The first official account of ice cream in the American colonies was noted in a letter in 1744. The first advertisement for ice cream appeared in the New York Gazette in 1777. George Washington spent $200 for ice cream during the summer of 1790. (That is more than $7,000 in today’s dollars!) Also, that must have been one hot summer. Around here, a special summer treat has always been homemade peach ice cream, and you can still find it at some of the peach stands around town.
My first recollection of ice cream was the ice box ice cream my mother occasionally made. It was a lot of work. That is why we did not have it often, but I remember it well. After cooking a batch, she poured the mixture into an empty ice tray and allowed it to freeze in the tiny freezing compartment of our Kelvinator refrigerator. It apparently froze in stratified layers. It was so great to crunch through these, but I can only imagine today that she had failed to remove it during its freezing to mix it more thoroughly. It did not matter because it was delicious, nevertheless.
The first time I ever ate peach ice cream was at the home of Cora Henke, the wife of Max T. Henke and mother of Sidney Henke who once served as mayor. She was a long-time member of my mom’s Every Other Thursday’s Bridge Club, a club that lasted for more than half a century, and a very special family friend. Hers was not crunchy, and it was the first time I ever had ice cream with chunks of peaches. So good! The best homemade ice cream I ever ate, however, was from a batch made by Mickey Crenwelge. That was decades ago when she and her husband Milton were hosting a garden party, but one that I have never forgotten. Some people just have a knack for making the simplest things unforgettable.
In the mid-50s, there was a popular ice cream substitute available in grocery called Mellorine. This was a milk product promoted as a more affordable alternative to ice cream. Since it was made from soybean oil the USDA had imposed standards on the product and forced the use of pasteurized milk in its making. It was cheap and my mom bought it a lot. I suppose that we never even thought about it not being real ice cream. In fact, many producers were pumping large quantities of air into the ice cream to fill out the carton so that supermarkets could sell bulk gallons of it for $1.99. We were really being sold ½ gallon of air to ½ gallon of ice cream. It may have been cheap, convenient, and ubiquitous, but not necessarily good. Thankfully, today, it cannot be found anywhere, at least I couldn’t find it. In the 1970s the country returned to quality via the emergence of “premium” boutique brands like Häagen-Dazs, an ice cream loaded with high butterfat content. Ben and Jerry opened their first shop in 1977. And, as so many might say, the rest is history. Today the number of local ice cream boutiques seems endless, and Americans are back to enjoying real, honest to goodness, ice cream.
We never had an ice cream maker and I have watched one making ice cream only once. History has not had much to say about Nancy M. Johnson, who invented the hand-cranked ice cream freezer three years before Meusebach led the first settlers to the future site of Fredericksburg. It took 45 minutes (much less labor than stirring with a spoon) of turning the crank to make this delicious treat. The secret to making these machines work was the addition of salt to the ice. White Mountain became the leading producer of these machines, and their hand-cranked machines are still sold to this day.
In 1851, a Baltimore milk dealer, Jacob Fussell, with an excess of milk on his hands, became the father of the ice cream industry. His was the first large-scale commercial ice cream plant. He later sold his business to one we know much better today—Borden. The development of industrial refrigeration by another German, Carl v. Linde, eliminated the need to cut and store blocks of natural river ice. And, just as recently as 1926, the perfection of a continuous freezer allowed the mass production of ice cream. We are just years away from its 100th anniversary.
Now for some ice cream facts: It takes 12 lbs. of whole milk to make just one gallon of ice cream. We each eat 48 pints of ice cream per person per year—more than any other country. A waffle vendor rushed to the rescue of an ice cream vendor who had run out of cups at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, thus creating the first ice cream cone. Citizens of Portland, Oregon bought more ice cream than any other U.S. city in 2003, and in 1988, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada created an ice cream sundae that weighed 48,000 pounds.
So, what are you waiting for? Enjoy a scoop of peach ice cream today. Better yet, try your hand at making it yourself. Peaches are still in season!
PEACH ICE CREAM USING AN ICE CREAM MACHINE
For each Quart –
3 large eggs yolks
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 ½ cup heavy cream
1 ½ cups whole milk
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla
1 vanilla bean (optional)
3 large peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into bite-size chunks
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and brown sugar.
In a large saucepan, bring the cream and milk to a simmer over low heat.
Whisking constantly, slowly pour the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture until combined.
Return this to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 3-5 minutes or until custard has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Immediately strain the custard into a bowl.
Set this bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice water to cool, stirring occasionally.
When cooled, stir in the lemon juice, vanilla, and vanilla bean, if desired.
Remove the vanilla bean and freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, adding the peaches halfway through the churning process.
By Mark Wieser