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A Scoop of Ice Cream History

Who Invented Ice Cream?

A wonderful question...but sadly ice cream history does not reveal this mystery. But...

...history is full of ice cream legends and folklore concerning the early beginnings of ice cream. There are many of fascinating stories. Some are probably true. I'll let you make the final decision.



ice cream history

In The Beginning There Was Ice

Although ice cream history doesn't reveal the origin of the first ice cream, we do know one thing - if you're going to have ice cream...you've got to have ice! Before refrigeration, ice was the way people made things cold.

As early as 1100 BC, the Chinese were making ice houses. These houses worked so well that they could keep ice frozen even in the summer! They had the ability to make ice cream at this time, but whether they did or not, no one knows for sure!

It is China who comes up first with the earliest ice cream recipe - not exactly like the ice cream you'd eat - but it's a step in the right direction!

This recipe (dating back to 618-917 A.D. during the Tang dynasty) didn't just use cow milk. It was a mixture of horse, waterbuffalo, cow, and goat milk! How would you like to try a spoon full of that?!

Although this early Chinese recipe did involve milk, most of what is considered early ice cream just involved ice.

In 1000 A.D., the Japanese were mixing together the first slushie...ice chips and fruit! What a wonderful treat!


history of ice cream

Making Ice Cream with Salt?

No, it's not that people put salt in their ice cream, but they did use salt to make their ice cream. Let me explain this part of ice cream history.

In the 1600s, before people knew what a refrigerator or freezer was, people needed some way to make things cold. They used ice.

Some creative people realized that salt lowers the freezing temperature of water. So the cold from the salt/ice mixture could be used to freeze whatever was touching it. What better thing to freeze but ice cream ingredients?!

A large bowl filled with ice cream ingredients was placed in a large bucket of an ice/salt mixture. When an ice cream lover stirred the ice cream ingredients, the ice/salt mixture would slowly freeze the ingredients into ice cream. This was a big job - but with no other way of making ice cream - it was well worth it! Ice cream historians call this the still pot method.

You don't need to know ice cream history to know that ice cream tastes best on a hot summer day! When there were no freezers, how did people have ice to make ice cream in the summer?

A very good question! In the winter, they would cut large blocks of ice out of lakes. Then, they would put the ice in ice houses insulated by straw or dig large holes in the ground and store the ice in the ground to keep it from melting.

This would keep the ice cold - even in the summer! When they were ready to make ice cream, they would get the ice and use the still pot method.



Loving Ice Cream Just Got Easier

Ice cream got a whole lot easier to make after 1846. In this year, Nancy Johnson invented the first hand cranked freezer. No doubt she had made ice cream the old way with salt, ice, and a bucket...hard work!

Her freezer sped up ice cream making to just 20 minutes! A real milestone in ice cream history! Now the ice cream lover's appetite could be satisfied sooner!

inventor of ice cream

Ice cream got a whole lot easier to buy after 1851. Jacob Fussel Jr. was a milk dealer by trade, but had the heart of an entrepreneur. One summer he decided to use a little bit of his extra cream to make and sell ice cream. People loved his ice cream!

His business was such a success that he converted his dairy business into an ice cream business and became the first ice cream manufacturer in America. He was able to sell ice cream for about 1/3 of the price.

Ice cream got a whole lot easier to scoop after 1878. There's nothing worse then having a container full of ice cream right in front of you - you dip your spoon into put the ice cream and are ready to drop it into your bowl...but the ice cream gets stuck on the spoon! After much work you finally get the ice cream off the spoon and sit back to enjoy your treat.

William Clewall solved the problem of difficult to scoop ice cream. Clewall's design had a scraper inside of the ice cream scoop so that the ice cream could be quickly scraped off the spoon into the waiting bowl!

Ice cream got a whole lot easier to eat after 1904. In this year at the St. Louis World Fair, the ice cream cone was popularized. Who invented the ice cream cone? Well, it's debated. Ice cream history doesn't reveal the hard facts. Why don't you decide for yourself?

Whoever the inventor was - the trend stuck. Originally, ice cream cones were called cornucopias - but now we know and love them simply as ice cream cones - making ice cream a portable and easy to eat dessert.


How Do You Like to Eat Your Ice Cream?

Throughout the history of ice cream, there have been different trends in how people eat it. Of course, there has always been the bowl and the spoon method and we've already talked about the ice cream cone.

invented ice cream

Ice cream history took an elegant twist in Victorian England. During this time, it was not considered respectable to merely serve a scoop full of ice cream. No! Ice cream was placed in elaborate molds. When they were taken out of the mold and served, they were beautiful masterpieces - almost too nice to eat!

It was during the late 1800s that people started putting ice cream in their soda. This invention was an accident. Robert M. Green was mixing soda with cream for people to drink - but he ran out of cream. He had some ice cream on hand so he used that instead! People loved the new version of the drink much better than the old!

In 1920 Christian Nelson change ice cream history through his invention of ice cream on a stick. He sold candy for a living. One day a boy came into his store but couldn't make up his mind about whether he wanted chocolate or ice cream. Nelson's imagination kicked in. He decided to make a brick of ice cream coated with chocolate and put it on a stick! He dubbed it the "I-Scream Bar."

 What new trends will ice cream history document in the future?


By Jenn Fraiser

New! Please leave a reply!

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