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Family Reunions Then and Now Part 3

Family Reunions Then and Now Part 3

Courtesy of New York Public Library

Courtesy of New York Public Library

As part of our ongoing series on culinary traditions we turn again today to WPA Sources on Maine. We share the content in a paraphrased format when necessary to make them legible and we share illustrative direct quotes as often as possible. We will be sharing an original Donald McCormick documented story.          

Prior to the commercialization of household refrigerators in the 1950s, ice houses and ice boxes were the most popular way to preserve frozen foods. Many Maine residents prepared desserts such as ice cream and sorbets using them. In order to make the ice cream for these reunions, the families relied heavily on these devices to make homemade cream. Males made the ice cream because the ice had to be harvested by hand from the ice house which stored large chunks of ice typically insulated by straw and sawdust. In order to do this, it required an intense amount of force to break the solid ice down into usable slabs. Next, the men placed large blocks of ice into sacks and broke them into smaller fragments with heavy mallets.

Women prepared the cream base that included sugar, beaten eggs, and several pints of strawberries. When they completed the mixture, the women folk transferred it to a makeshift icebox freezer that had a turning mechanism with a hand cranked attached that slowly transformed the mixture into ice cream in approximately 30 minutes to one hour. Historically children took on the job of turning the hand crank until the ice cream was ready to devour.  Adults passed out spoons to the children so that they could get a taste from the residue remaining on the container, but unfortunately for them, the women repacked the bulk of the ice cream and stored it in the ice house until dessert time.

Homemade Ice Cream

Serves 7


1 quart of sweet cream

6 eggs

½ teacup of sugar

½ tablespoonful of vanilla




One quart of sweet cream and the whites of six eggs beaten to a light froth; then beat in the eggs half teacup of sugar. Beat the cream light, and add one teacupful of sugar to cream and beat again until light, flavor with one and a half tablespoonful of vanilla, and put the whole in freezer. Put at the bottom of freezer pail a layer of ice, cover with salt, set freezer in on it and fill in around freezer with ice and salt; a layer of ice and layer of salt until full to the top of freezer; let no salt get inside of freezer. Ten minutes will freeze it.

Recipe taken from What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles, Preserves, etc. by Abby Fisher.

Maine-Style Cooking

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Family Reunions Then and Now Part 2

Family Reunions Then and Now Part 2