Rock salt and all.


The best part of summer dinners is, arguably, the moment the ice cream maker comes out. Homemade ice cream is revered in the homes of many Southern families, with folks waiting until peak season to add fresh peaches and other seasonal fruits into their creamy creations. No matter the flavor, however, the key to perfectly smooth ice cream is hand-cranking it with rock salt. This classic dessert was the foundation for West Virginia native Jennifer Garner's first business (and, love of homemade ice cream).

We recently sat down with the actress and her mom, Pat, on their family farm in Oklahoma to talk about Jennifer's growing-up years. Unsurprisingly, much of her childhood was influenced by the way her mom grew up on the farm. "When I think about my mom's childhood," Jennifer said, "I realize how much of that transferred to my sisters and me. We did have homemade ice cream and it was a big treat. And my mom was always very patient about making homemade ice cream whenever we wanted."

Jennifer Garner with Mom Pat on Family Farm
Credit: Photo: Victor Demarchelier; Wardrobe Styling: Jill Lincoln and Jordan Johnson/The Wall Group; Hair: Ben Skervin/The Wall Group; Makeup: Genevieve Herr/Sally Harlor; Seamstress: Jeanette Wingo

She loved ice cream so much, in fact, that she teamed up with a friend and sold fresh, hand-cranked ice cream to the neighbors. "It was a business. And we had to pay Mom. You would pay for the sugar," she said, turning to Pat, "but we had to pay for everything else." Her business was called C and J Ice Cream. "Cause there's nothing better than ice cream fresh, fresh, fresh, right out of the tub," Jennifer said. "There just isn't, right?"

Pat grew up eating homemade ice cream almost every summer night, she told us. "It was so common here on the farm because we had all of the major ingredients," Pat said. "We had all the cream we could use. We had fresh eggs. The only thing Mother had to buy was sugar and vanilla and ice." She recalled beating up blocks of ice with a pick in order to make the dessert, but it was always worth the effort. "It's my favorite memory of being young," she smiled.