One of our first used purchases was a 6 quart Rival ice cream maker that we found on craigslist for $12. It's the traditional ice and rock salt variety. We tried Mary Lou's ice cream made in the Valley but we weren't crazy about it, so we started experimenting with different versions of vanilla ice cream. The recipe that comes with the ice cream maker calls for more butter fat than our conscience would allow, so we have settled on the following portions: 6 cups whole milk, 4 cups heavy whipping cream from Wilcox farms (available at Costco), 2 cups half & half, 2 tablespoons vanilla extract acquired on the black market of long dormant Costco surpluses from our neighbors, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and a couple of cups of something sweet.
The first batch used up the remainder of our sugar, so we've been trying it with Palm Sugar from Thailand, but it doesn't dissolve easily and isn't sweet enough. Last night we made a new batch and used 2 cups of honey from Tate's Honey Farm, and it is our best batch yet. The original recipe calls for 2 3/4 cups of sugar, so we used 2 cups of honey instead, knowing that honey is more intense than sugar. It is just on the edge of being a little too sweet, so I think next time we'll use 1 1/2 cups and it will be just right. I've also noticed that this batch is smoother and less icy than past batches. It seems to add some glue to the mix, making up for the fact that we have a lot less butter fat than the original recipe.
I had always relegated ice cream makers to Fourth of July parties and fits of nostalgia, but it turns out they are very practical tools for regular use. We're five batches into it and finally hitting our stride. Lessons learned: use plenty of rock salt, don't try to use ice chunks and snow from the driveway in place of the ice (it will take forever to freeze and you'll get chunks of butter in the ice cream), don't be afraid to experiment, and whatever you do DON'T read the grams of fat per tablespoon listing on the bottle of cream. Believe me, you don't want to know.