Sunday, December 6, 2009

Snow cream

How many of you are familiar with the term "snow cream"? I live in East Tennessee and when it snows enough, we have always made snow cream. Because of this, I automatically assumed that everyone made this wintertime treat around the country, if not around the world. It turns out that I was wrong. Over the years, in conversations with various friends around the country, I have mentioned snow cream and received blank stares in return. The oddest thing to me is that the states that get the most snowfall seem to be the ones that have never heard of snow cream! I am finding that it may be specific to the southern region, the phenomenon of snow cream. I have heard it called slightly different titles, from our snow cream, to snowflake ice cream, to snow ice cream, depending on the area.

So, what is snow cream? It is a simple dessert, very similar to soft serve ice cream, made with snow as the base rather than mixing up wet ingredients and putting them into a machine to spin and freeze. At the end of this blog, I will include my Mom's very basic, easy recipe for everyone to give it a whirl.

We had a very light dusting of snow in my hometown of Knoxville the other day, which is obviously what prompted this blog entry. I also have a few friends who requested more info on the snow cream phenomenon, so here we are.

Snow cream is a very easy thing to create, but there are a couple of logical rules to abide by. Most peoples' first thought is going to be that snow isn't safe to eat with all the air pollution we experience. Not true. As long as you wait approximately two hours into the snow fall, then snow is safe to consume. That two hour time span allows the falling snow to clean the air of impurities, leaving the snow at the surface remarkably clean and pure. Beyond that, to anyone who is concerned about snow cream containing pollutants from the air, consider that we breathe that same air daily without the benefit of the snow falling and filtering. In that regard, I think that eating snow cream once a year, if you're lucky enough to live in an area that gets sufficient snow, isn't that big a hazard to our health. The happy benefits much outweigh any risks. Obviously, collect your snow from areas that have not been disturbed by man or animal, scooping from the first few inches of the surface deposit.

You're going to need two to three times as much snow as you would first imagine to create a good amount of snow cream - think of two or three large sized bowls such as you would use for big batches of popcorn, mounded up and packed firmly. Snow melts upon contact with wet ingredients of the snow cream base, so you'll have to sort of eyeball the process until you reach a good consistency. Once you've created your first batch of snow cream, I can predict with a fairly accurate degree of confidence that you'll be hooked!

I have the most fond childhood memories of collecting snow with my Mom, brother and sister for snow cream and then eating bowls and bowls of it in the warmth of the house. It has a clean flavor from the snow that is unlike any premium, gourmet ice cream that you'll ever taste. Beyond that, it is such a simple joy to share with family and friends, bringing everyone together in fellowship and shared laughter. Eating a sweet winter treat is guaranteed to promote laughter and happy memories.

Another Facebook friend mentioned a childhood tradition of pouring hot maple syrup or hot blackstrap molasses into snow to make a chewy sweet treat. We did this one as well. My Mom used her large cast iron skillet, packed with snow and would drizzle hot maple syrup or molasses into swirls in the snow. The hot, sugary liquid meeting the cold snow would transform the syrup into a slightly crystalized, chewy consistency that we would scoop and twirl around popsicle sticks or forks and consume. Something about snow just encourages those simple pleasures, it seems!

Here is my Mom's recipe to make enough for approximately 5-6 cups of snow cream:

4 eggs
2 cups canned/evaporated milk
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
1 tsp of Vanilla
1 very large bowl of mounded, packed snow

Directions: mix sugar and eggs until sugar is well blended, then add milk and vanilla, stir to combine. Add large bowl of snow, stirring and mixing until you have a fluffy, creamy consistency.

The type of snow that you get in your area will also dictate how much snow you will need per batch. I.e., dry, light snow will dissolve more rapidly than heavy, wet snow. You'll be able to quickly see if you need to add more snow to thicken the end product. Just tailor it to your needs; each batch will vary slightly in the amount of snow required.

The above sugar amount may seem like a lot for a yield of only 5-6 cups of snow cream, but remember that snow is watery and will dilute the cream base, requiring that extra sugar for flavor. You can double or triple the cream base to make a larger batch of snow cream. For those concerned about consuming raw eggs, it is up to you to decide if you and your family and friends fall into any health risk groups and omit that ingredient. I imagine you could use egg substitute products in place of the raw eggs, or just leave the eggs out entirely. I have pulled up snow cream recipes online that don't include eggs at all in the cream base; this is just the method my Mom has always used and the one that I prefer.

This is the most basic recipe. If you Google the words "snow cream" you will find a plethora of variations, using sweetened, condensed milk, various flavors, add-ins such as cookies, candy bits, chocolate, etc. You are only limited by your imagination. Another helpful suggestion is that snow cream, like any ice cream, freezes well. We used to make triple batches when a big snow would hit the area and freeze it. It freezes a bit harder than regular ice cream, so zapping it in the microwave to soften or letting sit out for about 15 minutes helps to make it more easily scoopable. Another fun suggestion is to make snow cream popsicles by scooping the mixture into popsicle molds and freezing. They're delicious and have a wonderful creamy consistency similar to a Dreamsicle.

If you do try snow cream for the first time, or if you're experiencing it after many years, please take a moment to post a comment below. I love hearing input and feedback from my readers. This particular blog is another joyful memory to share and I'm sure it will give many of you a new happy tradition to create each year for your family and friends. Enjoy this new approach to snow and enjoy making snow cream!


  1. Dawn,
    I will definitely be trying your recipe the next time we have a significant snow fall in Knoxville. Thank you so much for sharing your fond childhood memories fo snow cream!


  2. Got it saved for when the family comes to visit. Heidi and I will do this at least, she's adventurous. Should be fun!!!

  3. Lisa, you're welcome! Thanks for taking time to re-post the link to my blog on your wall!

    Marty, I expect a full report from you and Heidi when you make the first batch. It won't be your last!

    ~ Dawn

  4. How yummy! We don't get snow where we are (very rarely), sounds worth trip up to the snow though!

  5. Sue, you can use finely shaved ice in place of snow. I stumbled upon this idea with my Godkids several years back and it works just as well as snow. Put ice in a blender and pulverize into snow-like consistency and then follow the directions above. Same concept, same great result! It just takes a while to produce enough shaved/crushed ice using a kitchen blender, but it is well worth it!

    ~ Dawn

  6. Excellent, comprehensive post about snowcreme! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! I too was baffled to find, upon moving to Indiana for seminary, that the folks who grow up with snow seem to know the LEAST about this delicious treat! Check out my musings on the subject here at

    Much peace, friend!

    adrienne (a fellow Southerner :))

  7. Hi Adrienne, thanks for stopping by and reading some of my old favorites! I'll pull your blog up in a few minutes, looking forward to reading it. Always happy to know a fellow southerner and a writer, to boot!

    Namaste, my friend
    ~ Dawn

  8. Jim, I hope you get to give it a try! It's a wonderful tradition to adopt for the winter months each year - definitely something to look forward to, and to make memories.

    ~ Dawn

  9. Umm....I think the problem is acid rain rather than air pollution....which doesn't really abate with time.

  10. Tiffs, thanks for your comment. It's a judgment call for each person. I'm not forcing anyone to try the recipe; just sharing a childhood tradition that many people still enjoy. I doubt that the rare snows we receive in this area and any subsequent batches of snow cream consumed will present any huge health issues, anymore than walking outside and breathing the air would, drinking tap water, etc. It may even be healthier than eating commercially produced ice cream w/ all the toxic preservatives in the ingredient list, who knows? Again, it's personal choice. Thanks for taking time to visit, read and leave a comment. :)

    ~ Dawn