Growing up, I spent winter vacations in Vermont and learned to love the annual ritual of making snow cream with freshly fallen snow. All of the grandchildren would set a bowl out on my grandparents' front stoop to collect falling snow, and my mother would whisk up a creamy base to fold into our stockpiles to transform it into sweet snow cream.
Living in Atlanta as an adult has made me appreciate this ritual even more, as we count ourselves lucky if we get a single snowstorm. Sharing the tradition with my own children has taught me a few tricks for making this annual treat more flavorful and longer-lasting than I remember.
What Is Snow Cream?
This ephemeral treat, made from fresh snow and sweetened condensed milk, makes no pretenses about what it is. The combination of supple snow and vanilla-sweetened cream makes for a mixture that feels like a snow cone but tastes like vanilla ice cream.
Locally Grown, Organic, Sustainable-Raised Fresh Snow
The key ingredient in snow cream is, you guessed it, snow! Since it's not something you can run out and buy, you've got to be ready when the weather strikes. I get pretty excited at the sight of any flurries here in the South and immediately place a bowl on our porch to collect freshly falling snow as soon as possible for snow ice cream. Chilling your snow-collection bowl helps slow the snow's melt as you bring it inside, so if you've got the forethought, place a bowl in the freezer before your next snowstorm to prepare.
Before bringing your snow catch inside, measure out the remaining ingredients for your snow ice cream. Once you bring the snow inside, the clock is ticking. Pack the snow into measuring cups as you would brown sugar to make sure you have the proper amount of snow since it will melt once you add the dairy. Placing your mixing bowl over an ice bath also helps to prevent the snow from melting too quickly.
No snow? You can still enjoy snow ice cream by finely crushing ice with a few pulses in the food processor. Work with one cup small cubes and quickly pulse. A sno-cone machine also produces the finely shaved ice that snow ice cream requires.
Is It Safe?
Should you have any concerns about possible pollutants in your snow, scientists suggest that the longer the snowstorm, the safer the late-falling snow will be. Avoid collecting snow off of grass, roads, or roofs, as they may contain dirt. I've found that placing a bowl on an elevated, level surface is the safest way to collect fresh snow.
Flavoring the Snow Cream
The snow ice cream my grandma made for us was a mixture of raw egg, sugar, and cream that she whipped before pouring over the ice cream. As a mom with two young children, I try to limit their consumption of raw egg to the occasional cookie-dough tasting. Instead, sweetened condensed milk, an ingredient I seem to always have on hand but hardly use, replaces the egg, sugar, and cream in one fell swoop. A little vanilla extract and some sprinkles make the hardest part of this treat collecting the snow.
How To Make Snow Ice Cream
Makes 4 (3/4-cup) servings
What You Need
(3 1/2-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (such as La Lecherita)
(16 ounces) packed fresh snow or shaved ice
Sprinkles or chocolate chips, for topping
large metal bowls
Ice cream scoop
Chill the bowl and make an ice bath: Place a large bowl in the freezer to chill. Make an ice bath with a few scoops of ice cubes and cold water in another large bowl; set aside.
Combine flavorings: Whisk the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Gather snow: Gather clean snow into your chilled bowl.
Churn: Set the bowl of snow over the ice bath. Whisk the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract into the snow until combined and the consistency of ice cream.
Serve: Scoop into bowls and serve immediately. Top with sprinkles, chocolate chips, or other favorite toppings.
I would not recommend storing this, as it turned into a block of ice overnight in the freezer. This is one of those recipes that's best when freshly made.