The Russell Recipe & its Evolution

Click here to skip to my standard vanilla ice cream recipe below.

My love of ice cream and ice cream making comes from generations of ice cream history. As my Aunt Nancy has described, our family and my Uncle Mike’s family shared a passion for the White Mountain Ice Cream Freezer and had a very similar recipe for vanilla ice cream. Uncle Mike Russell’s family recipe is said to have passed down through his family for generations, and has remained the hallmark for quality homemade ice cream. In the last few years, a few slightly different versions of the recipe have become standards. On Triple Motion, whenever we use the Russell Recipe we’re actually referring to the Peter Gerard Recipe. But it’s important to share the story and origins:

The Old Russell Recipe

Classic and faultless. And also dead simple. Easy as 3-2-1.

Assuming you have a 1-gallon freezer this is The Old Russell Recipe:

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 pint of cream
  • enough milk to fill two-thirds of the can
  • a dash of vanilla extract (definitely not “essence”)

For those of us who don’t use peculiar US measurements, 2 cups of sugar is 450 grams and 1 pint of cream is 473 milliliters.

Just beat the eggs and sugar, stir in the cream and milk to dissolve the sugar and add the vanilla. Then put it in your freezer and crank!

The New Russell Recipe

The Russells aren’t always content with simple vanilla. The New Russell Recipe adds bananas, pineapples and strawberries. This is the standard in our family since it’s Nancy’s favourite.

You can put almost any fruit or other flavoring in the recipe and it won’t fail you. If you’re adding something particularly sweet (like a very sugary fruit or maple syrup or honey) then reduce the sugar accordingly. It’s really amazing how reliable and versatile this recipe is.

But things have got more complicated in recent years….

The Family Feud

My dad can be frugal at times, and with the very high cost of cream in the States, I can try to understand his concern about saving money on ice cream. So he modified the recipe to use “Half and Half” – a product sold in America primarily as a lower fat alternative to putting cream in your coffee. In theory, “Half and Half” is half cream and half milk. It’s much cheaper than real cream so my dad figures that if he uses 2 pints of “Half and Half” it’s the same as using 1 pint of real cream, and then he can laugh all the way to the bank.

But Aunt Nancy (my dad’s sister) and Uncle Mike disagree. She only uses Whipping Cream, determined to preserve the integrity and taste that the Russell Recipe embodies. Whenever my dad is making the ice cream Nancy and Mike will inevitably make a fuss (yet they still enjoy the ice cream of course!).

It doesn’t quite stop there. When I moved to Scotland and my dad got me a 2-quart freezer, I called Nancy and got the recipe. But in Europe measurements like cups and quarts don’t get you very far and even a pint is different here than back home. So I had to adjust the recipe to fit what I can use here, and I made a mistake in my calculations. Oops. So for years now I have been using twice as much cream as the original recipe calls for. Of course I eventually realized my error, but I’m happy to have made it! I think the extra cream adds a smoothness and creaminess that just can’t be beat.

Recipe Cream fat content in cream
The Original Whipping Cream (US) 30 per cent
My Dad’s Half and Half (US) 10.5 per cent (doubled quantity)
My Version Double Cream (UK) 48 per cent (doubled quantity)
Full-fat Milk 3-4 per cent

As you can see from the above table “Half and Half” isn’t quite half and half. So even with the doubled quantity, Nancy is right that it’s not the same. But you can also see that I’ve shot the recipe into a whole new level of fat-content. If you’re worried about calories or cholesterol, don’t do it my way. But if you’re worried about calories you really shouldn’t even be reading this website!

The Peter Gerard Recipe

My standard recipe for a 1-gallon (3.78 liters) freezer is:

Classic Vanilla Ice Cream (The Peter Gerard Recipe)

This is the base recipe and proportions I use for pretty much everything.

Course Dessert
Cuisine Ice Cream
Prep Time 10 minutes
Crank Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 quarts

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups vanilla sugar (450g)
  • 1 quart double (or heavy) cream (946ml)
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1-2 quarts whole milk (enough milk to fill the can to an inch or two below the top)

Instructions

To make vanilla sugar, which I use in most recipes:

  1. After you scrape the seeds out of a vanilla pod (to use in vanilla ice cream), put the remaining vanilla pod in a bag or container of sugar and leave it in the cupboard. After a few days the sugar will absorb some vanilla flavor. I always keep some vanilla sugar on hand.

If you're making vanilla ice cream:

  1. Make an incision along the vanilla pod so you can open it up. Scrape the seeds into the milk. (If you have time, it's best to add the vanilla seeds to the milk the day before so they can steep.)

The basic steps for my standard ice cream recipe:

  1. Whisk together the eggs and sugar until well combined. Normally I'll whisk until the mixture starts to turn pale.

  2. Mix in the cream and milk, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

  3. Transfer the mix to your freezer and crank!

Recipe Notes

If you don't have a vanilla pod, you can add 1 teaspoon (per quart of ice cream) of good quality vanilla extract instead. It's still pretty good. Just make sure you don't use "vanilla essence", which is fake!

For vanilla ice cream I recommend putting a vanilla pod in the sugar a couple days before to make vanilla sugar. And scrape the seeds out of the pod into the milk the day before as well. Then you can avoid vanilla extract and get the best flavour possible.

I always use organic ingredients where possible, especially for the eggs and dairy. I also prefer Jersey cream if I can get it. And Fair Trade is essential for the sugar.

And of course I always crank in a White Mountain Triple Motion Freezer!