I hope everyone is doing well through this crisis.  I’m writing this month’s article in August during the record-breaking heatwave and while it is so hot, one of the things I’ve been thinking about every day is ice cream. This led me to decide to write this month’s article, to give you the straight scoop on ice cream.

Ice cream dates back to the fifth century BC in ancient Greece and has been growing in popularity ever since. From the Greek Empire ice cream moved to China and in the 1300s Marco Polo brought ice cream to Europe. It then took 400 years to reach the United States. At the time in the United States, it was only enjoyed by well-to-do people. The first ice cream parlor in the United States was opened in New York in 1776.  Of course, at that time, that part of the East Coast was the population center of the Continental States.

It took until the 1840s for ice cream to be made in a churn. Prior to this it was just two dairy ingredients that were poured into a container and left to freeze.

This early style of ice cream did not contain sweeteners but sometimes you would add vanilla flavoring to the dairy. When the churn was invented it stirred (whipped) the ice cream mixture, and while churning the mixture incorporated air, making the ice cream much lighter than it was at the time. The term overrun is used to measure the amount of air incorporated. Since ice cream is sold by volume, the more air the less cream. This, along with fat content, also accounts for some of the mouthfeel. Overrun on regular ice cream is 100%, which means 1-part air to 1-part dairy solution. In premium ice cream it has to be less than 50%, meaning 2 parts cream to 1 part air. The denser it is the slower it melts and more mouthfeel you will have. This is similar to when well marbled meat coats your tongue and mouth. Butterfat in standard ice cream has to be at least 10%, while premium ice cream is 15-25% fat.

In the 20th century ice cream varieties took off and new flavors, as well as serving methods, were created. The 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis helped create the waffle cone and 25 years later rocky road became the most popular flavor after vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.

In 1984 the United States declared July to be National Ice Cream Month, even though it is widely consumed throughout the year. The five top countries of per capita consumption are New Zealand, which consumes 7.5 gallons per person per year, followed by the United States with 5.5 gallons. Australia consumes 4.8 gallons per person and Finland and Sweden finish out the list with 3.8 gallons per person.

Vanilla is the most popular flavor and statistics say that it accounts for 87% of Americans’ ice cream in the freezer at any given time. Although vanilla is grown in many equatorial countries, most of the vanilla used to make ice cream comes from Madagascar or Indonesia. Not surprisingly, California produces the most ice cream because of the many dairy farms that are there. It takes a lot of milk and/or cream to make ice cream. A cow produces About 6 gallons of milk a day, which equates to 2 gallons of ice cream. About 9% of all the milk produced in the United States is used to produce ice cream.

The ideal temperature to store, serve and eat ice cream is 8-10 degrees, although colder storage can be better. Some geographical areas add indigenous ingredients or regional specialty foods for flavor. In Maine they sometimes add lobster, while in Philadelphia they serve pizza-flavored and the Gilroy Garlic Festival is known for their garlic ice cream. To me the most unique flavors come out of Japan. Some flavors include octopus, shrimp, horsemeat and cow tongue.

A few odd facts about ice cream: 

To get rid of the ice cream headache you should put your tongue on the top of your mouth, which blocks the sensors from registering the sensation.

The ice cream sundae was invented in Wyoming when it was illegal to sell ice cream sodas on Sunday, so the shop owners created a new way to sell their ice cream.

If you work for Ben and Jerry’s you get to take home 3 pints a day.

It is time to try out the headache cure.