Winter is officially finished, but apparently Mother Nature didn’t get the memo. The major snowstorm pummeling Atlantic Canada over the next 48 hours is yet another reminder that it’s not over till it’s over.
Well, the team at Rustik has a saying: “When life gives you snow … make snow cream!” Can your friends in warmer climes walk out their back door and make a delicious dessert? We think not. (Take that, California!)
Turns out, treats of flavoured snow and ice have been around for thousands of years. The International Dairy Foods Association reports that Alexander the Great was fond of snow covered with honey and nectar; the Roman emperor Nero apparently frequently sent runners into the mountains to collect snow to be flavoured with fruits, wine and juices.
Here in North America, people in maple syrup producing regions use snow to cool maple syrup toffee, but that’s generally about as close as we get to using snow as an ingredient. Snow cream is one notably delicious exception.
To make your own snow cream, first start with clean snow (go ahead and insert ubiquitous ‘yellow snow’ joke here!). There’s a couple of ways to do this: either leave a mixing bowl outside when the snow begins to fall, or collect it after a snowfall by skimming off the top layer in an area free of rocks and chemicals.
It’s usually wise to wait for a big snowstorm (hence the timing of this story) as some scientists believe that snow gets cleaner the longer it snows. Russell Dickerson, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic science at the University of Maryland, recently told the Washington Post that the first few inches of falling snow will capture most of the pollutants in the air, and anything falling after that should be clean.
Once you’ve collected about 4 cups of clean snow, mix together about 1 cup of milk, ½ cup of sugar, and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and then pour over the snow. As you fold everything together in a large bowl, the volume of snow will diminish. Continue to combine the mixture until it resembles the texture of soft ice cream. Enjoy it on its own or serve with your favourite pie, crisp or crumble.
(Rustik readers will know that creativity can only enhance snow cream — substitute condensed milk instead of regular milk or use natural food colouring to give your creation a pop of colour. The sky’s the limit!)