Soft Serve Ice Cream Makers
Ice cream is almost a national obsession - you only have to look at the success of chains such as Baskin-Robbins, Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry's to see the truth in this.
One of the reasons for their success is the wide range of flavours that are available nowadays - when we were young, you were pretty much restricted to vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, and the most exotic ice cream you could find was the multi-coloured Neopolitan, but companies such as the ones listed above changed all of that forever.
Well, there are a few good reasons.
Firstly, to continue on the weird flavours theme, if you make ice cream at home using some type of soft serve machine, you can more or less create whatever bizarre flavours you and your family need.
For example, did you know that people really do want ice cream flavours such as pumpkin, sea salt, lavender, licorice, avocado, ginger, as well as bacon, candied bacon, bacon and egg, and, finally, chocolate bacon?
No, nor did we until we researched this article!
But if that's what floats your ice cream boat, then when you buy a soft serve ice cream machine, you can do whatever you want - no need to ask the waitress, all embarrassed, if they have sweet and sour pork ice cream, because nobody else need ever know how strange your family's tastes are.
Now, you may be wondering too, so what if different members of your family all like different flavours?
Well, with some of the better quality soft serve makers, that's not a problem. For example, the Lello Musso Pola 5030 Dessert Maker, which is actually robust enough to be used as a commercial ice cream machine, can make up to six quarts per hour, with just a few minutes in between each batch to clean the bowl and get the next lot going.
Another good reason for making homemade ice cream is that you know exactly what goes into the recipe.
For example, did you know that corn (and various corn derivatives) are used in over 3,000 different products in the US today?
And unfortunately for us, the consumers, that's bad news, because the human body is not designed to handle too much corn - it's hard to digest, causes food allergies (resulting in issues such as chronic inflammation) and is a major contributory factor to the current obesity epidemic (especially in the form of high fructose corn syrup, which you'll find in many soft drinks).
Remember, the main reason corn is fed to livestock is because it fattens them up!
It is, of course, good news for the manufacturers, because corn is very cheap, thanks to government subsidies, and when so much money is at stake, these companies are not going to put your health over their corporate profits.
But for those of us who care about what we put inside our bodies, then if you like ice cream, homemade is the only way to go.
BTW, if you do have allergies (e.g. maybe you're lactose-intolerant), then there are alternatives, such as almond milk, which can be used instead of regular milk and cream.
A third good reason for making ice cream at home is because you can involve your kids.
Whole generations of children have grown up not even realising that food can be made at home instead of being microwaved in ready-prepared trays, or rehydrated with boiling water.
So, how can you involve your children?
Well, the obvious starting step is to ask them what flavours they fancy, and then let them help make the ice cream by having them add their chosen ingredients into the soft ice cream maker.
If you want to have even more fun, why not let them add crazy food colourings? (Again, nothing chemical - just natural foods such as pomegranate seeds, which will give your ice cream a brilliant red colour.)
Next, you have to consider that the ice cream you buy in the store, whether it's from an ice cream company such as the ones mentioned previously, or from the freezer at your local supermarket, probably contains preservatives and other chemicals, and you probably won't know how long ago it was even made.
But when you use soft serve machines to make your own ice cream, you won't need to use preservatives because it will be 100% fresh, and it will also taste so good that it won't hang around very long anyway.
One concern you may have is the effort required, but if your only experience of making ice cream at home is those old, hand-cranked affairs, then again, don't worry - soft ice cream makers have come a long way over the past few years.
And they don't only make regular ice cream - many models will also make a wide variety of frozen desserts, including sorbet and gelato, as well as frozen yogurt.
They are fully automatic, some are so quiet that you can barely hear them, they are fast, compact, and they are available to suit every budget.
If you're looking for one that's great to get started with, and excellent value too, then we recommend the Whynter SNO Ice Cream Maker.
At the other end of the scale, there is the Lello Musso Pola 5030 Dessert Maker, which is restaurant-quality but also suitable for the home too.
And in between, you'll find a wide range of other great machines, including the Lello 4080 Musso Lussino.
Check out the soft serve ice cream machines on this site (you'll find all the popular brands listed at the bottom of this page) - we guarantee you'll find one that you fall in love with!