With the increase of temperatures and longer days, not much is quite as refreshing as a frozen dessert on a summer day. With all the various chains out there selling all types of frozen drinks and desserts, and all the variety one can find in most big super markets, it’s very much part of most culture’s culinary experience. Making it at home is actually not that difficult as well and you don’t always need a machine for it (thought it definitely helps).
Where did Ice Cream originate within our past? Being able to keep something frozen, was certainly a challenge when there is no power involved. That’s a no brainer of a comment, however, well before the invention of the refrigerator, there were ways of keeping things cool.
I want to actual go back a bit more to the origins of Ice Cream, or perhaps more importantly, it’s inspiration of sorts. Iced drinks, basically using ice to cool liquids, were supposedly consumed as far back as over 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia. Greeks and Romans were noted as having access to ice and making a chilled drink using wine and honey (Emperor Nero was a fan of this). Most of these early drinks were non-dairy. Where did the ice come from, you may ask? Laborers were send into the mountains to retrieve snow or ice. It’s good to be Emperor (or rich…really, either or in this case)! In China around 1100BC, they started to harvest ice and use it to preserve foods as well. Alexander the Great supposedly had pits dug in Petra order to store snow. Japan has a reference to ice storage pits around a 4th century Emperor created an “ice day” holiday of sorts.
Technically, these are more “ices” and not ice “cream.” It was supposedly in Tang Dynasty (618-907AD) China when the use of dairy was used as the base. However, sugar (or any real sweetening) wasn’t used in this first version. It was mostly a fermented milk (Buffalo, Cow or Goat) that was heated with flour and camphor. They later froze these concoctions in ice pools.
There are some legends within history that state that either Marco Polo or even Catherine de Medici brought a form of ice cream to their respective countries. However, these are just not true. However, the stories are fun. In fact, it was mostly from the Arab lands that frozen drinks hailed from in medieval times. It was called Sherbet, Sharab or Sharabt in Arabic. Persians and Turks both enjoyed these drinks using mostly fruits like cherries, pomegranates or quinces to flavor.
Iced drinks were usually wine, sugar, spices, water and some sort of local fruit like peach or raspberry as it moved into Europe later. The Italians and French were particularly interested in these drinks (influenced by their Arabic neighbors). By the middle of the 17th century, the drinks were being made into more of a frozen dessert (Sorbetto). The first real “ice cream” was a milk sorbet by Latini at around this time, as he found the combination of milk, sugar and flavorings that we are most familiar with. Experimentation of adding in various flavorings and ingredients, playing with cooking the base and really technology, really cemented how ice cream is made to this day.
With all this being said, I figured I would provide a few other websites and resources for various frozendesserts and ice creams for your amusement.
Making Ice Cream like it’s 1927
Ancient Ice Cream without a freezer
Colonial Williamsburg “Some Cold, Hard Historical Facts about Good Old Ice Cream”
History Extra’s Vanilla Ice Cream recipe of US president Thomas Jefferson
Ivan Day’s Article on Georgian Ices
Ivan Day’s Asparagus Ices
Parmesan Ice Cream
Most of my research for this article was using “Ice Cream: A Global History,” by Laura B. Weiss. It was found here