July 4 – Celebrate with Ice Cream!

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month. Certainly a great deal of ice cream is consumed on July 4th, which is celebrated as Independence Day in the U.S.

Recipe for “4th of July Kid’s Rice Krispies Cones” at Savvymamalifestyle.com

According to a PBS site, the emperors of the Tang Dynasty (618 907 AD) are believed to have been the first to eat a frozen milk-like confection. The BBC reports, in a history of ice cream, that “King Tang had 94 ice men who helped make a dish of buffalo milk, flour, and camphor.”

In medieval times, Arabs drank a flavored icy drink called sherbet, or sharabt in Arabic. Over time, the drink became popular with the European aristocracy.

In the 17th century, ice drinks were made into frozen desserts. As PBS writes, Antonio Latini (1642-1692), a man working for a Spanish Viceroy in Naples, is credited with being the first person to write down a recipe for sorbetto. He is also responsible for creating a milk-based sorbet, which most culinary historians consider the first official ice cream.

Around the same time, the French began experimenting with a frozen dessert that featured ices flavored with fruit, a dessert that became very popular. The French are said to have brought the treat to America.

A waiter (in the brown coat) bears a tray of espumas heladas, a Spanish frozen mousse, in this 18th-century Valencian tilework. Museum of Decorative Arts, Madrid. Photo by Oronoz, Album, via National Geographic

The IFDA (International Dairy Foods Association) notes that the first official account of ice cream in North America came 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.”

The Mount Vernon website points out that the first reference to ice cream at Mount Vernon dates to May of 1784, when a “Cream Machine for Ice” was acquired. Additional utensils for preparing and serving ice cream were purchased by George Washington on several occasions during his presidency.

Image via Progressive Dairy

Washington was of course not the only president to favor ice cream. A Monticello website reads:

“While the claim that Thomas Jefferson introduced ice cream to the United States is demonstrably false, he can be credited with the first known recipe recorded by an American. Jefferson also likely helped to popularize ice cream in this country when he served it at the President’s House in Washington.

One of only ten recipes surviving in Thomas Jefferson’s hand, the recipe for ice cream most likely dates to his time in France.”

The IFDA observes:

“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 1843 New Yorker Nancy M. Johnson patented the first hand-cranked ice-cream maker. After turning the crank for about 45 minutes (which was less time than making it by hand), the ice cream was ready. The machine sold quickly, with improvements in later models. Via National Geographic

Thomas Jefferson, who died, by the way, on July 4, was definitely one of the elites who had the wealth to enjoy ice cream before mechanization. He had plenty of slave labor, and an ice house at Monticello. Primarily used to preserve meat and butter, it also kept wine and ice cream chilled. (Jefferson observed that: “snow gives the most delicate flavor to creams, but ice is the most powerful congealer and lasts longer.”)

Thomas Jefferson and Ice Cream from San Francisco Chronicle Illustration by Tom Murray

The first American recipe for ice cream was in Jefferson’s own hand, and it is transliterated for you by the Monticello website, here. It is replicated below:



2 bottles [about 1 quart / 950 ml] of “good cream” (33 % should be fine; you can probably go even lower and do avoid using too fat cream!)
6 egg yolks
½ lb. (about 225 ml) sugar
1 stick of vanilla [original] OR 2 teaspoons of (genuine) vanilla powder of good quality
(optional, although not original: pinch of salt)


Beat the egg yolks until “thick and lemon-colored”.
Add, gradually, 1 cup (about 225 ml) of sugar [and, possibly, a pinch of salt].
If using vanilla bean – split it, and add the seed and the bean to the base now.Otherwise, add the vanilla powder.
Bring the cream to an almost- boil and then slowly pour it, little by little, into the egg mixture. Whisk well.
Put back on the stove, whisk regularly until the base thickens [ happens around about 82-84º Celsius /180-183 ºF], then remove and strain through a fine sieve into a bowl.
Let cool down.
Chill before churning in your ice cream machine.
If you have no ice cream machine, still-freeze using your refrigerator.


Another presidential fan of ice cream

About rhapsodyinbooks

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1 Response to July 4 – Celebrate with Ice Cream!

  1. msyingling says:

    Lots of interesting facts about ice cream. Now I’m off to see if I can find a shorter nonfiction book on the topic for my library!

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