You know it’s hot outside when you stop by a friend’s home on the 4th of July, he’s got a growler of Township 7 Raspberry Haze ale and a half-gallon of Stewart’s butter pecan ice-cream on the kitchen counter, and he’s making himself a craft-beer float. “Try one!” he said. Let’s just say it’s an acquired taste.
But it made me think that something similar may have been the inspiration for Butterbeer, the brisk, inebriating beverage enjoyed by the characters in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. So, I asked him what the inspiration for his craft-beer float was and he just looked me like it was a dumb question. “It’s hot,” he answered. Then he told me that July is National Ice Cream Month. And since it was Independence Day, it was our “patriotic duty” to drink those craft-beer floats.
“It’s great to be an American!” I said, adding that I knew that June was National Dairy Month. And that National Dairy Month started out as National Milk Month in 1937. But National Ice Cream Month sounded like a made up holiday to me.
It’s not. In 1984, the Congress of the United States, with Senate Joint Resolution 298, authorized then-President Ronald Reagan to designate July as National Ice Cream Month. And the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day. Raegan did so by Presidential Proclamation (Proclamation 5219).
Ice cream is one of the most-enjoyed and most-satisfying food choices of pretty much everyone I know. Everyone has his or her own favorite brand, flavor, or texture. Some like hard ice cream. Some like soft ice cream. Some prefer low-calorie or light ice cream. Others prefer gelato, frozen yogurt, sherbet, or sorbets.
While ice cream is made with cream and eggs, gelato (Italian for ice cream) is made with regular milk and sugar. It’s lower in fat, with a density and sumptuousness that sets it apart from other ice creams.
Frozen yogurt typically consists of milk solids, some kind of sweetener, milk fat, yogurt culture, natural or artificial flavorings, and sometimes natural or artificial coloring. Since it’s made with milk instead of cream, it’s lower in fat and calories than ordinary ice cream. However, the live probiotic microorganisms found in yogurt are killed when frozen, eliminating their benefits.
Sherbet is made with fruit and water and a little bit of milk or buttermilk, unlike Sorbet, which is dairy and fat-free, made from water and fruit puree or juice, and reminiscent of some of the oldest forms of frozen desserts.
It’s believed that the ancient Persians added fruits, saffron, rose-water, and other flavors to stored snow and ice; that the Chinese froze a mixture of milk and rice by packing it in snow; and that the Romans combined snow with honey and fruits. Recipes for ices, sherbets, and milk ice eventually found their way into royal courts in England, Italy, and France.
In 1700, Governor Thomas Bladen of Maryland was chronicled as serving it to his guests. Several of the founders, including Ben Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson offered it to their visitors, as well. Ice cream was often served at Washington’s Presidential Thursday Dinners. Thomas Jefferson’s recipe for vanilla ice cream was among his favorites. And, in 1813, First Lady Dolly (Dorothea Dandridge Payne Todd) Madison, a Quaker by birth, served a strawberry ice cream creation at the Inaugural Ball for her husband, James Madison, fourth President of the United States.
Ice cream remained a food of the elite until later in the 19th century, when improvements in technology prompted mass-production. Insulated ice houses were invented; followed by steam power, mechanical refrigeration, electric power and motors, packing machines, and new freezing processes and equipment.
Augustus Jackson, an African-American caterer, candy confectioner, and entrepreneur from Philadelphia invented an improved method for manufacturing ice cream and is often referred to as the ‘Father of Ice Cream’. He created several popular ice cream flavors, which he distributed, packaged in tin cans, to ice cream ‘parlors’ across Philadelphia.
In 1843, Philadelphian Nancy Johnson received a patent for a hand-cranked ice cream churn that froze milk with such evenness and reliability in temperature that it allowed the user to create remarkably smooth ice cream with extraordinary consistency. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the funds to manufacture her own invention and sold the rights to the ‘Johnson Ice-Cream Freezer’ to William Young for $200.
The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), which is comprised of three constituent organizations; the Milk Industry Foundation (MIF), the National Cheese Institute (NCI), and the International Ice Cream Association (IICA); represents the nation’s dairy manufacturing and marketing industries and their suppliers with a membership of nearly 525 companies, within a $125-billion-a-year industry. According to IDFA, about 10.3-percent of the milk produced by U.S. dairy farmers is used to make ice cream. Most ice cream companies are family-owned businesses which have been in operation for more than 50 years, contribute more than $39-billion to the national economy, and support more than 188,000 jobs in communities across the country. It takes 12 pounds of milk to make 1 gallon of ice cream.
Since 1880, Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Dairy has been producing wholesome dairy products for the Cornell campus and nearby Ithaca communities. Made of the highest-quality milk from Cornell’s own dairy cows, their premium ice creams are handcrafted in small batches by student apprentices and their professional mentors.
Photos of Inside the Cornell Dairy ice cream plant courtesy Cornell CALS, and Thomas Jefferson’s recipe for vanilla ice cream; 1780s courtesy Library of Congress.