Legend has it that Nero the infamous Roman Emperor (54-68 AD) send slaves into the mountains to collect shaved ice which was mixed with honey, nectar and fruit pulp and served as frozen desserts to important guests.
The Chinese were the first to use a mixture of snow and saltpeter packed around containers filled with ice cream base to freeze their ice cream. The saltpeter lowered the freezing point of the ice cream mixture preventing it from freezing into a solid block of ice.
In September 1843 Nancy Johnston of Philadelphia patented the first mechanical ice cream maker consisting of a tub, cylinder, lid, dasher, and crank. Modern versions of her device are still widely used in many home kitchens today.
In 1851 Jacob Fussel of Baltimore built the first ice cream factory in Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania to take care of his surplus cream. The ice cream was transported from his factory to outlets in his hometown Baltimore making Fassel the first commercial ice cream manufacturer and wholesaler.
The invention of industrial refrigeration by Carl von Linde in the 1870’s put an end to the use of ice in the ice cream making process and with the perfection of the continuous-freezing process during the 1920’s the modern commercial ice cream industry was born. In the United States grocery stores started selling commercially produced ice cream in the 1930’s.
Ice cream were considered so important for American troops’ morale during WWII that mobile ice cream stations were erected close to the front lines to supply solders with their favourite frozen treats.
Benito Mussolini did not appreciate the American ice cream invasion of his nation and banned the sale of all ice cream in Italy. In 1943 the US Armed Forces became the world’s largest manufacturer of ice cream. In 1945 the US Navy produced a floating barge as ice cream parlor that could produce 10 gallons (about 38 liters) of ice cream per hour.
Here are some of the key moments in the history of ice cream, as we know it today.
- 1870’s: Invention of the Neopolitan ice cream. This was also the first time multiple flavours of ice cream were compressed in a single mold.
- 1882: Charles Ranhofer invents the ‘Baked Alaska’ to commemorate America’s purchase of Alaska.
- 1903: Italo Marchioni patents the edible ice-cream cone in New York.
- 1904: David Strickler invents the banana-spit in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
- 1905: Frank Epperson (at age 11) invents the ‘Popsicle’ or ‘ice-on-a-stick’. It was patented in 1924.
- 1919: Under pressure of the Prohibition Act, some large beer manufacturers in the United States convert to ice cream making and turn bars into ice cream parlors.
- 1921: Christian Nelson invents the ‘Eskimo Pie’- a foil wrapped, chocolate covered ice cream.
- 1923: Factory-filled, paper cups of ice cream make their first appearance.
- 1929: William Dreyer invents the ‘Rocky Road’.
- 1989: Scientists at the Smithsonian invents the freeze-dried ‘space bar’ ice cream that is also known as “astronaut ice cream”. Because it is freeze-dried, astronaut ice cream never melts.
- 1990: Frozen yogurt became the craze among more health-conscious consumers.
Ice cream comes in different forms forms. Here are some of the most popular ones:
- French Ice Cream: This is a very rich version of ice cream that contains at least 1.4 percent egg-yolk solids. The egg-yolks, together with cream, milk and sugar, are cooked to form “custard” that serves as the “ice cream base” into which flavourings are added.
- Gelato: Italian ice cream that is usually low in butterfat (5-10%) with intense flavour and serve in a softer state than regular ice cream.
- Sorbet: Sorbets are water-based and thus contain no butterfat. It almost always contains fruit.
- Philadelphia ice cream: Ice cream that contains no egg.
- Variegated ice cream: Ice cream that is mixed with syrup or fudge to produce a ‘marbled effect’.
- Frozen yogurt: Frozen desert using yogurt and other dairy products as base ingredient. It contains less fat than regular ice cream, and may or may not contain live yogurt cultures.
- Soft serve: Ice cream served from a special machine in which the ice cream base is stored in liquid form. This is frozen at higher temperatures than ordinary ice cream at the time as the ice cream is dispensed (usually into a cup or sugar cone).
Given that the base ingredients for making ice cream are fairly neutral in flavour, it is sometimes regarded as one of the most creative culinary spaces to explore. Thus, go mad. To inspire you, I am including recipe for oven-roasted tangerine ice cream. It is easy to make (just keep an eye on the caramel) and packs a mean flavour punch.