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Beat the summer heat with a batch of cold, creamy ice cream made with ice and rock salt
Try cooling off with vanilla, chocolate or strawberry ice cream made the old-fashioned way, with ice and rock salt to freeze it. - photo by Tom Reed

Just because it's new doesn't make it better.

Take the latest versions of ice cream makers to hit stores. Rather than worry about the mess of rock salt and melting ice, all you need to do is freeze the churn.

Simple, right? But not better.

Perla Medrano, co-owner of La Mejor De Michoacán in Gainesville, said she literally churns out dozens of flavors every day - using the age-old tradition of ice and rock salt.

"You will get a different taste with the rock salt," Medrano said. "Ours is similar to (the hand crank) except that we don't hand turn it; it's electric but we do use salt water."

La Mejor De Michoacán is an ice cream shop that has two locations on Atlanta Highway; one location has been there for six years and the other will celebrate its second anniversary in July.

Medrano said they incorporate the salt at the shop because it freezes the ice cream quicker, making it a better product overall.

Anita White, owner of It Came from a Seed Farm in Lula, is a similar ice cream traditionalist. She makes gallons of ice cream each year for a party she throws for customers of her farm.

To make her ice cream, White also uses a churn packed with rock salt and lots of ice.

But why is the rock salt called for at all - isn't the ice cold enough?

Joe Greene, a chemistry professor at Brenau University, said the rock salt used to make ice cream is the same used to melt ice on the roads.

"When it snows, the (rock salt) causes the ice to melt, which absorbs heat, which makes things colder," Greene said. "But see, salt water doesn't freeze, though, at the same temperature as regular water would. So it also makes it colder, but the ice melts and the temperature drops.

"So certain things when they dissolve, they can release or absorb heat. But with the ice cream you put the salt on there, so it will lower the temperature of the ice and salt, therefore the ice cream will freeze quicker."

The typical electric ice cream maker uses the frozen bucket to freeze the ice cream, the result is ice cream that is the consistency of soft serve and must be put in the freezer to harden.

Medrano said whether you use an electric or hand-crank maker there are a couple things to keep in mind at home for the perfect batch.

"We use everything fresh here," she said. "So all the fresh fruit and the right milk base, because if you go with the cheap, the less fat ... you're not going to get a very good ice cream. The old-fashioned type of ice cream, they use about 14 percent (milk fat) and that is the percentage that we use."

Just recently, White and husband David made several varieties of ice cream, including pistachio, chocolate chip, peach and M&M.

To cut corners because of soaring food prices, White used a couple tricks to give the pistachio ice cream its flavor. Rather than buying the expensive nuts, she used pistachio pudding to flavor the ice cream and almonds to add crunch.

And of course, you can't forget the toppings - Medrano said peanuts, sprinkles and gummy bears are popular with their younger customers.

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