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Recipe for Snow Ice Cream From the Blizzard of 1978

Patty collects recipes and gadgets from the past and is particularly interested in early American history and all Indigenous Peoples.


A Famous Blizzard Yields a Recipe

One April evening in 1985, Central Ohio was hit with an unexpected one-day blizzard. We had several inches of clean, white snow after a previous day of mild spring temperatures.

With school and workplaces closed, many of us looked back to a long blizzard in 1978 and remembered a recipe for snow ice cream. We made the dessert quickly—because by noon the next day, all the snow had melted.

Photo in nature of a tree like a dish of ice cream.

Photo in nature of a tree like a dish of ice cream.

Using Snow to Make Ice Cream

A traditional Southern and Midwestern recipe from the 1970s calls for only three ingredients of snow, vanilla, and condensed milk—but this results in an overly icy, fast-melting, and weak concoction.

A little experimentation resulted in the following recipe, which is richer overall, and more solid. The original dessert was made on my grandfather's farm beginning in 1870.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

10 min

30 min

40 min

Several servings


  • 2 whole large eggs
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pure vanilla
  • Clean fresh snow

I like to chill the metal bowl first in the freezer and then make the ice cream outside to keep the bowl cold and the snow from melting. In fact, it's great to put the bowl down into a mound of snow to hold it still. COLD!


  1. In a large metal bowl, break and beat the eggs briskly.
  2. Pour in the cream, sugar and vanilla all at once.
  3. Stir together and begin adding the cleanest white snow until the ice cream is thick enough for you.
  4. Serve and place the rest in the freezer immediately (because of the raw eggs).
  5. Enjoy the ice cream within 24 hours to prevent egg spoilage. It should be all right in the freezer, unless you take it out and let it sit at room temperature. If that happens, throw it out. Heavy cream can be expensive, so take care of the finished product.

Even in summertime, you can have this dessert by using shaved ice instead of snow to make a refreshing and whimsical dish.

Ice Cream Mix-In Ideas

  • Peaches: Before making the ice cream, remove 1 cup of frozen peach slices from a bag of frozen peaches you have purchased at the supermarket. Set them on the kitchen counter to thaw and as they begin to soften, chop them into bite-sized pieces. Canned peaches are often soft and do not work as well. Prepare the vanilla ice cream recipe as given above and add the chopped peaches at the last minutes. It is fine if they are still partially frozen. Mix gently and serve the ice cream.
  • Coconut: Peaches and coconut are good together in this recipe. Use about half a cup of shredded coconut or a little more, if you like. Mix it into the ice cream when you add the chopped, partially frozen peaches.
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Read More From Delishably

  • Chocolate: While I've had no luck with chocolate syrup, which seems to disintegrate the snow ice cream, breaking up fudge brownies and adding them to the vanilla recipe at the end seems to work fine. A squeeze bottle of chocolate shell that hardens on contact also works well.

The Great Blizzard of 1978

The Great Blizzard of 1978 snowed us into our homes for a month, dumping feet of snow on much of Ohio beginning one night after a warm rainy evening. Snow blocked my front door to a height of five feet and I dug out with a broom through a narrow opening I could manage.

January 25, 26, and 27 were the worst days, especially around Columbus and the Great Lakes Area to the north. Ohio AAA stopped taking calls for cars that would not start, beginning on January 25. The auto club trucks were fitted with snow plows and helped free stranded people from their homes.

The U.S. National Guard stated that the storm was nearly equivalent to a nuclear attack in its impact upon the state.

This is about how I looked during The Great Blizzard, after snow plows had done their best.

This is about how I looked during The Great Blizzard, after snow plows had done their best.

Buried Alive in the City

After the first few days of the natural disaster in 1978, we could no longer eat the snow, because it quickly became dirty from removal efforts.

When we could get outside, we walked down the center of the streets, compacted snow and ice being four to five feet high on the sidewalks.

Heavy accumulating snow remained with us in Central Ohio for two months and the majority of residents missed a week or more of work or school. City bus service was free during the worst days and the few restaurants and cafes that could open for business served free coffee to all snow plow operators, tow truck drivers, and protective services personnel.

My Ponderosa Steak House had no heat, but cooking equipment helped somewhat and we worked in coasts, trying to have some fun with the situation.

In Cleveland during the 1978 disaster, barometric pressure reduced to 28.28, the record non-tropical low for America until October of 2010. Friends in that city made it a point to enjoy snow ice cream for several days.

Hard-Hit Ohio Cities

The Amish just west of Columbus used horses during the 1978 snows. In the city, cars were frozen, many of them buried to the top of the windows.

The Amish just west of Columbus used horses during the 1978 snows. In the city, cars were frozen, many of them buried to the top of the windows.


  • 1978 Ohio Statewide Blizzard - Ohio History Central. Retrieved January 16, 2017.
  • Adjutant General of Ohio and Ohio National Guard. Blizzard '78 After Action Report; pp 1 - 42. 1978
  • Dean, L. The long, hungry winter of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Star Tribune; February 10, 2014.

© 2011 Patty Inglish MS

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