Tuesday, 08 July 2014 22:50

The History of Ice Cream: An American Favorite

Written by  Heather Taskovics (Kid Kulinaire Editor-in-Chief) and Leroy Williams (Kid Kulinaire Columnist)
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The History of Ice Cream:  An American Favorite Photo Credit: John Vachon/Library of Congress

Ice cream is one of the most popular treats that people love to enjoy eating during those hot summer days.  Throughout the US and the world, its variations are known as, frozen custard, frozen yogurt, sorbet, and gelato.  While the exact details about the “invention” of ice cream is not entirely known, its origins of can be traced back to as early as the 2nd century B.C.


Ice Cream’s Not-So-Humble Beginnings

During the time of Alexander the Great of Greece, ice was used to make drinks that would be sweetened with wine or honey.  Tales have been told stating that Emperor Nero of Rome would add fruit pulp and nectar to snow that his slaves had harvested from the mountains.

In China during the T’ang Dynasty of the 7th through 10th centuries, a sweet iced milk dessert made of fermented milk (cow, goat, or buffalo) that was heated then mixed with flour and camphor--known as koumiss--was enjoyed by the leaders of that period.

The Italians French, and British have also laid claim to the creation of ice cream; from Marco Polo returning to Italy from the Far East with a concoction that was more like what we know as sherbet today, to the 17th century cream ice that was enjoyed by Charles I of England, to 1660 France, where Procopio of Sicily introduced ice cream (made with milk, cream, butter, and eggs) to the general public at Paris’ first café, Café Procope.  In 1718, the first published ice cream recipe was in London in a cookbook entitled, Mrs. Mary Eales's Receipts.

Ice Cream in the New World

In 1744, a guest of Governor William Bladen of Maryland had written about having been served ice cream while dining at the governor’s home with several other distinguished VIPs.  Over 30 years later, the first American ice cream shop (what we know as an ice cream parlor today) opened in 1776 in New York City.

During the latter part of the 18th century, both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson shared a fondness for ice cream.  Washington was known to have spent around $200 on ice cream, while it was believed that Jefferson had several icehouses in order to store his favorite treat.

Ice Cream Methods

Up until around 1843, ice cream was made using what was known as the pot freezer method, until a woman named Nancy Johnson received a patent for a hand-cranked churn freezer.  This method (which has been improved throughout the years since) is the method that is still used today.

Ice Cream Becomes Available to the Masses

During the mid-19th century, Jacob Fussell, a dairyman from Baltimore, Maryland, would make ice cream with the surplus cream that he was unable to sell.  This led to Fussell opening the first commercially-produced ice cream factory in Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania.

Grocery stores didn’t start selling ice cream in the US until the 1930s.  Since then, ice cream had become so widely popular that by WWII, it was seen as an American symbol and fed to the troops as a morale booster.

Ice Cream at Home

As a child, I used to help my mom make ice cream the old fashioned way; we used to churn the ingredients in an ice cream maker with salt until it was made into ice cream.  We used to put fruit in the ice cream to give it some flavor and color.

It’s easy to make ice cream at home.  The most popular method today is requires an electric ice cream maker or a non-electric ice cream maker that goes in the freezer.  If you don’t have an ice cream maker, not to worry—there are ways to make ice cream without the use of a machine.  One fun and easy way to make ice cream is made using three freezer zipper bags; one to hold the ice and salt and two (one placed in the other) to hold the ingredients for the ice cream.  There is a great recipe that can be found on Allrecipes.com that uses the freezer bag method.  Try it with the kids as a great science experiment that they will be able to eat!

To learn more about the history of ice cream, check out the following resources online (or go to your local library to research books on the subject):

  1. International Dairy Foods Association - http://www.idfa.org/news-views/media-kits/ice-cream/the-history-of-ice-cream
  2. The Old Farmer’s Almanac - http://www.almanac.com/content/history-ice-cream-who-invented-it
  3. Wikipedia.org - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_cream
  4. About.com Inventors - http://inventors.about.com/od/foodrelatedinventions/a/ice_cream.htm
  5. eHow.com - http://www.ehow.com/about_5398104_history-ice-cream-america.html
Read 3572 times Last modified on Thursday, 10 July 2014 14:10
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