The history of ice cream

Bowls of ice cream
There’s nothing quite like a delicious bowl of ice cream on a hot summer’s day!
Image source: Unsplash.

What better way to stay cool in the warmer months than with some delicious, cooling ice cream? The sweet confectionery is a firm favourite for many, and with good reason. From traditional soft serve cones eaten on a trip to the seaside, to luxury brand tubs consumed from the comfort of your own home, ice cream serves as a delectable treat regardless of your age!

How much do you know about the cold dessert?

Mysterious beginnings…

Colourful ice creams
Ice cream as we know it is very different to its beginnings.
Image source: Unsplash.

Ice cream as we know it is very different to the first ice cream-like foods that have appeared throughout history. In fact, there is no definitive origin for it; the inception of this famous dessert is rumoured to have been started from all kinds of exotic locations across the globe, but there’s no conclusive evidence to say for sure where it came from.

It is rumoured that Alexander the Great loved snow that had been flavoured with honey and nectar. There are many biblical references to King Solomon having a penchant for iced drinks, and Nero Claudius Caesar was known for sending his servants into the mountains to collect snow which was then flavoured with fruits and juices.

One of the earliest incarnations of an icy dessert mixed with milk was developed in China, a recipe which is reputed to have been brought back to Italy by Marco Polo, though there is no reference to ice in the famous traveller’s journals. The ice cream as we know it, a frozen custard confection mixed with cream and egg yolks, is more likely to have come from France in the 18th century.

A popular treat

Strawberries and ice cream
Charles II treated his royal guests to ice cream and strawberries.
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Ice cream was made popular in Britain when Charles II offered it to royal guests at a banquet in 1761: ‘one plate of white strawberries and one plate of iced cream’. It was purely a dish for the rich, as no one but the wealthy had the means to freeze it.

Ice houses were built on more affluent estates to stockpile ice which was gathered during the winter time, to keep food and drink cool in the summer. The ice was of such poor quality that it wasn’t used in actual food, but stored under layers of straw and bark. As the industrial revolution hit and methods of freezing improved, ice cream became more accessible to those who might not have been able to afford it.

Across the pond

Raspberry ice cream
Ice cream has become a staple for many Americans.
Image source: Unsplash.

While we Brits may enjoy a lovely 99 on a hot summer’s day, it doesn’t compare to America’s love of this frozen treat! In fact, Americans consume the largest amount of ice cream around the world. During the Second World War, it was seen as a symbol of Americanism, and serving it to the troops became a source of moral.

Ice cream became mass produced in America when a Pennsylvanian milk dealer, Jacob Fussell, became frustrated that the demand for his products fluctuated. Instead, he decided to open an ice cream factory in 1851, which made the treat more accessible for the lower classes.

In 1874, soda fountain shops became popular with the invention of the ice cream soda; what we Brits would call an ice cream float. However, the favoured treat came under criticism from religious persons, as they claimed it was sinful to eat such rich desserts on a Sunday. To combat this, ice cream sellers started to leave out the fizzy drink, inventing the ice cream Sunday. This was eventually changed to ‘sundae’ to remove any connotations with the Sabbath.

Feeling inspired?

Cooks Professional ice cream maker
Why not try and make your own ice cream?
Image source: Clifford James.

No matter whether it’s sunny or wintery cold, there’s always time for ice cream. If you’re feeling inspired by the history of this infamous treat, why not try and make your own? Times have moved on quite a bit from the ice houses of the 17th century – an ice cream maker allows you to create a whole variety of delicious flavours right from the comfort of your own home.

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