It is beginning to feel a lot like summer! Long, hot days filled with outside activities, barbeques blazing, and cooling down with the quintessential frozen treat of summer, ice cream. We dug deeper (with ice cream scoops in hand) to find out exactly where the cherished frozen dessert came from and how it became the coolest treat of summer.
Versions of ice cream were created as far back as the second century B.C., however historians have had trouble nailing down an exact date. Historic figures like Alexander the Great, King Solomon, and Caesar all enjoyed variations of ice (or snow), honey, fruit juices, honey, and nectar.
When explorer Marco Polo traveled from Italy to the Far East he returned with recipes that were comparable to today’s sherbet. Eventually these recipes evolved to resemble more closely what we know today as ice cream. Around the same time, the rest of Europe had created variations of ice cream. The English uncovered a similar technique to making what was then called “cream ice”, and the famed Italian family, the Medicis, introduced the French to the frozen sweet. By the 1660s ice cream was all the rage in Europe, but mostly reserved for the wealthy and royalty.
In the U.S., ice cream only continued its popularity with politicians and the elite. There are records of George Washington spending a considerable amount of money on ice cream, and Thomas Jefferson had an eighteen-step recipe he closely followed. Thanks to the invention of insulated icehouses (and by the 1900s, delivery trucks), in the mid- 1800s ice cream was a lucrative industry in America and has grown into an over four billion dollar industry today.
Today we see ice cream served as sandwiches, on sticks, fried, on top of pies, sundaes, soft served, banana split, marble slabbed, and put in a deep freeze. There are an unimaginable amount of flavor variations of the chilled sweet. Classic flavors like true vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry can almost never go out of style. Trendier flavors to dream up often include three elements: savory (like potato chips or bacon), fruit (like cherry or banana), and richness from something like caramel, or dark chocolate. Another flavor profile gaining popularity is the addition of bright herbs like thyme, or rosemary with tart citrus flavors.
For homemade ice cream try any of these fun new flavors:
No ice cream machine? No problem! Any of these frozen treats can be made without the bulk apparatus:
Summer is the season for ice cream! For your next gathering have a make-your-own-sundae bar with classic and unique toppings (bacon bits and jalapeno); serve mini ice cream sandwiches with a variety of cookies and filled with different flavors, such as lemon ice cream between vanilla cookies, or strawberry ice cream filled in chocolate chip cookies. Ice cream cupcakes are two crowd pleasing desserts in one, simple cones with sprinkles or, individual banana splits. Guests love the playfulness that comes with ice cream and appreciate the chilled out sweet on a hot day.