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NHPR Blogs
A food blog from NHPR news, digital, & programming staff, exploring food & food culture around the state & the New England region. On-air features air Thursdays on All Things Considered and Saturdays during Weekend Edition.

Steam Cream: Ice Cream Powered By Steam

If you’re looking for an uncommon food experience, very few are as rare as Steam Cream, a small batch of ice cream produced in New Hampshire only once a year.  

Each year, steam engine hobbyists converge in Moultonborough to talk shop and ride around in steamboats on Lake Winnipesaukee. But one man from Delaware, named Clem Legates, brings something else: an ice cream machine.

“This year we made homemade peach and homemade cherry vanilla… We just went down to the local store and bought some great big extra ripe peaches that they had and grind them up in a blender and mix them in with all the other ingredients…”

Legates’ contraption is the highlight of the week. It’s powered by another hobbyist’s nearby steam truck engine. And that hooks up to Legates’ three-foot-long stationary engine with wheels and belts. And that’s connected to paddles that churns the mixture inside two large, blue buckets.

“These are called White Mountain Freezers, they come out of the White Mountains…”

The freezers, he says, are vintage eight-quart buckets from circa nineteen fifty that he found on E-Bay. According to Legates, they’re exceedingly rare in that size today.

“Some people are great on electronic stuff. Other people like mechanical things and I like mechanical things so that’s why I have this.”

Legates calls his creamy concoction, steam cream. And when his two buckets are ready to go, a long line forms at the table and Legates’ wife helps scoop the steam cream for the eager crowd. The result is tasty.

“But it’s not dietary. With all that heavy whipping cream and half and half and regular milk and sugar. But, tastes good. Yea, it’s not dietary by no means.”

Steam cream made a comeback this year after a break because Legates’ original machine was destroyed in a fire, White Mountain Freezers and all. So it took him a while to build a new one. Things like that and the cost of ingredients makes this possibly the least cost-effective ice cream you’ll ever taste. Luckily, Legates hands it out for free.

“I probably got $65 in just the ingredients to make this four gallons of ice cream.”

And it’s got something a little extra to add to the flavor; besides the peaches and black cherries, is the lingering aroma of steam, oil and burning wood.