How to make hand-cranked ice cream

We always make ice cream with the trusty White Mountain Ice Cream Freezer.

White Mountain Freezers were made in a variety of sizes

Read my Aunt Nancy’s article about the White Mountain to get the history and some background about my family’s relationship with this amazing machine.

The White Mountain’s superiority is due to its Triple Motion beaters which ensure a super-smooth ice cream with no ice crystals. There is simply no better way to make ice cream.

Start with our classic vanilla recipe, or browse this site for all kinds of delicious ice cream and sorbet recipes.

Using a White Mountain Ice Cream Freezer:

Pour your ice cream mix in the can making sure to leave a couple inches of air-space at the top so the ice cream can expand.

Place the beaters in position and close the lid. Then put the can in the bucket and secure the crank.

Pour ice around the can to fill the bucket. If you have a small machine, you’ll probably need to crush the ice to fit it around the can.

Start turning the crank slowly in a clockwise direction. Don’t let the handle stop until the ice cream is finished!

Pour plenty of salt onto the ice to start the melting process.

And remember to add the “magic ingredient” (cold water) to the ice/salt mix. Pour enough water in to bring the level of brine up to just below the drain-hole.

Keep cranking and add ice and salt as needed, always making sure the drain-hole stays clear so the brine can flow out and doesn’t rise up and into the can and spoil your mix. Regularly push the ice down to keep the brine flowing and keep adding ice and salt.

You’ll probably have to crank for 15-20 minutes if you’re making an ice cream and maybe twice as long if it’s a sorbet.

As the ice cream firms up, you will need to hold the machine down, probably with your foot or by having a friend stand on it.

You’ll know when to stop because it gets too hard to keep cranking.

You can eat immediately or pack it in a container in the freezer to firm up for a couple hours.


Should I keep adding water (the “magic ingredient”)?

No, only add water at the beginning to get the brine started.  Even though water keeps running out the drain hole, you’ll only be adding ice and salt during the cranking process.

What kind of salt is best?

Get the cheapest table salt you can buy. A lot of people think you need to use “rock salt” or “ice cream salt”, but in actuality, a fine ground table salt works best. Rock salt and other large crystal salts take longer to melt the ice. Fine ground table salt gets right to work at melting your ice into super chilled brine, and it’s usually cheaper and easier to find.

How much salt should I use?

It’s hard to put in too much salt, but if you put in too little, your ice cream won’t freeze. I like to put in a layer of ice and then coat it with a layer of salt and then repeat. Once your crank is going you’ll be adding new layers of ice followed by layers of salt regularly.

What if my bucket leaks?

If you don’t use your machine regularly, the wood will dry out and contract, potentially opening some cracks between the slats. Most of the time, you just need to soak the bucket in water for an hour or two so the wood can expand and create a tight seal. If your bucket is particularly old and unstable, or the rings have rusted off, go to the hardware store and get a couple of medium-to-large hose clamps and tighten them around the bucket to hold it together.

Where can I get a White Mountain Freezer?

My dad finds freezers and parts of freezers at flea markets around America and we also look on eBay. Make sure you look at the can and dashers – they shouldn’t be too rusty or moldy. A little rust can be cleaned off with steel wool, but a lot of rust can lead to holes and leaks. White Mountain still makes new 4-quart and 6-quart freezers, but those are pretty big. Unless you are cranking for a very large party, I recommend buying an antique 2-quart freezer – it’s the most versatile size in my experience.

What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?

People always ask me things like “what’s the weirdest flavor you’ve made?” and I have made some weird flavors, some of them are on this blog. But I generally prefer well-made classics with fresh, high-quality ingredients. You can hardly beat freshly cranked vanilla bean ice cream!

Are you paid or sponsored by White Mountain?

No! We just love their old ice cream machines. My family has been using them for generations, and now many of my friends use the White Mountain too.