5 Tips to Take Your Ice Cream with You This Summer
When I first started my multicultural cooking classes for kids 5 years ago, I was coming off a 9-year career in the international non-profit world. My job revolved around international travel and cultural exchange and something we advocated was “being flexible.”
My job was helping to prepare (mostly) American travelers to volunteer overseas in grassroots organizations, schools and community-based groups. Often, the work that the volunteers did in these workplaces was different than they expected it would be. Working with a “women’s group” might have meant they were taking care of children so that mom could run her business.
Working at a school might have meant that they were teaching the kids songs in English because hearing English from a native speaker was a helpful lesson the kids wouldn't have had otherwise. In short, the volunteers had to look for ways to provide something of value, even if it was just playing cards with an older person or holding her hand because the family didn’t have the luxury of time to spend sitting with her.
The volunteers had to be flexible because the leaders of the organizations felt embarrassed to tell their American guests what to do, or they may not even know what the volunteers could do to be helpful. So, flexibility and grassroots service was my paradigm when I started teaching my kids’ cooking classes.
Why am I telling you this? It’s because I wanted to share that the first place that I taught the cooking classes was in a place that didn’t have a kitchen. The director of the community center in Croton-on-Hudson, NY was amazed that I was willing to hold these classes without a kitchen. My perspective was that I was prepared to do whatever I needed to do.
No Kitchen, No Problem
Fast forward 5 years, I’ve been teaching kids cooking classes in schools, malls and community centers without a kitchen on a regular basis. When I have a kitchen to work with, it’s great because it broadens the scope of my recipes. But, as long as I have running water, a sink, tables (chairs optional) and electricity, the game is on!
So it was the idea of being flexible and bringing the grassroots magic to work that I decided that I could make mango and cardamom ice cream with the kids for my study on India. I do have an ice cream maker, but the problem is that the ice cream bowl insert has to stay frozen, and I don’t have a freezer where I teach. Plus, I don’t have a freezer in my car to keep it frozen during my drive.
Challenge accepted! I started talking to lots of people about what I wanted to do; which is grassroots in action! I told them what I needed; which was a way to keep the ice cream machine bowl frozen for about 2-3 hours while I travel to the site and while I set up and talked to the kids about what we were going to do that day.
Frozen Ice Cream: Did I Need to Let it Go?
At first, I thought of a portable freezer...was there such a thing? It turns out there are small freezers, but none that made sense to schlep around in my car. Plus, the cost was high for just this one recipe (even if I made ice cream every class, which I don’t plan on!)
One Sunday, we were visiting with our friends, who are also foodies, and while the kids were amusing themselves with water balloons, my friend EQ Jones suggested that I try dry ice and a cooler. My wheels started turning….but where could I find dry ice?
Facebook mom groups to the rescue! I asked that question in 2 very active groups and I got a bunch of responses. I didn’t want to travel to White Plains, NY if I could help it...and that seemed to be the majority of the responses.
Then, one mama friend who happens to be a scientist said that she could get me some dry ice - no problem! Well, cue the angels singing!
Even though she was leaving for vacation at 5 am the next morning, this superstar PhD mama agreed to bring home some dry ice so I could pick it up and test out the process. I wanted to test out leaving the dry ice for about 18 hours or so to see if I could use it the next day, as I’ll have to do that when I make the recipe in my kids' cooking camp next week in Peekskill, NY.
So, to make a long story shorter, the bowl stayed frozen for 3 hours - and would have stayed frozen for longer - and the ice cream was a success! Gosh, it was so creamy and delicious!
The Low-Down: How to Keep Your Ice Cream Frozen
When you’re using dry ice, there are some things you’ll want to know before you touch it or put it near your food.
1) Do not eat it or touch it! Yes, dry ice looks cool when you put it in a liquid, and you see that smoky witch’s brew reaction, but DO NOT under any circumstances put it in your mouth. Just as extreme heat will burn, so will extreme cold. And believe me, dry ice is extremely cold!
When handling your dry ice, use heavy gloves so that you don’t have to touch it. You can also use an oven mitt or towel. Oh, and make sure your hands are dry because wet skin will make the dry ice stick to you, and that will burn you. Badly. This stuff is -109.3 F.
2) Keep your dry ice in a closed container - preferably a cooler. But, you’ll want to make sure that the cooler isn’t airtight because the gas (carbon dioxide) could cause an airtight container to explode! (Don’t do that!) Also, don’t keep your dry ice in a freezer because that will make your freezer thermostat stop working and turn off the freezer.
3) Dry ice will turn into gas when not contained. This process is called sublimation. Dry ice is literally frozen gas that when the temperature gets too high, it turns right back into gas. So to keep as much of the dry ice as you can, keep your cooler closed. But to dispose of it, just leave your cooler open and it disappears!
4) When packing your cooler, put a layer of dry ice on the bottom of the cooler, then you can put towels or paper bags from the grocery store on top. Then, put your ice cream (or other desired frozen items - but really, who are we kidding...ice cream!) on top of the towels/bags and then put another layer of towels/bags on top of your ice cream.
5) You’ll want to pick up the dry ice as close to the time it is needed as possible. As time goes on, you’ll lose 5-10 lbs per 24 hours. In my case, I knew that I would need to get the dry ice the night before I needed it since I needed to leave for my camp in the morning.
I kept the 10 lbs of dry ice in a closed (not airtight) cooler for about 24 hours and I had about half left the next day. The general rule, according to several online sources is that you’ll want to have about 1-2 pound to keep your ice cream frozen 2 hours. And you’ll want about 7-10 pound for keeping it frozen 24 hours, but I would err towards having 10-15 pounds to ensure your frozen stuff stays that way for up to 48 hours.
There you have it! Now I hope you’ll feel empowered to use dry ice to take your ice cream on the road with you this summer! Just don’t keep your dry ice in a closed room or closed car, and if you have trouble breathing leave the room right away!
Have you ever used dry ice? What was your experience?
In case you’d like to try your hand at making yummy mango cardamom ice cream yourself, here’s the recipe I used, adapted from Just One Cookbook!