Make or Buy? Ice Cream

What would summer be without ice cream? It's not even worth considering. What is worth considering are the merits of making it yourself or getting your creamy frozen custard fix from the store. What say you?

For today's match up, let's keep things simple but gourmet. Pitting homemade against an icy imitation-flavored store brand isn't really a fair match, so let's go with a pint of Ben & Jerry's Vanilla Ice Cream vs. our own recipe for Basic Vanilla Ice Cream. All costs were taken from Peapod Online Grocery unless otherwise noted.

Peapod Online Grocery
Basic Vanilla Ice Cream

COST BREAKDOWN

Ben & Jerry's Vanilla Ice Cream
TOTAL: $4.00
PER 1/2 CUP SERVING: $1.00

Basic Vanilla Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart

1 1/2 cups whole milk: $0.45
2 large eggs: $0.37
3/4 cup sugar: $0.24
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract: $0.42
1 1/2 cups heavy cream: $1.88

TOTAL: $3.36
PER 1/2 CUP SERVING: $0.42

CONVENIENCE

This is not the category where homemade is going to come out ahead. Homemade ice cream takes some planning: you have to freeze the container, make the base, chill the base, make the ice cream, and then freeze some more. Not exactly a spur of the moment kind of activity!

The base can present some challenges. This one cooks the base, which can be tricky since the eggs will start to curdle if your attention wanders (Been there! Done that!). Other bases are easier. Jeni's ice cream baseskips the eggs in favor of cornstarch while Philadelphia-style ice cream simply combines milk and sugar with no cooking required.

When all is said and done, ice cream isn't really that hard to to make, especially after a little trial and error. But it definitely takes some effort to do well.

TASTINESS AND HEALTHFULNESS

Ice cream is a decadent dessert whether you buy it or make it yourself. It's hard to go wrong with frozen cream and eggs, especially when you start adding other yummy extras in there!

With homemade, you can avoid the ingredients that some companies add to stabilize the cream, thicken it up, and keep it from crystallizing. Even Ben & Jerry's adds guar gum and carageenan to their ice cream. These are some of the least offensive of supplemental ingredients, but they still don't really need to be in our delicious frozen treat.

MAKE OR BUY?

Honestly, homemade ice cream isn't really about saving money or getting a superior product; it's about having fun. I think most people, including myself, simply enjoy the process of making our own ice cream and playing around with our own flavor combinations. We also equally enjoy store-bought ice cream, at least the brands that pay attention to quality.

VERDICT: There's room for both in my belly.

Do you make your own ice cream? Why? Or why not?

Related: Make or Buy? Cake Mix vs. Homemade

(Images: Peapod and Brown Butter Ice Cream/Faith Durand)