Mountain Memories: How to Make Snow Cream

Snowcream, photo courtesy: Chris Breeze
Snowcream, photo courtesy: Chris Breeze

Few aspects of my childhood were as highly anticipated or as widely celebrated as a winter’s snow.  There was just something magical about waking up to a yard covered in white powder — an indescribable feeling that can only be known by the carefree innocence enjoyed in the world of a child.

Hard to believe it’s been several decades since I last crammed my overgrown feet into my eldest brother’s hand-me-down boots, put on a countless number of layers of clothing and then raced out the door to enjoy a winter wonderland in the mountains of West Virginia.

The building snowmen, snow forts and of course the snowball fights we enjoyed in those beautiful white hills of yesteryear.

And when it was all done, my mother would provide us a large bowl we’d begin filling it with the top layer of snow…  Not many minutes later, the entire family would gather around a woodstove and enjoy the only type of ice cream we knew to exist: snow cream.

Interestingly, my Granny was always insistent that we wait until after the first snow to make snow cream — she said the first winter’s snow cleaned the atmosphere making all subsequent snows safe.  Still, we’d sometimes break this first snow rule when she wasn’t looking!

A lot of time has passed since then, but I can still remember how we did it!

Is Snow Cream Safe?
Times were different back then, the doctors encouraged our mothers to smoke throughout our pregnancy, we drank from garden hoses and our only fear in life was a nuclear attack from the Russians.

Now, in 2018, the first question everyone wants to know regarding snow cream is this: Is it safe?

We at Appalachian Magazine have no idea and we certainly aren’t encouraging anyone to try it (there, we hope we’ve pleased the lawyers enough!), but the KOAM-TV published an article with the following headline: “Snow ice cream poses no health risks, in moderation”

In the piece, the news agency reported, “According to snow research done at Brigham Young University, there is no need to tell children not to eat snow as long as it is fresh. The pristine snow that has just fallen through the air and landed on the ground is not going to be dangerous or unhealthy according to the BYU study.”

John Pomeroy, a researcher who studies water resources and climate at the University of Saskatchewan, validated what my Appalachian Granny had been saying long before he was probably ever born by suggesting, “it’s better to wait until a few hours into the snowfall to gather your fresh catch. Snow acts like a kind of atmospheric ‘scrubbing brush,’ he explains. The longer the snow falls, the lower the pollution levels in the air, and thus in the snow,” reported NPR.

What’s an easy recipe?
Perhaps one of the easiest snow cream recipes to try out is a favorite of any child of the mountains:

1.) When I was a kid, we would skim the top layer of snow – careful not to get dirt or reach the ground layer.

2.) Combine 1-cup of milk, 8-cups of clean snow, 1/3 cup of granulated sugar, 1-teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a “dash” of salt… Sprinkles are an optional topping that is strongly suggested by pretty much everyone!

3.) Stir contents of the bowl together until the sugar is melted and the cream has reached a desired consistency.

Many recipes of the old timers called for raw eggs, but this is highly discouraged by the vast majority of health specialists.

It may not be Ben & Jerry’s but we have a feeling that it may just be the most memorable experience you’ve had all year… and isn’t that what life is all about?

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