June 27, 2011 Facebook TwitterMore...

Island Cooking:
Seafood boil and homemade ice cream for July 4 on the beach


When I was growing up, we celebrated Independence Day with a backyard picnic that included lots and lots of cousins running and playing together all afternoon.  We would all get together for the town’s parade and then come back to our house for the picnic.

It was terrific fun, but the best part of the Fourth of  July for us all was that we always made ice cream in a hand-cranked wooden ice-cream maker.

The day began early with most of my brothers and sisters piling into Dad’s car for a trip to the ice house.  There we would be enthralled by the huge, menacing metal tongs that were used to lift the ice block and place it in a galvanized tub Dad brought with us just for this purpose.

Once back home, he would attack the ice block with a pick to break it into manageable  pieces.  We kids loved to catch the ice chips as they flung off the block and crunch on them.  Then ice chunks and rock salt were packed around the tall, metal canister that would hold the ice cream base that Mom made in the kitchen. 

We could never agree on what flavor to make and, like many kids, most of us liked vanilla anyway so we always made vanilla ice cream and had a variety of toppings.  Most everyone wanted chocolate sauce.

Once the mixture was poured into the canister the long and tedious chore of churning it began.

All hands, literally, were called on deck to take a turn at cranking.  At first, it was exciting and fun, but before long we would have enough and want to quit. 

It was understood, however, that you had to take a turn if you wanted to eat the ice cream, so we carried on until we were sure our arms would fall off.  Towards the end of the freezing process, it got more and more difficult to push the handle, even using both hands, and the bigger kids took over.

Now I plug an electric ice-cream maker into the wall socket and place the mix in an electric powered freezer.  And I don’t need ice or rock salt either.

To honor our nation’s independence, I suggest sauces made of two colored berries - red and blue.  Just this once, forget the chocolate!

Dry ice for your cooler is available at Risky Business Seafood at Oden’s Dock in Hatteras, but not anywhere on Ocracoke.  You will have to pack your ice cream in sufficient ice to keep it frozen, and I suggest you store it in a chilled, covered stainless steel container.

If you have a small cooler you can dedicate to the ice cream, you will not have to open it until you are ready to enjoy dessert.


Ice cream makers all come with recipes and this is one we like from our Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer Ice Cream Maker Attachment.  Be forewarned:  It is decadent!

2 1/2 cups (590 ml) half-and-half
8 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups (590 ml) whipping cream
4 teaspoons (20 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

In medium sauce pan over medium heat, heat half-and-half until very hot but not boiling, stirring often.

Remove from heat; set aside.

Place egg yolks and sugar in electric mixer bowl and whip on number 2 speed about 30 seconds, or until well blended and slightly thickened. 

Continuing on that low speed, very gradually add half-and-half; mix until well blended.  Return half-and-half mixture to medium saucepan and cook until small bubbles form around the edge and mixture is steamy, stirring constantly.  Do not boil.

Transfer half-and-half mixture into large bowl; stir in whipping cream, vanilla, and salt.

Cover and chill thoroughly in the fridge (not the freezer) at least 8 hours.

The mixture will then be ready for whichever ice cream maker you are using.  Follow manufacturer’s instruction and then freeze in an airtight container, preferably metal.

This recipe yields 16 servings of 1/2 cup each.


2 boxes fresh blueberries, stems removed
About 1 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon pure almond extract

Mix all together the day before the picnic and refrigerate.  The sugar will draw the juices from the berries to produce a sauce. Adjust sugar as desired. 


2 boxes fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
About 1 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons rose water

Follow the same technique as with the blueberries.

Another family favorite once we were older and most of us lived in Florida near fresh seafood was low-country boil, a delicious one-pot meal that requires minimal preparation time and little clean up.

It is an ideal beach picnic.

It is messy, and that’s part of the pleasure.  It contains ears of corn that you eat with your hands and a variety of unpeeled or unshucked shellfish that is best cooked in the shell for optimum flavor.

For your beach picnic, you need only bring the ingredients -- a big pot and a source of heat, either a charcoal or gas grill. (You can also cook on an open fire, but beach fires are temporarily banned on the seashore because of serious drought conditions.) 

Don’t forget a fire lighter.  It is more reliable at the beach than matches.

Saltwater is readily available for your cooking medium.  Just dip your cooking pot into the ocean.  You can also wash your food in the ocean before tossing into the pot.

Lots of towels would be good, but you can wash your hands in the sea. 

Don’t forget garbage bags or bins, so you don’t leave a trace of your party behind and that includes organic materials such as corn husks and shells.  National Seashore policy requires that everything you bring in, you must take out.

There is no definite recipe for this seafood boil.  Adjust the ingredients according to your taste preferences.  It is best to think in terms of how many people you will serve and how much of each ingredient a person is likely to eat.

Following is a generous suggestion for six people that allows for a relaxed, drawn-out dinner at the beach, where we always seem hungrier than usual! 

Because so little prepping is needed you can spend your time catching clams and crabs for the pot instead!

All ingredients are fresh

2 pounds shrimp
3 dozen clams
2 dozen hard crabs
2 packages andouille sausage, cut into thirds
2 1/2  pounds small new potatoes (that require no peeling or cutting)
6 ears of corn, shucked and broken in half
2 handsfuls of green beans
Old Bay or Cajun seasoning to taste

These seasonings and the seawater provide more than enough salt and pepper, so there is no need to add either.

Generously season the water with Old Bay or Cajun seasoning and bring the water to a boil.  I suggest you use only enough water to cover the potatoes and corn.  The seafood, when added, will release its delicious liquids into the water, adding to the flavor.  The seafood itself is better steamed than boiled.

First, start cooking the sausage to help flavor the cooking water and add the potatoes, corn, and beans.  Follow with crabs, then clams, and finally shrimp.   You will know it is ready when the crabs are red, the shrimp turn pink, and the clams open.

A loaf of crunchy crusted bread you break with your hands is good for sopping up the flavorful broth if you haven’t already scooped it up with half a clam shell.

Beach Fires temporarily banned at the seashore

In conjunction with the state’s ban on open burning, all beach fires are temporarily banned on Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches. 

The use of grills for cooking is still permitted.  Caution should be exercised while cooking outdoors and lit materials should be confined to the grill apparatus. 

Visitors are asked to dispose of used charcoal and any smoking materials, such as cigar or cigarette butts, carefully and away from any combustible materials. 

Additionally, visitors are reminded that fireworks are strictly prohibited in the National Seashore. They are also prohibited in the villages of Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.  This ban includes sparklers.

When beach fires are allowed again, they are permitted only until 12 midnight and prohibited between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m.  Ground fires are permitted only on the ocean beach below high tide line and must be more than 100 feet from a vegetated area.  Fires larger than three feet in diameter are prohibited.  The use of non-wood products or wood products containing non-wood items (e.g., metal, glass, plastic) for fire construction is prohibited.

Fires are prohibited within resource protection closures or within 100 meters of any turtle nest closure.  Before you leave the beach, you must extinguish your fire with water. 

And please remember that all vehicles must be off the seashore beaches by 10 p.m.

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