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Do you have a collection of empty ice-cream pails?

If you do, you probably use some to fill with Christmas goodies to have on hand in the freezer

Do you have a collection of empty ice-cream pails?

My parents never threw out anything that might be used for something else. This was never more evident than in the stack of plastic ice-cream pails leaning like the Tower of Pisa in a corner of the laundry room. No kidding, it’s taller than I am. Growing up, we ate a lot of ice cream. It was the easiest dessert with the highest approval rating.

Now that my parents are no longer cooking for a family, they don’t cook much at all. Why bother with all that, when you can go straight to dessert, um, ice cream? It’s become the food group at the top of the pyramid, the one you eat first. Which adds up to a bottomless pit of ice-cream pails.

My fondest use of ice-cream pails — once they’re free of ice cream — comes at berry-picking time, particularly saskatoon berry season in mid-July. With the handle looped into my belt, the plastic pail bobs effortlessly at my side while both hands are free to pick berries at will. This alone is good reason to eat more ice cream. Just this past summer, while helping my parents clean out their big chest freezer, I discovered four ice-cream pails full of frozen saskatoons. I also discovered three ice-cream pails full of ice cream.

When I grew up and got a house of my own, I equipped myself with a small stack of ice-cream pails from my parents’ stash. Their uses were endless. I kept the cleaning supplies in an ice-cream pail. I bought bulk lentils and stored them in an ice-cream pail. I used them in the garden (picking weeds, picking peas, picking potato bugs) and for washing the inside of my car. The compost bucket was an ice-cream pail under the sink.

I checked with my friends, who added a few more uses to that list: fermenting pickles, gathering eggs, stashing toys, trick-or-treating for Halloween candy, premixing a batch of six-week muffins, making vodka slush and collecting small engine parts and other odds and ends you “might need someday.” My friend Carol keeps modelling clay in an ice-cream pail and, on occasion, uses the lid as a paint palette. Speaking of lids, how often have you entered a contest by writing your name on a piece of paper and dropping it through a slot in the lid of an ice-cream pail?

This time of year, I imagine moms and grandmas across the Prairies are filling a fair number of ice-cream pails with seasonal goodies and stashing them in the freezer ready for company and family holidays. This might be the most anticipated reuse of the plastic ice-cream pail since berry-picking season.

No doubt, your family has a story like this one from Richard, who discovered his mom’s secret stash of cookies in the freezer: “I would eat them and as Christmas approached, I’d tell my brothers about the ice-cream pails. Of course, when my mom asked where the cookies had all gone, I’d have to tell her I’d seen my brothers rooting in the freezer.”

However, others such as my friend Jen observe that plastic ice-cream pails are not what they used to be: “If I can have a Grandpa Simpson moment, they’re just not made like they used to be. We used them to collect eggs and carry water, but they’re clearly making them flimsier and flimsier to make them cheaper. I wouldn’t trust a modern-day ice-cream pail with 30 eggs!”

No, but I would still trust them with cookies like this one, which freeze very well. But no guarantees they won’t mysteriously disappear.


  • 2-1/4 tsp. yeast (1 packet)
  • 1/4 c. warm water
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 c. soft butter
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Sugar and cinnamon for rolling

Dissolve yeast in warm water. In a bowl, stir together flour, salt and sugar. Work in butter with your fingers. Combine milk, eggs and yeast. Add to flour, mixing well. Turn onto a floured surface and knead briefly until smooth. The dough will be sticky. Wrap and refrigerate overnight. Divide dough in six parts, working with one part at a time. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon generously on the countertop, place a piece of dough on top and roll to a circle 1/8 inch thick. Cut the circle into 12 wedges, like pieces of a pie. Roll up each wedge from the wide end to the pointed end. Place 1 inch apart on lightly greased baking sheet. Fashion into a crescent and bake at 350 F for 15 to 20 minutes.

About the author


Amy Jo Ehman is the author of Prairie Feast: A Writer’s Journey Home for Dinner, and, Out of Old Saskatchewan Kitchens. She hails from Craik, Saskatchewan.

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