ice cream [ahys kreem] noun
A frozen dessert made from milk or cream, sugar and various flavors. United States food regulations require that any product labeled “ice cream” contain a minimum of 10% milk fat and 20% milk solids. (Our Pumpkin Ice Cream is shown above).
One of the earliest precursors to ice cream was created in Rome when Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar ordered his runners to go to the mountains and retrieve snow to be flavored with honey, juices and fruit pulp. Stories about its history abound – of Marco Polo returning to Europe from his travels in China with a sherbet-like recipe around the year 1400; Catherina de Medici bringing recipes for ice cream when she arrived in France to marry the future king in 1533; and Charles I of England bribing his private chef to keep the recipe secret because he was so entranced with the frozen treat. Some of these facts have more substantiation than others.
Ice cream does appear to have made its way to the United States around the year 1744, when Maryland’s governor Thomas Bladen served it to guests. In attendance was William Black of Virginia who wrote the following: “We had dessert no less curious; among the rarities of which it was compos’d was some fine iced cream which, with the strawberries and milk, eat most deliciously.” The first U.S. ice cream shop opened in New York in 1770, where Italian emigrant Giovanni Bosio sold the frozen treat, and indeed many of the first ice cream vendors were of Italian descent.
By the turn of the 19th century, Philadelphia was well known for the dessert due to large number of parlors, and also because of a style that was developed in the state that was not egg custard-based. The lack of egg allows Philadelphia-style ice cream to have a very fresh, clean taste.
According to the USDA 1.53 billion gallons of ice cream and related frozen desserts were produced in 2011. It represents a $10 billion industry with the great majority (almost 68%) coming from take-home ice cream sales. Vanilla remains the most popular flavor, with mint chocolate chip and cookies-and-cream coming close behind, according to a 2012 IDFA (International Dairy Foods Association) study.
Premium ice cream (such as Haagan Daz and Ben & Jerry’s) has a higher fat content and less aeration, resulting in a denser, richer product. Premium ice creams are more expensive but they are also considered the most popular (IDFA, 2012).
There is a wide range of ice cream machines to choose from. Some commercial brands make ice cream in seconds; other home units require pre-freezing an insulated container that, along with a paddle, chills and churns your ice cream mixture. There are versions available with their own compressors, as well as old-fashioned hand-crank options and even an ice cream “ball” that you essentially play kick-ball with. It is pre-chilled, and then kicking it around provides the agitation. Work off some calories before you eat!