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Rock salt ice cream is a type of ice cream created within a double-stacked ice cream maker. This type of ice cream relies on the chemistry of ice and salt for freezing the sweet treat. Many people consider rock salt ice cream to be an exciting addition to events such as picnic gatherings because children and adults can work together to stir and form the handmade treat within its specialized container.
The salt that is used is not the common food salt that is often added to recipes. Rock salt is specifically cut to retain its large granule size for lowering the freezing temperature of water. The most common uses for rock salt is within ice cream makers and for melting ice on driveways or walkways during cold weather.
Ice cream-making novices might believe that the rock salt is part of the ice cream ingredients, but this is not the case. A double-stacked ice cream maker typically has a configuration with an outer container and an inner container. Rock salt and ice are added to the outside container only. The ice cream ingredients are placed in the inner container.
The rock salt naturally reduces the freezing point of the surrounding ice within the outer container. As a result, the ice melts. The melting process draws residual heat from the ice cream ingredients that are pressed against the inner container. A slow freezing process occurs to the ice cream ingredients. After the ingredients fully freeze, rock salt ice cream is created.
Rock salt ice cream creators must be aware of the ice and salt ratio placed in the outer container. Too much salt will result in a rapid freezing process. The rapid freeze causes the ingredients to lose too much moisture, producing a brittle texture. A lack of enough salt, compared with the amount of ice, will generate a watery rock salt ice cream. Some people suggest using a 1-to-5 ratio of rock salt to ice for the best rock salt ice cream.
This ice cream also can be made with other types of salts, such as kosher salt or table salt, but the resulting ice cream might not have the same creamy texture. Rock salt also is preferred for ice cream making because it is relatively inexpensive. The salt granules do not need to be finely processed during manufacturing, a factor that adds to the final product cost of processed table salts. Rock salt can be purchased in small or large bags, allowing the consumer to produce as much ice cream as desired.
The ease of creating rock salt ice cream encourages children and adults to make different flavors for different occasions. Pumpkin ice cream for a fall outing, or even fresh strawberry ice cream during a spring picnic, can add fond memories to family and friendly gatherings. Some children even enjoy making ice cream as much as they enjoy eating it.
I have made ice cream using the rock salt method, and I highly recommend investing in an electric ice cream maker. The first ice cream maker I used had a manual crank, and it seemed to take forever to reach the proper consistency. We all took turns with the crank, and by the end we were all exhausted. The ice cream itself was good, but it took a lot of work.
I found an electric ice cream maker the next year and we followed the same recipe with the rock salt/ice blend around the inner container. The electric motor started to seize up towards the end, but the final product was better. Most homemade ice cream will not resemble the commercial variety, but it is definitely fun to make and even more fun to eat.