How to Make Ice Cream in a Bag

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As I sit here, hands cramped and shaking to the point of making serious typos, two things occur to me that almost never, for any reason, would usually cross my mind.

One, I’m definitely too old for this crap. 

Cooking dinner shouldn't be complicated

And two, children would have been really useful right about now.

Let’s go back and unpack this.

I am 49 years old, and therefore decidedly middle aged. I am completely fine with this. I embrace all of what this means. I do not feel old. In fact, I feel fairly youthful most of the time. But I acknowledge happily that I am in the “peer over the tops of my glasses” stage of fighting the eventual need for bifocals. I am solidly in the phase where I’m only ever truly certain of why I came into a room when it is the bathroom. I’m tolerant of the fact that when a new ache or pain or weird feeling in the body occurs I must check in with myself and ask “Is this a symptom of something that requires medical intervention, or am I just 49 and this is the new reality of my person?” I don’t opt out of doing things that are fun because I think someone else might perceive that it isn’t seemly for someone of my generation. I still dance in public. I still put Bugles and black olives on the tips of my fingers, albeit, not in public. I cannot walk by a classic Galaga machine and not pop a quarter in. 

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Get the recipe: Shake in a Bag Ice Cream

I am childless by choice. I do not dislike children. I was an educator for many years and often found that children are fabulously more interesting than their parents. I like to think I am a fairly awesome aunt and godmother. I like to hear what children are thinking, and I love seeing the 1200 costumes that grace our porch on Halloween. I like cooking and baking with them. And then I like to go back to my house where nothing is sticky, and no one needs me to save a quarter of a million dollars to send them to college. I might occasionally get a little push-back for my choice to not have kids, but I don’t face the constant barrage of shaming some of my mom pals receive for any of the 400 decisions they have to make every day, any one of which, apparently, is either perfect or horrific, and will either make or break the future success and happiness and psychological well-being and earning potential of their offspring. 

Seriously, moms/dads/guardians, you’re doing the good work of the world, and I feel you and I’m so sorry for how hard and thankless it can be and for how unkind some folks are. You’re doing a great job. The kids will be fine.

I know, this is supposed to be about bag ice cream, I’m getting there.

Read more: How to Make the Best Ice Cream at Home, According to the Founder of Jeni's

So, here I am, aging and childless, and my editor, who I adore, sends me a note that he needs a piece on how to make ice cream in a bag. You know the kind, ice and salt in a big Ziploc bag with a smaller bag full of ice cream mix, shake away* and voila! Soft serve! Check Pinterest, ask Google, there are a zillion recipes saying that this is the fastest, easiest way to make ice cream. The supplies are readily available and inexpensive—no machine required.

Watch: How to Make Ice Cube Ice Cream

And then, and this is important, it’s so easy a child could do it! Or, even better, great activity for the kids!

Not having children to entertain on a hot summer’s day, I did my research, and acquired the necessary ingredients and equipment.

The first part was simple. I adjusted the basic recipe for the ice cream base to my own personal taste and made one bag of vanilla and one of chocolate. I filled the larger bag with cheap grocery store bagged ice and a couple of tablespoons of coarse salt. I plopped the little bags in the big bag, set a timer for the universally recommended ten minutes, and started to shake.

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This is where we learn some things about this technique.

Firstly, it only takes about 20 seconds to realize you are going to need gloves, because ice that is being supercharged with the addition of salt is going to make your hands feel a bit hypothermic. Gloves on, you now have to figure out your shaking technique. You want the ice crystals to form slowly and be small, so you want the mixture to keep on moving and freeze evenly. I eventually embraced the method of resting the bag on my counter, grabbing the top in both hands, and using a push/pull method to shake things around, since after the first minute my arm muscles were in spasm from trying to both shake and hold the bag aloft.  

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Read more: 38 Easy Homemade Ice Cream Recipes

After two minutes, the hand cramps started, and the burning sensation began in my shoulder blades. A deep and important series of truths formed in my head as I kept shaking the bag. This is not an activity for one person. This is not an activity for a person with access to a car and money to purchase ice cream made by someone else. This is not necessarily going to be worth what they are paying me to write this article.

You know how people are always saying you can do pretty much anything if it is only for a relatively brief and defined period of time. These are usually people who want you to be doing things like planks or hot yoga or Whole30. I hate those people.

At the five-minute mark I said some things that are not suitable for print pretty much anywhere. At the seven-minute mark I started to see spots in my vision, and a good 40% of my kitchen was spattered with condensation offshoot. By nine minutes, my abs felt like I’d been in a sit-up competition with The Rock and something unfortunate had popped in my lower back. 

I have never been so grateful to hear the dulcet tones of my Alexa device gently announcing the end of this torture. Whereupon I opened the bag, now full of sloshy salty ice water, to discover that while the smaller bags were no longer liquid, they certainly did not feel so much like ice cream. I put the little bags into my freezer, took a fistful of Advil, and lay on the floor until my neck unclenched and the tingling in my fingers subsided, then retrieved them. 

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The chocolate version was semi-scoopable. The vanilla I just cut a corner off the bag and squeezed it out like soft serve. They both tasted fine, more like ice milk than ice cream despite having cream in them, and the texture was passable, but not exactly premium. A little gritty icy, and really fast melting.

If I were five and had made it myself? It would have been the BEST ICE CREAM EVER!!!

But I am not five, and I own an ice cream machine, and there are no fewer than three amazing ice cream shops within walking distance of my house. So for me, it wasn’t something I would do again.

The takeaway is that if you have children of your own or borrowed, and want an activity that has a bit of a “Wow! Look what I did!” factor, this technique does work. 

Or if you are looking for a new kind of upper body workout, have at it. If your kitchen is in need of a good cleaning, this required a mop-up of shocking proportions, so that was accidentally beneficial, although in retrospect, outside might have been a better choice. 

But if you are a grown-ass adult with a craving for ice cream, let me recommend that you support your nearest local independently owned purveyor of ice cream and leave the DIY to the kids.

* takes no responsibility for any injury that might result from making this recipe. Some side effects that have occurred include hand cramping, tingling sensation in the extremities, muscle aches, back spasms, kink in the neck, charley horse, weeping, spewing of vulgarities, and general feeling of rage. If you experience any of these symptoms, put down the bag immediately and seek another recipe. 

Get the recipe: Shake In a Bag Ice Cream 

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