This easy mason jar ice cream has been our go-to summer dessert; it only takes four ingredients, no special equipment, and you can flavor it any way you want. (Find mint chocolate chip and strawberry-balsamic-pepper recipes in addition to the classic vanilla ice cream recipe below.)
Despite Labor Day marking the unofficial end of summer, the season often stretches on for a while longer and it’s definitely still too hot to turn the oven back on for more quarantine baking. Let’s face it, you’re probably sick of banana bread by now anyway. Homemade frozen desserts are in order for at least another month, and I’m here to tell you that you don’t need an ice cream machine to make your dreams come true.
Making ice cream at home with ingredients you already have in your pantry, and no special gadgets, is possible. I’ve done the plastic bag trick (it’s messy, and your hands freeze), and have tried the food processor method—the next step was to test an internet recipe that promised to make ice cream only using a mason jar (and strong forearms).https://www.youtube.com/embed/waTnj3c6fbk?feature=oembed
To be perfectly honest, it took a little testing to get the final result right. Here is where your arms come into play. Since you are the one shaking the mixture and you’re not a machine, finding the right strength, speed, and duration takes testing and checking. I went on a quest across the interwebs, reading and watching how others had done it, and soon discovered the directions for the shaking of the cream mixture were vague at best. In videos I saw people shaking the mixture in different ways, and citing different durations for the shaking (anything from 10 minutes to 1 minute). This reinforced the idea that this has to do with whoever is making it more than any formula.
After a couple of trials I discovered what happens when you put too much force and spend too much time shaking the jar: You end up with frozen whipped cream that almost feels like butter. At the other side of the spectrum, if you only do a wrist shake for a couple of minutes (as seen in some YouTube videos), the volume of the mixture only changes slightly, and after the freezer you will just end up with frozen heavy cream that liquifies very quickly.
I believe the trick to get this just right is to do it at your pace and don’t be afraid to check the mixture and keep going or stopping. The key for me is that once you start shaking, you will feel the volume inside the jar change, it gets denser and heavier. I would check as soon as you feel this change. Stick your spoon in and see how the mixture looks and feels. If it’s still too thin (it doesn’t coat the spoon like a batter, and it hasn’t almost doubled in volume), put the lid back on and shake for another minute, then check again.
There’s something magical about making your own ice cream, especially when it’s so literally hand-made. It feels 100 times more special than anything store-bought. If you have kids, this is a fun family activity and a bit of an arm workout—so win-win! Reward yourself with your own hand-made sweet treat, and play with the flavors however you like.
To make the base for any flavors you may want to try, all you really need is four ingredients and a 16-ounce mason jar. You’ll get roughly three servings of ice cream.
Mason Jar Ice Cream
You can stop there and stick with a classic vanilla ice cream, and add your favorite ice cream toppings once it’s set.
If you want to go a step further, mix in some extra ingredients before you freeze it (like a swirl of raspberry jam or crushed Oreo cookies). Add a little cocoa powder to the other ingredients for chocolate ice cream (then top it with melted peanut butter, or serve with graham crackers and marshmallow fluff for a s’mores inspired dessert).
Once you get the hang of it, flavor combinations will go as far as your creativity will take you.
Here are two variations to get you started:
I experimented with one of our favorite flavors at home, a mint chocolate chip. For this one I steeped fresh mint leaves in half of the cream, and added chocolate chips before freezing.
Ice Cream Ingredients:
- ½ cup mint steeped and cooled heavy cream (directions below)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
Mint Heavy Cream Ingredients:
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Handful of fresh mint leaves
1. In a small saucepan over medium low heat, heat 1/2 cup heavy cream until it comes to a soft simmer.
2. Take off the heat and add mint leaves. Cover and let them steep for 2 hours.
3. Strain heavy cream and set it aside to cool. (You can do this step the day before and store it in the fridge overnight.)
4. When the mint heavy cream is ready, combine it with the additional 1/2 cup heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a mason jar. Secure the lid.
5. Shake the mason jar for 3-5 minutes (depending on your strength and speed), until the cream thickens and almost doubles in volume. The mixture should be able to easily coat the back of a spoon, and feel like a loose batter.
6. In a mixing bowl, combine your ice cream base with the chocolate chips, then pour everything back into the mason jar. Secure your lid tightly and freeze for at least 3 hours, or until ice cream hardens.
Then I went a little over the top with roasted berries, balsamic vinegar, and ground black pepper. I cannot recommend this recipe enough, it’s my new hit of the summer.
- ½ cup sliced strawberries
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
2. Combine strawberries with honey in a bowl until coated, and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Roast uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring once. Let the strawberries cool before mixing with your ice cream base. (If you don’t want strawberry chunks in your ice cream, you can take this a step further and puree in your blender or food processor after letting them cool.)
3. Follow the standard vanilla mason jar ice cream recipe to make the base.
4. Before freezing, in a mixing bowl combine your ice cream base with the roasted strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and ground pepper. Mix to combine and pour into the mason jar.
5. Let ice cream harden in the freezer for about 3 hours before serving.