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On Cooking Southern: Crush Those Back-To-School Blues With Chilled Treats

moose rocky road

Big Orange: Pronounced Bih-garnge… Sometimes a reference to that rocky top Tennessee school, but around here more often used as a colloquial term for an orange soft drink once manufactured by the Big Red soft drink company out of San Antonio, TX, and popularized during the 1950s and 1960s among the Mississippi Delta and Memphis cotton folks who migrated annually to the Rio Grande Valley. Now a generic Southern reference to any orange soda, it usually means Orange Crush, which was founded in 1911 in California, traded to Procter & Gamble, then to Cadbury Schweppes, and later spun off into the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group of Plano, TX, which also assimilated the Big Red company. When the temperature’s ranging north of 90, some of us are convinced nothing quenches thirst better than a half-frozen Big Orange…


The Old Bride’s fighting the end-of-summer blues. It’s an annual event every bit as predictable as the cicada chorus that’s been serenading us at dusk since early July.

Each August, as the clock ticks ever closer to the end of the month, I find myself ensnared in a calendar loop imprinted on every American child born before the 1970s. It’s a loop forever tied to our academic experience when growing up. The first of September always marked the end of our summertime freedom, heralding a new school year that would begin the Tuesday after Labor Day.

For us children, the approaching date triggered a cascade of emotions, from excitement over the prospect of seeing old friends and making new ones, to fear and anxiety about assuming new responsibilities and accountabilities. We had learned from past experience that the day-to-day drudgery of the school year would seem never-ending by the following Spring.

In my family, the contrast between summertime freedom and school-engendered incarceration was particularly stark. Our Labor Day weekend always involved a two-day car odyssey back to reality.

We were among the cotton migrants who departed the Memphis-Delta region every June for the exotic Rio Grande Valley, following the maturing long-staple cotton crops that flourished in the Texas heat. We spent the Valley summers gathering for communal meals capped by homemade ice cream, and dashing over the border to first-rate Mexican restaurants and nightclubs. Children were allowed everywhere, as long as we behaved during the entertainment.

The annual two-day car ride going down to the Valley was always an adventure. We children were allowed to read a year’s worth of comic books, guzzle Big Orange, Coke, Dr. Pepper, and root beer, and munch on homemade fried chicken kept on ice in the cooler under our feet. (NOTE: The interstate between Memphis and South Texas was still a dream, the Rubik’s Cube hadn’t been invented, and the closest thing we had to a handheld electronic device was a triangular wooden board into which we could maneuver a limited number of golf tees to see how smart we were.)

The annual drive home during those pre-electronic days was a more somber affair. No comic books, no more fried chicken. The only entertainments were familial songfests accompanied by the AM radio and a worn ukulele, interrupted by pit-stops where we were allowed treats such as Popsicles®, Orange Creamsicles® or Fudgsicles®.

To this day, I can sing the words of every song that hit number 1 on Labor Day weekend between 1958 and 1968. And I still love those chilled pops.

So, here we are back in the present, two weeks before September. Along with those end-of-summer blues, I’ve got a huge hankerin’ for old-fashioned popsicles, homemade ice cream and flavored soft drinks.

That’s why this week’s column is dedicated to long summer days and frozen treats. It’s time to chill out while we still can.

This favorite recipe from the 1950s is surprisingly tasty, albeit not healthful. It’s a great recipe for entertaining children! Do NOT refrigerate the mixture before churning.


3 (7.5 oz) cans of Orange Crush (22.5 oz)

2 (14 oz) cans sweetened condensed milk

1 c sugar (may substitute Splenda 1 for 1)

Blend all ingredients well until sugar is dissolved. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. I found that my tabletop maker, with the frozen container, required about 45 minutes of churning before the mixture became slushy.

Pour or scoop into ice-pop molds or Dixie cups, add craft sticks and freeze. When ready to consume, peel away the cup paper or run lukewarm water around the molds and pop out of the molds. Yields 8-10 frozen treats.

This recipe comes closest to the traditional Popsicle® made of fruit-flavored, sweetened water first created in 1905 by 11-year-old Frank Epperson; later patented by him in 1923. The double-stick Popsicle was created during the Depression so children could share a 5-cent treat.

on cooking southern

1 small seedless round watermelon

1-1/2 T fresh lemon juice

1 c white granulated sugar

Puree the watermelon after cutting. Pour the puree through a sieve to remove seeds. There should be about 4 to 6 cups. Blend with the lemon juice and sugar with a mixer until sugar has dissolved. NOTE: Feel free to use less lemon juice and sugar.

Pour into ice-pop molds or Dixie cups. Allow Dixie cup pops to freeze for about 1 hour before pushing the sticks into the centers of the pops. Continue freezing for about 3 hours.

I ramped up this chocolate ice cream by adding semisweet baking chocolate. Feel free to substitute other ingredients in lieu of the marshmallows and pecans, such as chopped salted almonds, Heath Brickle Bits, Butterfinger Pieces or cut-up Rolos.


1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder

2 oz semisweet baking chocolate

2 c heavy whipping cream

1 c whole milk

1 T vanilla extract

1/2 c chopped pecans

1 c miniature marshmallows

Combine sweetened condensed milk with cocoa powder in medium saucepan and stir to blend. Heat over low heat and continue stirring until powder works into the milk. When hot, add the semisweet chocolate and continue stirring until melted.

Stir until thickened, using a hand mixer or vigorously whisking until blended. Do not boil. Remove from burner and allow to cool slightly. Mix in cream, milk and vanilla. Some of the semisweet chocolate will tend to clump on the bottom. Pour mixture into a container, including clumps of chocolate, and cover tightly. Refrigerate overnight.

Use a bowl scraper to scrape mixture into chilled ice cream canister. Freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. (Include clumped chocolate that might have accumulated at the bottom of the container.)

After about 15-20 minutes, stir in nuts, and then the marshmallows. Continue churning until blended, about 10 minutes, until stiff. Pour into a freezable container and cover tightly. Freeze until ready to serve. The marshmallows, which have become hard upon contact with the frozen mixture, will soften after several hours of setting up in the freezer.

This ice cream sets up like a soft-serve vanilla fudge-ripple ice cream. In typical Southern fashion, I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so I added Butterfinger baking pieces. Result: Delicious!


1 c white granulated sugar

Pinch kosher salt

2 c heavy whipping cream, divided

1 c whole milk

1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 c mini Reese’s cups, cut into quarters

1/2 c hot fudge sauce, slightly cooled

1/2 c Butterfinger baking pieces

Mix the sugar, one cup of heavy cream and pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Heat on low, stirring, until sugar dissolves and mixture color becomes yellowish. Do not boil, but make sure the mixture is hot. Remove from heat and cool while beating the second cup of cream and milk until frothy. Mix into the sugared cream and add vanilla. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Transfer mixture to ice cream canister and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions for 20-25 minutes. (I use a tabletop appliance.) When the mixture has churned to a consistency of soft-serve ice cream, add the cut-up Reese’s cups and mix for about 5 more minutes.

While ice cream is churning, warm the hot fudge sauce until it is just warm but not hot. Slowly add clumps of the warm sauce as the ice cream freezer turns. After a few turns, remove the canister and cut the chocolate into the ice cream with a knife to create ripple lines rather than completely blending into the ice cream.

Sprinkle the Butterfinger pieces on top and cut into the ice cream with knife or spatula. Spoon into container, cover, and refrigerate at least an hour before serving so it will set up.

Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists, Southern Foodways Alliance and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ website and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter..

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