Homemade ice cream offered by Grandma Bah, a wild child turned wild woman with taste
In order to give you my grandmother Bah’s homemade ice cream recipe, I have to present it to you. She was a legend in our family. A larger than life, powerful woman, my own mother’s favorite person who ever lived… the incomparable, Willie Felt.
Her ice cream was just one of the things she made that many considered the best in her small town of Sharkey, Mississippi. My mom made this ice cream for me and I love the long history it has had in my family. Now that electric ice cream makers are readily available, there’s no reason in the world not to make them. It’s way better than anything you’ll ever buy in the store, and I believe it’s better than any homemade ice cream you’ve made in the past. But… I have to tell you more about my Grandma Bah because there’s a chance that just knowing her will make this ice cream even better.
She was born Willie Felt Hicks. At 18, she married a Furr, so she became Willie Felt Furr. Willie… Felt… Fur. I couldn’t believe that was her real name when I was little. As I grew older and listened to all the “Grandmother Bah” stories in my family, her name seemed much more appropriate. She was such a character that she needed an unconventional name.
The stories about him are countless, and my mother and grandmother told me many. Through their stories, I understood that her wild nature was there from the beginning. She went from a wild child to a wild woman. From her parenthood to her cooking to what she chose to do on any given day, every story I heard was an example of her as an extravagant, totally willful, unorthodox, and passionate woman. She was one of a kind.
Most outrageous of all was the story of how she got married the second time. The story of “Second Marriage” began when she answered an ad at the back of a magazine. It was 1944, she was forty years old, still living in Sharkey, the same small town in the Mississippi Delta where she had lived all her life, and the husband she had loved for over twenty years had just died, a beloved man. everyone knew how to be a devoted husband and doting father. She corresponded and exchanged photos with the man whose ad she replied to, and within a year they agreed to meet in Michigan, get married, and move to Colorado. She left Willie Felt Furr behind (along with my then twenty-one-year-old grandmother and three-year-old mother, both of whom were very dependent on her) to become Willie Felt Ewing. This second marriage, like the first, lasted until her husband’s death nearly twenty years later.
Bah’s homemade ice cream (Bibi Hutchings)When I was born, Grandma Bah was about sixty-five years old and had stayed in the mountains of Colorado, which seemed very exotic to my sister and me. Our mother told us how she traded things she owned or made, like stained glass lamps and turquoise jewelry, for what she needed. We imagined her in a remote mountaintop cabin with a soldering iron, cooking on a wood stove. Living over 1500 miles from her, we didn’t see her often, but when we did she was drenched in handmade turquoise jewelry. Her skin was dark brown from the sun and she still had a cigarette between her fingers. Her dark brown, almost black eyes were twinkling.
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She peppered her sentences with soft expletives that she used mostly for emphasis. My sister and I loved it. She was the only adult we knew who spoke like her, and she smoke! We were equal parts shocked by her and smitten with her.
She was one of the most charming people you could imagine. People were drawn to her. She never met a stranger and always managed to get special treatment wherever she went, even at airports where it was impossible to pass her through a metal detector without triggering it. Her rings, at least one on each finger, couldn’t be removed thanks to years of wearing them, and her heavy turquoise earrings, necklaces and bracelets were like armor covering the rest of her.
She was known for her cooking and always had plenty to share, but despite it being delicious, the story goes that you might not always have wanted to know exactly what you were eating. Living in the countryside, she cooked everything, including what she took out and shot herself: coons, squirrels or whatever. She caught or pulled, dressed and cooked whatever she saw fit. She was really something else.
My mother remembers this ice cream when she was very young. She remembers the stifling heat of the Delta and the waiting. The wait for it to be ready seemed like an eternity as the adults took turns churning it. I love having similar memories of making this ice cream on a hot summer day with my mom and dad when I was little while running through a sprinkler in the yard.
If you happen to have kids, making ice cream should be on your list. Involving toddlers in the process is a great way to create lasting memories for them and for you. Seeing the liquid ingredients turn into a luscious, creamy, and amazing-tasting dessert is like a magic trick. Their curiosity about how things work and where they come from creates moments of sharing and connecting without even trying. And let’s face it, ice cream is just a big bowl of happiness on a hot summer day, so whether to share and connect or not is always a win!
It’s the perfect warm weather treat even if you have to modify cow’s milk for those who can’t tolerate it or choose to avoid it. This recipe will always be the one you enjoy over everything else. If you want to make it like Grandma Bah and my mom liked it best, add either peak fresh peaches of the season Where toasted, buttered and salted pecans.
This recipe reminds me of being with my mother, happy and excited, laughing and sharing her memories of Grandma Bah with me throughout my life. In her 80s now, just talking about this ice cream brings my mom back to “her Bah” and how much they adored each other. I know you will love and cherish it as we have for generations.
Grandma Bah’s Classic Ice Cream
ten minutes, plus time in the ice cream maker
3 or 4 eggs
1 cup of sugar
1 can of condensed milk
1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla
6 cups of milk
2 cups ice salt
- Whisk the eggs, sugar and condensed milk. Continue beating and add milk and vanilla.
- Add this mixture to your ice cream maker. Follow your machine’s instructions for adding ice and ice cream salt, then operate as directed until ice cream is ready to serve.
Grandma Bah’s quick ice cream
20 minutes, plus freezing
1 cup milk
1 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Optional: 1 cup chopped fresh fruit or 1 cup salted, toasted and buttered pecans
- Heat 1 cup of milk in a bain-marie over boiling water.
- Add marshmallows to milk and stir until melted.
- By hand or using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup evaporated milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla until stiff.
- Remove marshmallow mixture from heat and gently stir in evaporated milk mixture. If you are adding fruit or pecans, add them at this time.
- Place the mixture in a plastic or metal ice cream tub and let it freeze until completely solid.