July is National Ice Cream Month, but it was so rainy and chilly in July that hot chocolate had more appeal than frozen desserts. Now that August has arrived, we’re experiencing temperatures more associated with the dog days of summer. “Dog days” may cause your canine companions to lie about in the shade panting and seeking refuge from the heat, but the term doesn’t derive from dogs’ activity or lack thereof. The ancient Romans called the hottest, most humid days of summer “dog days” because they associated those days with Sirius, the “Dog Star.” The brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog), Sirius is so bright that the ancient Romans thought it radiated extra heat toward earth. During the summer, when Sirius rises and sets with the sun, they thought Sirius added heat to that of the sun, causing hotter summer temperatures.

These days we’re pretty sure it’s more likely global warming that makes dogs and humans sweat and pant, but that’s a topic for another discussion. Today’s topic is ice cream, more specifically, recipes for those who don’t own an ice cream maker. I’ve owned one of the hand-cranked frozen-cylinder types for many years, and for most of those years it’s been buried in the pantry. I sincerely believe that for the few times I make ice cream, I’d probably do just as well to leave it there, because the cylinder has to be really frozen to make crystals, and that rules out any impulsive ice cream making.

If you want to make ice cream without using any fancy equipment, there are a few principles to keep in mind. During churning, the blade of any machine, whether hand crank or electric, scrapes tiny ice crystals off the walls of the freezer and those ice crystals, interspersed with air, make up your ice cream. Ice crystals are smallest right after churning, so if you eat your ice cream immediately, it’s creamy and delicious; pack it away and you’ll find the crystals have grown and the texture is icy. So the secret is to make conditions difficult for ice crystals to form at all. One way to do that is to add lots of sugar. This decreases the freezing point of the overall mixture so that even when it gets to the temperature inside your freezer, big ice crystals just aren’t able to form. So don’t be tempted to cut back on sweetening. Almost all frozen dessert recipes use white granulated sugar, however you can replace some or all of the sugar with another liquid sweetener, namely honey or maple syrup. Either one will give the ice cream a smoother, less-icy texture but the taste may not be compatible with your other flavors.

Alcohol, as you know, doesn’t freeze. Adding alcohol to your mix, especially sorbets and granitas, will make them less icy. You can add up to three tablespoons of liquor to one quart of your dessert mixture. For sorbets and sherbets, a half cup of white wine or rosé per quart goes well with fruit flavors. If the recipe calls for cooking the fruit with water, substitute dry or sweet white wine for a portion of the water. Most of the alcohol will cook out but enough will remain to keep your sorbet softer. For cream-based mixes, a few tablespoons of a liqueur, say, Kahlua or amaretto, added into a chocolate or coffee base will also keep it softer.

Finally, fat doesn’t freeze, so if you add fat in the form of heavy cream and cream cheese to an ice cream mixture you don’t plan to churn, you’ve again increased the portion of ingredients that don’t freeze. This triple-fat ice cream base is not for those who harbor any fat guilt, but then, why bother to make ice cream?

C R E A M   C H E E S E   I C E   C R E A M   B A S E

2 cups heavy cream
l 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
In a large bowl, beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Place in refrigerator. In another bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Slowly add sweetened condensed milk and beat until smooth and creamy. Stir in vanilla extract. Gently fold whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Place ice cream mixture into a tightly resealable container, and put it in the freezer until firm.

For a decadent chocolate-hazelnut flavored version of this mixture, add in some Nutella.

N U T E L L A   N O - C H U R N   I C E   C R E A M

1 8-oz. package cream cheese
12 cup granulated sugar
18 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 Tbsp. Nutella or other chocolate-hazelnut spread
112 cups heavy whipping cream
Line a 9" x 5" loaf pan with plastic wrap. In a large bowl, whip cream cheese with an electric mixer for about 30 seconds. Add sugar, salt and vanilla and continue beating until fully combined and sugar has dissolved so there is no grittiness. Add Nutella and beat until fully combined. Slowly add cream while continuing to beat the mixture until it’s fully combined and has formed stiff peaks. Pour into pan and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on top. Seal with foil and freeze until firm. Now is the season for melons of all kinds, and sorbet is the perfect way to turn one into dessert.

C A N T A L O U P E   S O R B E T

112 pounds cantaloupe, cut into small cubes
14 cup fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. vodka
14 cup honey or maple syrup
pinch of sea salt
Place cantaloupe in the bowl of your food processor and process until smooth. Add lime juice, vodka, honey (or maple syrup) and sea salt and process for another 30 seconds or so. Pour puréed mixture into a loaf pan and freeze for 30 minutes. After chilling, the mixture will show signs of ice crystals forming. Break them up with a spoon or rubber spatula and place back in the freezer, tightly wrapped, for about six hours. Remove from the freezer about 15 minutes before serving.