I got an ice cream freezer for Christmas. It represents the latest in a growing line of equipment that I've had the opportunity to make ice cream with, each progressively better.
You see, I started with a frozen core model. This includes a container which has a special solution built into it, which must be frozen for 24 hours before use, and an electric motor. This model was barely serviceable, because it never got cold enough to effectively freeze the ice cream, and it was only good for a 30-minute session. It held somewhere around a quart.
My next model was, aside from the fact that it also had an electric motor, a little more old fashioned. You actually had to add alternating layers of ice and salt, which was surprisingly more effective than the frozen core model. I could go for as long as 40 minutes before the ice got melty enough to raise in temperature again. It could also make somewhere around 3 quarts pretty effectively. The most major drawback was the freezer full of ice that you needed to keep around. The second most major drawback was disposing of the salt water. The third biggest was the water that would condensate on the side, and then melt into a puddle around the churn.
The first model was a joke. I would never recommend a frozen core to anyone. The second model was about the same price, and while it did have its drawbacks, it at least worked. I figured it would be the model I would use until I got rich and could afford a model with a built-in freezer.
Well, that model is what I got for Christmas. It technically holds two quarts, but I have yet to get more than a quart and a half out of it. But that's not the fault of the machine itself. The motor will run until it can't run no more, and then it will stop on its own. Since the built-in freezer won't shut off with the motor, you could probably just add ice cream mixture, turn it on and go shopping, and come back home to ice cream fully ready for consumption.
This brings up an important point. The first two models make soft-serve ice cream, which must be quickly moved into containers, and into the freezer, before it is ready to be served. While you can do that with this model, my first batch was actually hard-frozen. I wasn't used to the machine yet, and I ended up letting the motor run until the ice cream was hard.
This brings up something else important. I have discovered that, with all of my practice batches so far, I need a minimum of 45 minutes to get a good churn (and sometimes longer), something that my old freezers fell short of. I have also discovered that I no longer need to use egg yolk to get a decent freeze. Before, I always used egg-based recipes, because frozen custard is easier to churn. With one exception, I have yet to use anything egg-based in this freezer.
The one exception is eggnog. It's a little late now to do this, but it's something to keep in mind for next year. Commercial eggnog is little more than spiced, unfrozen ice cream. My favorite brand for the past few years has been Southern Comfort's Vanilla Spice Eggnog. They also have a "regular" Southern Comfort Eggnog. Both are alcohol-free (you're supposed to add the Southern Comfort yourself), and I've frozen several batches of the Vanilla Spice version, both for ourselves and for family and friends. For those of you that don't like eggnog, well, I'm guessing you don't like drinking melted ice cream either. And that's fine. It's okay to be wrong sometimes.
I will give you a recipe that I've been playing with. It's not perfect yet, but it's still pretty good. And it's totally egg-free:
Strawberry Ice Cream (beta version)
1 pint half and half
1 pound frozen strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a low simmer, just long enough to dissolve the sugar and thaw the strawberries. Use an immersion blender to puree the strawberries and homogenize the mixture. Cool and refrigerate overnight before freezing, as per your ice cream freezer's instructions. Makes a little over a quart.