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The History of Ice Cream

The Evolution 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.

Ice Cream for America

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.  In 1813, 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 1940s 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.

 The History of the Ice Cream Cone
For over a century, Americans have been enjoying ice cream on a cone. Whether it's a waffle cone, a sugar cone or a wafer cone, what better way to enjoy a double scoop of your favorite flavor?

Making Its Appearance

The first ice cream cone was produced in 1896 by Italo Marchiony. Marchiony, who emigrated from Italy in the late 1800s, invented his ice cream cone in New York City. He was granted a patent in December 1903.
Although Marchiony is credited with the invention of the cone, a similar creation was independently introduced at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair by Ernest A. Hamwi, a Syrian concessionaire. Hamwi was selling a crisp, waffle-like pastry -- zalabis -- in a booth right next to an ice cream vendor. Because of ice cream's popularity, the vendor ran out of dishes. Hamwi saw an easy solution to the ice cream vendor's problem: he quickly rolled one of his wafer-like waffles in the shape of a cone, or cornucopia, and gave it to the ice cream vendor. The cone cooled in a few seconds, the vendor put some ice cream in it, the customers were happy and the cone was on its way to becoming the great American institution that it is today.

A Business is Born

St. Louis, a foundry town, quickly capitalized on the cone's success. Enterprising people invented special baking equipment for making the World's Fair cornucopia cones.
Stephen Sullivan of Sullivan, Missouri, was one of the first known independent operators in the ice cream cone business. In 1906, Sullivan served ice cream cones (or cornucopias, as they were still called) at the Modern Woodmen of America Frisco Log Rolling in Sullivan, Missouri.
At the same time, Hamwi was busy with the Cornucopia Waffle Company. In 1910, he founded the Missouri Cone Company, later known as the Western Cone Company.
As the modern ice cream cone developed, two distinct types of cones emerged. The rolled cone was a waffle, baked in a round shape and rolled (first by hand, later mechanically) as soon as it came off the griddle. In a few seconds, it hardened in the form of a crisp cone. The second type of cone was molded either by pouring batter into a shell, inserting a core on which the cone was baked, and then removing the core; or pouring the batter into a mold, baking it and then splitting the mold so the cone could be removed with little difficulty.
In the 1920s, the cone business expanded. Cone production in 1924 reached a record 245 million. Slight changes in automatic machinery have led to the ice cream cone we know today. Now, millions of rolled cones are turned out on machines that are capable of producing about 150,000 cones every 24 hours.

 Tips on Storing & Handling Ice Cream

Keep It Cool!

The International Ice Cream Association offers these suggestions on the proper handling and storage of ice cream and frozen desserts to help consumers enjoy America's favorite treat to the fullest.
Ice cream is a perishable product and should be treated carefully. When frozen desserts are exposed to temperatures above 10°F, they become subject to adverse changes in body, texture and flavor characteristics. Although individual manufacturers' recipes yield ice cream of varying consistency and flavor, all ice cream will be negatively affected if improperly handled or stored. Because of the fluctuating temperatures in most home freezers, IICA recommends that people follow these tips, and enjoy ice cream within a month of purchase.
Here are some tips on how to keep ice cream in its most delectable form:

In the Store:

  • Make the ice cream aisle your last stop during your trip to the supermarket.
  • Check the temperature of your grocer's freezer case. The temperature in the supermarket's freezer case should not be above -20°F. If kept at a proper temperature, ice cream will be thoroughly frozen and will feel hard to the touch. If the product is soft, you may wish to bring it to the attention of the store manager.
  • In an open top freezer case, always select ice cream and frozen treats stored below the freezer line.
  • Put ice cream products in the separate section of your grocery cart, or place on top of other groceries.
  • Insulate ice cream products for the ride home. When your groceries are packed, request a freezer bag or additional brown paper bag to insulate your ice cream.
  • Make the grocery store or ice cream parlor your last errand before going home. This will insure that your ice cream does not sit in a warm car while you are making other stops.

At Home:

  • Do not allow ice cream to repeatedly soften and re-freeze. When ice cream's small ice crystals melt and re-freeze, they can eventually turn into large, unpalatable lumps.
  • Your freezer should be set at between -5°F and 0°F. Ice cream is easy to dip between 6°F and 10°F, the ideal serving temperature range.
  • Store ice cream in the main part of the freezer. Do not store ice cream in the freezer door, where ice cream can be subject to more fluctuating temperatures since the door is repeatedly open and shut.
  • Keep the ice cream container lid tightly closed when storing in the freezer.
  • Don't store ice cream alongside uncovered foods; odors may penetrate ice cream and affect its flavor.
By following these simple suggestions, you can help ensure that your ice cream and other frozen dessert treats will stay the way they left the manufacturer — attractive and delicious!
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