By Kathy Knotts
Ice cream is one of the world’s oldest desserts. We humans have been enjoying frozen concoctions since ancient times. Depending on where you get your information, ice cream’s origins reach back as far as the second century B.C. (I’m leaning on info from the International Dairy Foods Association, here).
“Alexander the Great enjoyed snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar. Biblical references also show that King Solomons was fond of iced drinks during Harvesting. During the Roman Empire, Nero Claudius Caesar frequently sent runners into the mountains for snow, which was then flavored with fruits and juices.” Thus beginning the snowball vs. sno-cone debate that continues to haunt us all.
But ice cream, historians say, evolved sometime in the 16th century and by the 17th century “cream ice” and other frozen desserts were showing up at the table of royals. Common folk couldn’t afford things like milk, cream and eggs. But by the 18th century, ice cream was all the rage in Europe and among wealthy American colonists.
Thomas Jefferson is credited with the first known ice cream recipe recorded by an American and he helped popularize it in this country when he served it at the President’s House (now known as the White House). Historians think his recipe originated with his French butler.
Our modern love affair with cold treats naturally ramps up in the heat of summer. A July scroll of social media sites will reward you with ice cream beauty shots—those now ubiquitous photos of a cone or a cup held up to the sun to show off its creamy goodness or mounds of sprinkles or over-the-top garnishes.
We sent writer Susan Nolan out to explore Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail this week, with some help from CBM intern Noah Hale. They report back what the top flavors are at these creameries as well as how to maybe burn off some of that sugar once you’re done with your cone. It’s a tasty way to see the state.
While we have no shortage of ice cream stores in the region, creameries are a bit of a drive to get to. You could always make your own. I remember fondly my parents loading up a hand-cranked ice cream maker when I was a kid. Eventually they upgraded to one with an electric motor. The idea was the same. A metal canister containing the ingredients is buried in a slurry of ice and rock salt (or ice cream salt) inside a larger container. Then the paddle is inserted and the cranking begins. As a kid, this seemed to take FOREVER.
My mom reports that we usually made vanilla, but on occasion we had peach ice cream—that I would then pick all the pieces of fruit out of. Don’t judge, I was a very picky eater back then.
As my mom points out, Blue Bell wasn’t around back then, so you worked with what you had. (Maryland, why oh why don’t you carry Blue Bell??)
What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? I’d love to know if anyone has tried some truly outrageous flavors. These days, I’m a cookies and cream kind of gal myself, but do love a good chocolate or cookie dough waffle cone here and there.
This is your reminder to celebrate National Ice Cream Day/Month and be sure to tag us in your photos on social media or shoot me an email: [email protected].
Kathy Knotts is CBM Bay Weekly’s managing editor.