“Ice cream cravings are not to be taken lightly,” says artist Betsy Cañas Garmon. When the temperature is hitting 90 degrees or higher, nothing satisfies like ice cream melting in your mouth.
Ice cream made with freshly picked peaches is the perfect way to cool off on a hot August day. Although fans of homemade strawberry ice cream may argue otherwise, that flavor is best in the spring when the berries are harvested. Nothing compares to fruit in its season, particularly in ice cream.
Finding the best peach ice cream always involves hopping in a car and going for a ride. Rides to and from the beaches and coastal areas for many Tar Heels typically call for stops in the Piedmont for peach ice cream. The longer the drive, the more appreciated the ice cream. As you drive by small communities such as Candor, Eagle Springs and Ellerbe, just count the peach ice cream possibilities.
When you see rows of lush, groomed peach trees on the side of the road—and particularly both sides—slow down and look for ice cream signs. For Ben’s Ice Cream in Eagle Springs, the row of cars lined up in front is also a good clue that you should brake. Some drivers stop for fresh produce at the adjacent Kalawi Farms roadside stand, but many are determined to enjoy homemade peach ice cream before leaving.
The new ice cream shop, which opened last year, includes an inside area with seating that is a welcome expansion for long-time customers. This is where Kieria Stubbs, a 2014 graduate of East Montgomery High School, greets customers on a summer day and dispenses cones and cups, and then more cones and cups of ice cream, without ever losing her smile. Because ice cream is so popular, “We make it every day—from 9 to 4, it’s being made throughout the day,” she says.
How hard is it to make peach ice cream?
Stubbs grins as she answers, “It’s not hard. You just take fresh peaches and chop them up.” It’s the first step in the daily activity that she knows well, because she’s worked at Ben’s for six years as she finished high school, took courses at Sandhills Community College and now is enrolled in the dental assisting program at Montgomery Community College.
Jan Benton, a retired high school math teacher, enjoys her part-time work at Ben’s because it brings her into contact with former students.
“About a dozen—maybe a little more—work here,” she says.
Everyone knows that there’s no better combination than peaches and cream. Although the original Creamsicle flavors—orange and cream—are great, don’t you think in the midst of its growing season that peach (rather than orange) is needed in August for a creamy treat?
Because there’s a national day for literally everything, it’s not surprising that this month has a day just for the Creamsicle: Aug. 14. Although the origin of National Creamsicle Day is unknown, we do know that without the inspiration of
Frank Epperson in 1905 when he was only 11 years old, we might not be celebrating.
Who is Epperson? He’s the first person to enclose vanilla ice cream with a layer of frozen fruit juice and gets the credit for creating what evolved into the creamsicle. Later, when he was 29, he was smart enough to patent his invention.
Epperson’s patent tells us that his invention for “a frozen confection” is “well suited to meet the requirements of practical use”—an assertion that no one would argue with. What could be more practical than a frozen, creamy, fruity treat, particularly in August? However, the perfect creamy “confection” is not made with frozen fruit juice but with fresh, local peaches instead.
Imagine the delicious result created by peeling fresh peaches, adding them chopped into a chilling mixture of cream and milk with a little vanilla extract for flavor, and churning it all slowly until ready to serve.
Be creative in how you endure the dog days of August, but if you want a great recommendation: Take a drive and find homemade ice cream not too far from a peach orchard.
Linville writes about local connections to Southern food, history and culture. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org