I’ve just acquired a countertop ice maker machine and it might just be my most favourite unnecessary kitchen gadget. Let’s face it: a need for a constant supply of ice is not something that is part of the British psyche.
I read a piece of click bait the other day entitled ‘Things the British don’t understand about America’. One of the items that properly made me laugh was a woman who couldn’t understand the American obsession with ice.
WHY is there so much ice in every single drink? she said.
It’s so true. Every glass delivered by a server comes lightly frosted with water drops, accompanied by the clink clunk of ice cubes, whether one is sweltering in the sticky heat of Louisiana or shivering through a snow storm in Manhattan.
We are not so bothered by ice, or even being served water, in the UK. It’s not unusual to have to ask for a glass of water in a restaurant, and it’s likely that it won’t be iced.
The same goes for drinks in private homes: you’re extremely unlikely to ever be given ice in a soft drink: most of us don’t have homes that are big enough for those huge double fronted fridges with integrated ice makers.
Instead we probably have a single crappy white plastic ice tray which came free with the freezer years ago, and which has never been replaced.
There’s a high chance the ice will come laced with a garnish of breadcrumbs from its long stay in the freezer compartment and once the eight cubes have been released (two per glass), there’ll be a couple of hours wait before the tray freezes again.
Of course, if you’re really fancy, you might buy a bag of ice from the local petrol station for a supper party which will sit in the bath, slowly melting.
However last summer’s extraordinary heatwave saw me defrosting the seemingly endless piles of frozen peas, unidentifiable sauces, and single egg yolks in my three drawer freezer compartment, and replacing them with umpteen bags of ice so that I could have a large jug of iced water, laced with mint and lemon, to hand all day long.
Oh it was so goooooood. Hydration heaven
So this year I’ve made a change: I am now the owner of an actual honest-to-god ice machine. I feel so very un-English. But I can not recommend it highly enough.
I first saw one of these countertop machines at my mother’s cottage: she has a chest freezer which isn’t great for making ice as there is nowhere for the ice trays to balance so the water always spills. So last year she treated herself to a countertop ice machine, which sits in her laundry room, tucked underneath the cabinets. Once a week she fills the machine with water to capacity, and makes enough ice for her on her own for ten days or so, decanting it into freezer bags.
It works brilliantly for her as she lives in the middle of nowhere and transporting bags of ice home isn’t an option. (There’d be a lake in the car boot.)
I was all over this idea when I went to stay, so much so that she very kindly bought me my own for Easter this year.
I’ve adopted a similar routine: the ice maker, which is surprisingly compact and not too heavy, lives on a wire shelf in my cellar (it’s actually a converted coal hole) and gets lifted out a couple of times a week into the kitchen for an ice making session. (I drink a lot more iced water than my mother, who mainly uses hers for G&Ts.)
So far it appears to be idiot proof (bless my mama, the technological age is not always her friend but even she finds this a doddle to run), easy to clean, and makes excellent ice. Plugging into the mains, it runs on an efficient compressor with a very low noise level, needs no external plumbing – you just lift up the lid to pour a jug of water into the reservoir, and is small enough to fit on my kitchen counter underneath the wall mounted cabinets
There are three ice cube size settings but I’d be hard pressed to discern much difference between any of them so I just stick it on large. (Medium is about half the size of a normal ice cube.) I also use the word ‘cube’ advisedly: they are more like little ice helmets.
It’s also important to note that, whilst the makers would have you believe that ice will be yours within ten minutes of switching it on, this is a somewhat disingenuous claim.
Yes, you will have ice. In 9mins 57 seconds (yup, I did time it) there will be exactly nine small cubes – a small bowl’s worth – in that time; not a cascade of frozen water, and certainly not enough for more than a couple of glasses at most. Fine for one after work drink. Useless for a group of more than two all clamouring for a cold drink NOW. But still a damn sight quicker than the two hours or so it would take to freeze an ice cube tray in the freezer.
For me it works best either switched on an hour before guests which will give you enough cubes to fill the ice bucket, or turned on in the morning and left to do its thing for a few hours; this will result in about 750gms of ice: enough for two – three large jugs of water. (If, like me, you like your jug at least a third full of ice.) I have also found that in the time it takes me to drink one jug of water in my desk, the next load of ice is ready.
I’ve also adopted my mother’s scheme of leaving it on for a day, topping up the water every few hours, to make four or five big bags for the freezer. (It can make 12-15kg in 24h, although do bear in mind that the reservoir will need refilling at least three times so you can’t just leave it to do its thing.)
It’s also worth noting that when the ice drops into the tray in the machine it makes a noise. The idiot dogs mistake this for a burglar breaking into the house, throw themselves off the sofa, and sprint barking into the kitchen. Every. Single. Time.
Glasses: IKEA VARDAGEN in 43cl & 31cl
Tea towel: Arket Linen Stripe £8.50
Organic Cotton Tablecloth: H&M Home Conscious in Dusky Green £12.99
Glass Jug: Similar at John Lewis here £20
Black Bonsai Scissors: Amazon £13.99
Copper Preserving Pan: Vintage. (Find similar on Ebay here.)