evaporated milk was good for one thing — making snow cream!
The familiar red and white Carnation can was always at arm’s length in the pantry at my parents’ house. Daddy kept several on hand so he would be prepared if we had enough snow to make snow cream.
Anytime a small snow was in the forecast, he’d spread a bed sheet in the front yard to make a barrier between the grassy surface and falling snow. He wanted clean snow, after all, for his snow cream. If a big snow was forecast, it was fine to get the snow from the top layer on the ground, the cars or the picnic table out back.
He’d go out as soon as there was enough to gather and fill large kitchen bowls with soft snow. Snow with ice crystals was frowned upon, but if it’s all we had, we made it anyway!
Some of the snow would remain in bowls on the front porch for later batches. The rest would be brought into the kitchen.
My daddy’s background was in dairy manufacturing, so he took anything that involved dairy products very seriously. When he made homemade ice cream, he would get out a commercial glass thermometer and check the temperature of the icy water inside the ice cream freezer. He would add cold water or salt to regulate the temperature he wanted.
He took his job of making snow cream seriously as well.
With Mama at his side helping, Daddy added evaporated milk, whole milk, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl and stirred it until it was combined. Then he would start adding the snow, being careful to remove any grass or debris that might have made its way into the bowl of snow. It takes a lot of snow to make snow cream, and he’d keep mixing it into the milk mixture until he had it to the right consistency. He made the snow cream the consistency of soft-serve ice cream — not too thick and not to runny. All along, he and Mama and would taste it to make sure it was the right sweetness or texture. If not, they’d add what was needed to make it perfect.
We couldn’t wait to eat Daddy’s snow cream. The rich taste of the sweetened milk and vanilla is etched in my memory. We usually scooped snow cream into foam cups so it would stay frozen longer while we ate it, and, yes, Mama and Daddy kept foam cups in the pantry as well, just for snow cream.
What we didn’t eat went into more of those foam cups. Mama topped them with a piece of plastic held down with a rubber band. Then into the freezer they went. Sometimes they stayed in the freezer for just a few days. Other times, Mama would pull them out on a hot summer day and let them thaw a bit on the counter. Once the snow cream was softened enough, we would take it outside to the front porch and eat it, talking about the fun we had in the snow several months before.
Snow cream is not a lost art at my own house. Daddy wrote down his recipe, and that’s what we use every time it snows. My children love it the same way my sister, Susan, and I did as young girls.
Last Wednesday morning, I was heading out to work a little after 7:30. There was such a pretty coating of snow everywhere. I hadn’t planned on making snow cream for breakfast until my daughter, Anna, walked onto the front porch.
“Can we make snow cream?” she asked.
She didn’t have to ask twice.
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2 (12 oz.) cans evaporated milk
3⁄4 to 1 cup milk (I use skim; Daddy would have used whole)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
Mix milks in a large bowl. Add sugar and vanilla and stir. Stir in snow to desired consistency.
L.H. Boykin Jr.
Note: I asked my friends for some variations to this recipe. Quite a few use condensed milk instead of evaporated and don’t have to add sugar. You might need to add water with condensed milk. Former co-worker Heather Wilkerson wrote, “I just use snow, whole milk, vanilla and Splenda. No measuring — just “eyeball it” as my grandma taught me!” Sandi Ingram wrote this: “One of my bosses didn’t have any of the above ingredients last time it snowed and just used her french vanilla coffee creamer and said it was delish!”