The History of Ice Cream

Ice cream has been a frozen treat for many years. Kids enjoy it on Summer days and parents enjoy it after their kids go to bed. So how long has ice cream been around exactly? Who first created it? Well, here’s the scoop.

Where it all Began

If you’re looking for the answer to who invented ice cream, you won’t find it here. There are so many different cultures and people that created different versions of the icy treat that it would be difficult to pinpoint its exact origin.

In fact, ice cream can be dated all the way back to AD 54-68.

Apparently, Roman Era Nero sent his slaves to get him fresh snow and mix it with different flavors.

But that story has never been proven, and could just be a myth...

Koumiss is a fermented dairy product made from mare's milk.

There is actual evidence to suggest that in AD 618-907, King T’ang of Shang had 94 “ice men” that brought him fresh ice for a dish called koumiss. It consisted of fermented milk, flour, and camphor.

Accounts vary widely on ice cream consumption and initial recipes, and there are multiple stories about people eating frozen cream as a rare treat throughout history.

The ice cream that we know today first made its appearance around 1851. Jacob Fussell was a dairyman from Baltimore.

Get this:

He had a surplus of cream so he decided to make an ice cream factory in Pennsylvania. He decided to use the surplus of cream for ice cream and ship it back to Baltimore by train. He noticed that if he turned his surplus into ice cream as a dessert, it would all be sold. People fell in love with the dessert and his surplus problem went away. It became wildly popular and Jacob Fussell became the father of ice cream.

Multiple people have claimed to have invented the ice cream sundae in the 1880s. No one knows for sure who or where it was first invented. They started appearing at soda fountains in the 1880s because ice cream sodas weren’t allowed to be sold on Sundays. The ice cream sundae was a way around that restriction.

Apparently, the restriction only applied to ice cream sodas and serving the ice cream a different way to let people continue to sell ice cream on Sunday. They started calling it an “ice cream Sunday.” However, later the spelling was changed to “sundae” so that it wouldn’t be associated with the Sabbath.

It wasn’t until the 1930s that ice cream was sold in most grocery stores. During WWII, ice cream became such an iconic American treat that Mussolini actually banned it from Italy.

What Ice Cream Has Become to Americans

Ice cream is all over America. There are endless flavors, from Rocky Road to Bubblegum. There are ice cream sundaes, cones, and shakes. You can have it dipped, scooped, or even fried!

Americans eat more ice cream per capita than any other country.

In fact:

Americans eat 4 gallons of ice cream per person per year! That totals to about 1.6 billion gallons of ice cream sold each year in America alone.

The ice cream industry contributes about $39 billion to the national economy, too.

California produces the most ice cream in America, and June is the month that the most ice cream is produced.

There are endless ice cream flavors but which is the most popular?

Vanilla is in the lead with 33% of the market and chocolate is in second with 19%.

33%

           Vanilla

19%

        Chocolate

Ice cream has become such an American staple that 87% of Americans have ice cream in their freezer at any given time!

I’d say ice Americans are pretty much always screaming for ice cream.

Ice Cream Around the World

There isn’t just one way to make ice cream...

In fact:

There are so many different versions of ice cream around the world. They differ in texture, sweetness, temperature, and how they’re made. Many countries have their own version of what we call ice cream in the United States, each appealing to the local culture and palate.

Here are just some of the versions of ice cream from around the world.

Italy

Have you ever heard of gelato?

Probably! Gelato is a very well known version of ice cream that is very popular in Italy.

Did you know…

Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream?

Gelato is similar to ice cream but there are some key differences. The custard base has a higher proportion of milk and a lower proportion of cream and eggs. Then the gelato is churned, like ice cream, but it is done so at a much slower rate. This means that a lot less air in gelato than ice cream. Gelato is much denser and smoother than ice cream, typically with a more powerful flavor.

This is just one example of how one country comes up with and creates its own version of a classic frozen dessert.

Japan

Mochi has become more popular in America as more and more people appreciate its uniqueness.

Typically mochi can be found at American grocery stores although you might have to look a little harder to find it.

Mochi are little round balls of ice cream, about the size of a small plum. What’s unique about mochi is that the outside of the ball is made out of a sticky rice cake, while the ice cream is inside. Some people don’t care for mochi because of the unusual texture of the rice cake. Others can appreciate the creativity that went into making such a dessert.

Germany

Germany has gotten especially creative with their take on ice cream.

They like to make their ice cream look like other food items. The most common version being spaghetteies.

The vanilla ice cream goes through a machine that makes the ice cream resemble noodles. Then strawberry sauce goes over that to look like marinara. Next, white chocolate shavings top it off to look like parmesan cheese.

It looks funny, but it tastes delicious!

Thailand

Thailand has gotten a little scientific with their ice cream in a very cool way.

They make ice cream on something that resembles a griddle except instead of being hot, it’s very, very cold. They pour fresh cream and other toppings onto the griddle and wait for it to freeze.

Then they scrape the ice cream up with a unique spatula and it creates an ice cream roll. The ice cream roll is called i tim pad. This is very popular for street vendors to do. People love watching the process!

Turkey

Turkey’s ice cream is not like the ice cream you normally think of.

Get this:

It’s sticky, stretchy, and chewy.

The unique texture makes dondurma resistant to melting on a hot Turkey day. Street vendors love showing tourists how it can be played with and stretched before it’s eaten.

Israel

Halva is Israel's version of ice cream. It’s made of halva, which is like a compact honey-flavored candy.

It’s chewy and sweet and is almost more candy than ice cream. The halva can be topped with pistachios or other favorite toppings. Sometimes honey is drizzled over the top for added sweetness.  

Mexico

Mexico is hot so cold treats are abundant. A favorite Mexican treat is paletas. These are basically what Americans would consider popsicles.

However:

All paletas must contain something specific: fresh fruit.

American popsicles are often just fruit flavored. Paletas contain chunks of the actual fruit.

The Bottom Line

Sorry to disappoint you if you were hoping to find the answer to who invented ice cream.

No one person did!

Lots of different people contributed to the invention of ice cream, thus creating the beloved dessert we know today.

Ice cream is the culmination of different people’s ideas and cultures, just like America. And as with any cultural hallmark, it exists in many forms across the world. So whether you prefer gelato over ice cream or just can’t get enough halva, we’re all crazy for a sweet, creamy frozen treat now and then!

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