Ice Cream Freezing Mechanisms: Salt and Ice
Ice cream makers use one of three different freezing mechanisms to create quality ice cream out of the ingredients added to the makers. Each of the three freezing methods takes different amounts of time and they are all different degrees of difficulty, but they all produce very similar ice cream.
Rock Salt and Ice
The first ice cream maker machines relied on rock salt and ice to provide the cold temperatures needed to produce ice cream. Ice alone is not cold enough to freeze ice cream, because it will melt long before bringing the temperature of the ice cream mixture to the freezing point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit. However, with a little chemistry magic, ice becomes perfect for quickly freezing ice cream and nearly anything else. When salt is added to ice cubes, it starts a chemical reaction that absorbs heat from the ice and water and causes it to become much colder. Thus, ice actually decreases the temperature of the ice that it touches, which means it becomes much more efficient for freezing other items.
Rock Salt and Ice is normally used in hand crank ice cream makers, the type that require the most manual effort and time to produce the ice cream. These makers are highly portable and very reliable, and they have been around for a very long time. Hand crank ice cream makers evoke memories of the older simpler times, and they produce high quality ice cream using an intensive process that involves the whole family. Electric makers that use rock salt and ice are also available, and in volumes such as five and six quart makers that produce huge amounts of ice cream at a time.
The downside of this type of maker is that it requires a little more work in changing out the ice and salt mixture whenever it becomes too warm to produce ice cream anymore. The typical ice cream job might require one or two water changes. In addition, it can be hard to find rock salt in the summer. In the winter, rock salt is cheaply available because people use it to put on their driveways to keep pavement from icing up. In the summer, you can use kosher salt but it is MUCH more expensive.
Bags of Ice are very cheap in all seasons, although an Ice Cream freezing job probably won’t require an entire bag of ice to complete. In fact, many freezers come with ice cube makers that can easily fill the ice needs of ice cream making, it takes about 4 quarts if ice and a cup of salt per quart of ice cream you want to freeze. Ice cubes work the best because they take longer to melt than crushed ice or tiny ice blocks.
If you want to experiment with the rock salt and ice method of making ice cream to see the physics at work, you can try without buying an ice cream maker. Put a plastic bag filled of your base into a larger plastic bag filled with ice and salt. Knead the bag for about thirty minutes, or until the inside bag’s ingredients have been frozen. Now you have a tiny serving of ice cream!
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