One of the surest signs of summer where I live is the sudden disappearance of popsicles and ice cream sandwiches from local grocery stores’ freezers on the first really warm day of the season. Ice cream is extremely popular in New England—I remember reading somewhere that more ice cream is consumed here in the chilly northeast than any other region of the US.
Old England had its share of ice cream lovers too, as you can see from this 1824 Ackermann print of a ball dress at right. What flavor does it look like she’s eating…black raspberry, perhaps? In fact, the earliest known recipe for ice cream (or “Icy Cream”) is English, dating to a recipe book written by a Lady Anne Fanshawe in the 1650s. Lady Anne suggests flavoring her Icy Cream with mace or scenting it with orange-flower water or (oh dear) “Amber-greece.” Mace might make a pleasant ice cream flavoring, but cool dish of ice cream flavored with whale secretions probably won’t fly these days.
France too enjoyed its cold treats: this scene at left from a Le Bon Genre print entitled “La Belle Limonadiere” shows a young lady consuming what looks like a tiny egg-cup of lemon sorbet while admiring her waiter’s fine figure.
And an ad from around 1840 (I wish the ad had included a picture!) describes the virtues of “FULLER’S FREEZING MACHINE, by which four ICES can be made at one time, and repeated as often as required.” Ices and ice cream were a popular refreshment at balls and parties, both because they were something of a delicacy and because it was nice to slurp down something cold after dancing all evening.
We aren’t talking Ben & Jerry’s, however. I found a handful of ice cream (or iced pudding, as they were called) recipes in the 1846 cookbook The Modern Cook, written by Queen Victoria’s chef, Charles Francatelli. Flavorings included pureed pineapple, ground almonds, ground hazelnuts and cherry puree, and, believe it or not, rice. From the amounts of sugar in some of these, ice cream was preferred tooth-achingly sweet. Here’s a recipe:
Grate one pound of pineapple into a basin, add this to eight yolks of eggs, one pint and a half of boiled cream, one pound of sugar, and a very little salt; stir the whole together in a stewpan over a stove-fire until the custard begins to thicken; then pass it through a tammy [a kind of cone-shaped filtering device—modern cooks know it as a tamis], by rubbing with two spoons, in the same manner as for a puree, in order to force the pineapple through the tammy. This custard must now be iced in the usual manner, and put into a mold of the shape represented in the annexed wood-cut; and in the center of the iced cream, some Macedoine ice of red fruits, consisting of cherries, currants, strawberries, and raspberries in a cherry-water-ice, must be introduced; cover the whole in with the lid, then immerse the pudding in rough ice in the usual way, and keep it in a cool place until wanted.