two ice cream cones

The History of Ice Cream

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Ice cream is a soft frozen dessert made from milk, cream, sugar, and other flavors.

There are different myths and sources of where ice cream originated.

According to some, the origin of ice cream dates from 550 BCE in Persia. Their ice cream was composed of sweetened ice water crushed into tiny pieces sprinkled with toppings and fruits.

Some claimed that it was Roman Emperor Nero who introduced ice cream first. He made a mixture of honey and wine with the ice he got from the Apennine Mountains.

Roman Emperor Nero
Image Credit: World History Encyclopedia

There was also a belief that it came from the Mongol Empire and had progressed to China and Europe.

When Marco Polo returned to Italy, he brought the idea of sorbet desserts from his travels in China. Therefore, he was considered responsible for the influence of ice desserts in their country.

Marco Polo

Some stories also mentioned Catherine de Medici, an Italian duchess, who was said to have introduced the sorbet dessert to France with the help of some Italian chefs she brought to the country.

Catherine de Medici

King Charles I of England also offered his ice cream maker a sum of money to keep the ice cream formula a secret. However, there was no evidence to prove these myths, which were said to be stories from the Victorians.

King Charles I of England

The earliest evidence of ice cream-like food was first found in China during the Tang Dynasty in 618–907 AD. It was made of buffalo and goat’s milk, camphor, and flour.

Among King Tang of Shang’s staff, 94 were ice-men who helped him produce the dessert.

Since the 16th century, India has had a famous frozen dairy dessert called kulfi. It was made by pouring milk flavored with pistachios and saffron into metal tubes chilled in ice pools. King Tang’s icemen also used this method.

Years later, Italians made sorbetto, the first frozen iced dessert.

Records also found that Persians made sweet, chilled drinks with ice from the freezing water in the desert.

Arabs also drink sherbet or sharab, a chilled beverage. Travelers brought the recipes to Europe, which became very popular.

Italians developed a variety of recipes.

In 1694, the first book with ‘sorbetti’ recipes was published by Antonio Latini.

L0014343 Portrait of Antonio Latini
Image Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

France has also made significant contributions to the evolution of ice cream.

In 1674, the first solo sorbet recipe was made by Nicolas Lemery. In 1686, a café in Paris named Café Procope, owned by a Sicilian, Francesco Procopio, opened, where he sold ice desserts and sherbets.

It became so famous that other people also opened their shops and sold iced desserts.

The European settlers introduced ice cream to America. Americans made efforts to create various improvements to the dessert.

When the dessert was imported into the U.S., it was served by famous people such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Philip Lenzi, and Dolly Madison.

Thomas Jefferson made his recipe for vanilla ice cream. George Washington was known for his love for it, and he even bought various supplies for making and serving ice cream in the White House.

white ice cream on brown cone
Vanilla Ice Cream

In Europe, only the upper classes could afford to eat ice cream, but Americans thought of ways to make it available to the masses.

They made it possible by taking advantage of technological advances. Over time, several different ice cream recipes and trends developed.

How Was Ice Cream First Made?

Before refrigerators, there were different methods of making ice desserts.

During winter, ice was harvested and stored in ice houses. Ice harvesting was effective for cooling drinks and sorbets.

However, the desserts could only be chilled but not frozen, so they had to think up other methods.

After some time, the endothermic process was discovered. This method involved using salt in freezing because it makes the dessert colder.

There were still people who used this method even after the invention of refrigerators.

Ingredients were mixed in a container with ice and salt. The ice cream maker would manually turn the container while making the cream and scraping the mix from the sides of the container.

The first mechanized ice cream maker in the world was developed in 1843.

Thomas Masters created the Patent Ice Cream Apparatus in London, England, and patented it on July 6, 1843.

Nancy M. Johnson made the Artificial Freezer in Philadelphia with her patent given on September 9, 1843.

With their inventions, ice cream was produced faster and in larger quantities.

In 1851, Jacob Fussell built his ice cream factory in Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania. His factory allowed him to increase the production of his ice cream.

After two years, he relocated the factory to Baltimore. He also opened other branches in different places and shared his knowledge with those who wanted to have their own plants.

Ice cream became highly popular, and its cost became cheaper due to mass production.

The Birth of Ice Cream Cones

In 1896, the first ice cream cones were invented by Italo Marchiony. He made his cone in New York City and got it patented in December 1903.

In 1904, Ernest A. Hamwi introduced a new kind of cone at the St. Louis World’s Fair.

The Syrian concessionaire was selling his pastry products alongside an ice cream vendor.

The vendor ran out of containers for his ice cream, and Ernest Hamwi thought of a way to help the vendor.

He rolled one of his waffle-like pastries into a cone shape and gave it to the ice cream vendor.

The vendor put ice cream in the cone when it cooled down. The customers were happy with it, and soon after, the cone became famous.

Ice Cream Facts

strawberry ice cream on cone
  • Chocolate ice cream was first invented before vanilla, but the latter is the most popular flavor.
  • The U.S. is the country that consumes the most ice cream. Almost 90% of Americans have ice cream in their fridges.
  • A hotdog-flavored ice cream was invented in Arizona, U.S.
  • Ice cream sellers sell the most on Sundays.
  • Chocolate syrup is the most popular topping.
  • A scoop of ice cream can be finished with 50 licks.
  • A gallon of ice cream uses 12 gallons of milk.
  • In 1920, Harry Burt was the first ice cream vendor.
  • Professional ice cream tasters use a golden spoon to try new flavors that will not affect the taste of the ice cream.
  • An average American eats 48 pints of ice cream yearly.
  • An ice cream headache known as brain freeze is triggered whenever something cold or frozen touches the roof of the mouth.
  • A research study says that people who eat ice cream in the morning stay more alert than those who don’t.
  • There are more than 1,000 flavors of ice cream in the world.
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