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U.S. Originals

History of Ice Cream

Ice cream's origins are known to reach back as far as the second century B.C., although no specific date of origin nor inventor has been undisputably credited with its discovery. We know that Alexander the Great enjoyed snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar. Biblical references also show that King Solomon was fond of iced drinks during harvesting. During the Roman Empire, Nero Claudius Caesar (A.D. 54-86) frequently sent runners into the mountains for snow, which was then flavored with fruits and juices.

Over a thousand years later, Marco Polo returned to Italy from the Far East with a recipe that closely resembled what is now called sherbet. Historians estimate that this recipe evolved into ice cream sometime in the 16th century. England seems to have discovered ice cream at the same time, or perhaps even earlier than the Italians. "Cream Ice," as it was called, appeared regularly at the table of Charles I during the 17th century. France was introduced to similar frozen desserts in 1553 by the Italian Catherine de Medici when she became the wife of Henry II of France. It wasn't until 1660 that ice cream was made available to the general public. The Sicilian Procopio introduced a recipe blending milk, cream, butter and eggs at Café Procope, the first café in Paris.

The first official account of ice cream in the New World comes from a letter written in 1744 by a guest of Maryland Governor William Bladen. The first advertisement for ice cream in this country appeared in the New York Gazette on May 12, 1777, when confectioner Philip Lenzi announced that ice cream was available "almost every day." Records kept by a Chatham Street, New York, merchant show that President George Washington spent approximately $200 for ice cream during the summer of 1790. Inventory records of Mount Vernon taken after Washington's death revealed "two pewter ice cream pots." President Thomas Jefferson was said to have a favorite 18-step recipe for an ice cream delicacy that resembled a modern-day Baked Alaska. Check out President Jefferson's vanilla ice cream recipe here. In 1812, Dolley Madison served a magnificent strawberry ice cream creation at President Madison's second inaugural banquet at the White House.

Until 1800, ice cream remained a rare and exotic dessert enjoyed mostly by the elite. Around 1800, insulated ice houses were invented. Manufacturing ice cream soon became an industry in America, pioneered in 1851 by a Baltimore milk dealer named Jacob Fussell. Like other American industries, ice cream production increased because of technological innovations, including steam power, mechanical refrigeration, the homogenizer, electric power and motors, packing machines, and new freezing processes and equipment. In addition, motorized delivery vehicles dramatically changed the industry. Due to ongoing technological advances, today's total frozen dairy annual production in the United States is more than 1.6 billion gallons.

Wide availability of ice cream in the late 19th century led to new creations. In 1874, the American soda fountain shop and the profession of the "soda jerk" emerged with the invention of the ice cream soda. In response to religious criticism for eating "sinfully" rich ice cream sodas on Sundays, ice cream merchants left out the carbonated water and invented the ice cream "Sunday" in the late 1890's. The name was eventually changed to "sundae" to remove any connection with the Sabbath.

Ice cream became an edible morale symbol during World War II. Each branch of the military tried to outdo the others in serving ice cream to its troops. In 1945, the first "floating ice cream parlor" was built for sailors in the western Pacific. When the war ended, and dairy product rationing was lifted, America celebrated its victory with ice cream. Americans consumed over 20 quarts of ice cream per person in 1946.

In the 1940's through the ‘70s, ice cream production was relatively constant in the United States. As more prepackaged ice cream was sold through supermarkets, traditional ice cream parlors and soda fountains started to disappear. Now, specialty ice cream stores and unique restaurants that feature ice cream dishes have surged in popularity. These stores and restaurants are popular with those who remember the ice cream shops and soda fountains of days past, as well as with new generations of ice cream fans.

Some facts...

  • Total U.S. production of ice cream and related frozen desserts in 2005 amounted to about 1.54 billion gallons, an increase of 0.9% over 2004. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Based on ice cream consumption figures, the top five individual flavors in terms of share of segment in the United States are: vanilla (26%), chocolate (12.9%), neapolitan (4.8%), strawberry (4.3%) and cookies n' cream (4.0%). Source: The NPD Group's National Eating Trends Services
  • In 2005*, total U.S. sales of ice cream and frozen desserts reached $21.6 billion. Of that total, $8.2 billion was spent on products for "at home" consumption, while $13.5 billion was spent on "away from home" frozen dessert purchases (scoop shops, foodservice and other retail sales outlets.) Source: 2006 Dairy Facts/International Ice Cream Association
  • Ice cream and related frozen desserts are consumed by more than 90% of households in the United States. Source: Mintel
  • According to 2005 U.S. production, regular ice cream accounts for the largest share of the frozen dessert market, at 63.8%. Reduced-fat, light, lowfat and nonfat ice cream account for 23.5% of the market, followed by frozen yogurt (4.3%), water ice (4.3%), sherbet (3.6%) and other (0.5%). Source: USDA
  • In 2005, California once again produced the largest volume of ice cream and related frozen desserts in the United States, followed by Indiana, Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, and New York. Source: USDA
  • The United States leads the world in annual production of ice cream and related frozen desserts at about 1.6 billion gallons in 2005. Source: USDA
  • In 2005, about 8% of the milk produced in the U.S. was used to make frozen dairy products. Source: USDA

Definitions of Frozen Dessert Products

Ice cream and frozen desserts come in many flavors and types that allow the consumer to choose from a host of delicious choices. Whether the flavor is vanilla, chocolate, pumpkin pie or cookie dough, ice cream and its related products share certain basic characteristics that are often unknown to -- or misunderstood by -- many consumers.

Frozen desserts come in many forms -- Each of the following foods has its own definition, and many are standardized by federal regulations:

Definitions

  • Ice Cream consists of a mixture of dairy ingredients such as milk and nonfat milk, and ingredients for sweetening and flavoring, such as fruits, nuts and chocolate chips. Functional ingredients, such as stabilizers and emulsifiers, are often included in the product to promote proper texture and enhance the eating experience. By federal law, ice cream must contain at least 10% milkfat, before the addition of bulky ingredients, and must weigh a minimum of 4.5 pounds to the gallon.
  • Frozen Custard or French Ice Cream must also contain a minimum of 10% milkfat, as well as at least 1.4 % egg yolk solids.
  • Sherbets have a milkfat content of between 1% and 2%, and a slightly higher sweetener content than ice cream. Sherbet weighs a minimum of 6 pounds to the gallon and is flavored either with fruit or other characterizing ingredients.
  • Gelato is characterized by an intense flavor and is served in a semi-frozen state that is similar to "soft serve" ice cream. Italian-style gelato is more dense than ice cream, since it has less air in the product. Typically, gelato has more milk than cream and also contains sweeteners, egg yolks and flavoring.
  • Sorbet and Water Ices are similar to sherbets, but contain no dairy ingredients.
  • A Quiescently Frozen Confection is a frozen novelty such as a water ice novelty on a stick.
  • Frozen Yogurt consists of a mixture of dairy ingredients such as milk and nonfat milk which have been cultured, as well as ingredients for sweetening and flavoring.
  • Novelties are separately packaged single servings of a frozen dessert -- such as ice cream sandwiches, fudge sticks and juice bars -- that may or may not contain dairy ingredients.

How Ice Cream Is Made

Everybody has a favorite flavor or brand of ice cream, and the debate over whose ice cream is the best rages on each year. While each manufacturer develops its own special recipes, ice cream production basics are basically the same everywhere.

The most important ice cream ingredients come from milk. The dairy ingredients are crucial in determining the characteristics of the final frozen product. Federal regulations state that ice cream must have at least 10% milkfat, the single most critical ingredient. The use of varying percentages of milkfat affects the palatability, smoothness, color, texture and food value of the finished product. Gourmet or superpremium ice creams contain at least 12% milkfat, usually more.

Ice cream contains nonfat solids (the non-fat, protein part of the milk), which contribute nutritional value (protein, calcium, minerals and vitamins). Nonfat dry milk, skim milk and whole milk are the usual sources of nonfat solids.

The sweeteners used in ice cream vary from cane or beet sugar to corn sweeteners or honey. Stabilizers, such as plant derivatives, are commonly used in small amounts to prevent the formation of large ice crystals and to make a smoother ice cream. Emulsifiers, such as lecithin and mono- and diglycerides, are also used in small amounts. They provide uniform whipping qualities to the ice cream during freezing, as well as a smoother and drier body and texture in the frozen form.

These basic ingredients are agitated and blended in a mixing tank. The mixture is then pumped into a pasteurizer, where it is heated and held at a predetermined temperature. The hot mixture is then "shot" through a homogenizer, where pressure of 2,000 to 2,500 pounds per square inch breaks the milkfat down into smaller particles, allowing the mixture to stay smooth and creamy. The mix is then quick-cooled to about 40°F and frozen via the "continuous freezer" method (the "batch freezer" method) that uses a steady flow of mix that freezes a set quantity of ice cream one batch at a time.

During freezing, the mix is aerated by "dashers," revolving blades in the freezer. The small air cells that are incorporated by this whipping action prevent ice cream from becoming a solid mass of frozen ingredients. The amount of aeration is called "overrun," and is limited by the federal standard that requires the finished product must not weigh less than 4.5 pounds per gallon.

The next step is the addition of bulky flavorings, such as fruits, nuts and chocolate chips. The ingredients are either "dropped" or "shot" into the semi-solid ice cream after it leaves the freezer.

After the flavoring additions are completed, the ice cream can be packaged in a variety of containers, cups or molds. It is moved quickly to a "hardening room," where sub-zero temperatures freeze the product to its final state for storage and distribution.

Recipe

Seven Layer Sundae

  • 1 frozen waffle, toasted
  • 1 scoop chocolate ice cream
  • 1 peanut butter cookie, cut in half
  • chocolate topping
  • candy sprinkles
  • whipped cream
  • maraschino cherry
  • chocolate topping
Place toasted waffle on serving dish. Scoop ice cream onto center of toasted waffle. Insert cookie halves at an angle into ice cream. Top with chocolate topping, sprinkles and whipped cream. Garnish with cherry. Makes 1 serving.

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Document Information
Source: Information courtesy of the International Dairy Foods Association, USA; magazineUSA.com
Last modified: 20070810
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