I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! That’ll teach you to use blood and chunky guts in your ice cream. You thought to yourself, “Everyone loves hamburgers, everyone loves ice cream. I’ll invent cheeseburger ice cream!” But oh, it all went awry. Nobody likes raw meat in their ice cream. Except, apparently, Japan.
But here in the U.S.A., we’ll keep enjoying the regular ol’ recipe and not try to reinvent the wheel. In fact, as you’ll see below, disaster often strikes even when ice cream sticks to the basics.
First, Understand How Ice Cream Is Made
Ice cream is an emulsion, meaning it was never meant to exist. Its separate components don’t normally mix, but man, in his hubris, found a way to produce a dessert too beautiful for this world. By salting the ice, you lower the freezing point of the water (for the same reason you spread salt on a sidewalk after it snows). Let’s science! (sidenote: you will never love ice cream as much as the author of that blog does. There are Popes who don’t revere forces in this universe the way that site admires ice cream.)
So now you’ve got a big ol’ collection of superpowered water. It will chill the milk enough to emulsify, since milk’s freezing point is below that of even your salted water. But that’s not enough in and of itself. You must also combine the product by shaking, stirring, or rolling the contents. The important thing is it keeps moving and mixing so that air gets trapped into the mix. This prevents the formation of larger ice crystals, which would suck. You want those crystals as small as possible so you get that thick, even ice cream mouthfeel. By surrounding the cream with the salt water (but not mixing the two), the latter will leach all the heat out of the cream. Voila! Frozen foam!
That’s the classical method. You could use professional equipment instead, like your modern-day ice cream maker, which uses a variety of methods to achieve the same effect: emulsify the fat into the water while incorporating air bubbles even as the water is crystallizing. That’s a lot of processes to tackle at once! A faster freeze makes smaller crystals (which is good), and you get that classic ice cream taste. (Unless you’re making gelato, in which case all those rules go out the window: less fat, less air, higher temperature, and for some reason you get a silky dessert of the gods. But anyway…)
Salt and sugar inside the ice cream mixture don’t just taste good: they help it form from within. Same goes for the fat: it stands between the air and the ice, keeping ice cream soft enough to scoop and preventing the ice crystals from getting too big. Other products may be added to achieve desired texture: egg yolks, gelatin, starch, gluten. Funny enough, the flavors do as much for the formation as the texturers (can we say texturers? Is that, like, a word?) Vanilla contains alcohol, and therefore lowers the freezing point even further, softening the ice cream. Bits and pieces from the candy box or the cookie jar help buffer the components to, again, keep the
Now that you know how everything gets dispersed, here are some interesting ice-cream related matters you can bring up at the next ice cream truck drivers’ convention to impress that hottie from the south loop route.
Ice Cream Evolves As It Spreads — But How Is a Mystery
Although people had been flavoring ices for years, that’s more of a squishy than an ice cream. Ditto, freezing cream doesn’t automatically get you ice cream as we understand it, but a so-called “iced cream.” (Woohoo! Three Simpsons references in one paragraph!)
It wasn’t till the Chinese added saltpeter that humanity had a way of pushing cream beyond its limits. Marco Polo brought the recipe back (assuming he went there in the first place) according to legend, but it didn’t flourish since without emulsification, all you have is…uh, less rock-hard flavor-ice? It seems to have been further refined in the Arab world, but details are scant–which is to say, you can Google it yourself. We hear the ice cream truck outside.
Now for the real question: where did people get ice in the Middle East?
Regardless, a couple of centuries after Marco Polo did or didn’t go to China, Italy finally gave this frozen cream thing another go, and it seems the magic was here to stay. That was the 16th century, and it’s only grown from there, spreading to France and then England at an iceberg’s pace (hey-o!) because it’s a labor-intensive product. It takes ice and effort and time and ice cream was a rich man’s prerogative.
Ice cream’s breakthrough would have to await the rise of automation and temperature-controlled environments, but even before that happened, some pretty good recipes appear, because two days’ work is not enough to dissuade people from their ice cream. You can thank Swiss vendor Carlo Gotti for that, who shuffled ice from Norway to London and only charged a penny.
Culinary adventurer Agnes Bertha Marshall, the “Queen of the Ices,” used “liquid air,” a.k.a. nitrogen, to make her ice cream, and was pretty much the Johnny Appleseed of ice cream. Wait–liquid nitrogen? Does that mean she invented Dippin’ Dots? Is the ice cream of the future the ice cream of some steampunk anachronistic timeline? She patented a turn-handle ice cream freezer pail, too. Agnes B. Marshall took ice cream more seriously than anyone in history. We salute you, Mrs. Marshall.
Ice Cream Explosion Not as Fun as It Sounds
Ice cream explosion! The very term conjures– well, you’re seeing it in your head right now. A layer of ice cream blankets the land, granting the children of Texas a rare snow day, and the most delicious snowball fight it’s ever been their pleasure to wage. If snow tasted like butter pecan, nobody would ever duck a snowball when they could instead catch it right in the kisser. Neapolitan snowmen
That’s the fantasy. The reality was terrifying as hell (frozen over after emulsifying, we presume). A Borden ice cream plant exploded in 1983 due to a leaky valve releasing anhydrous ammonia, or “refrigerated” ammonia. That’s bad news, because the gas, used to kill microbes in food, is not only toxic but flammable.
Firefighters with kickass nicknames like “Silky” and “Dirt” saw firsthand just how flammable when they responded to the ammonia leak. Still, it can’t just up and explode. The explosion flung popsicle sticks a mile away and a manhole cover right over Silky’s head!
By a sheer miracle, nobody was killed, though some were injured. The explosion flung a manhole cover into a car and decimated the building, shaking the surrounding earth. The only stroke of luck that prevented a tragic loss of life was that an engineer who had volunteered to lead firefighters to the location of the leak hesitated due to concerns about his breathing apparatus. The firefighters eventually reassured him it would protect his lungs, but before they could enter the building, it went Kaberry KaBOOM! That’s right — this explosion was so intense it infringed upon a flavor produced by rival ice cream hippies Ben & Jerry.
Borden is no longer in the ice cream business, save for one location, but here’s how good their ice cream must have been, straight from the account of fireman Bob Parry:
“When Greg pulled up, he saw Ganns from 17’s covered in blood. Silky ran up to him and asked him “Are you OK, what the *^$@(!^& happened to you”? Ganns replied he was hungry and he crawled into the basement looking for ice cream. Though he found some, the ammonia was so strong it made his nose bleed.”
Hey, we don’t blame the guy. Ammonia Ripple is our favorite flavor, too.
Thomas Jefferson Gets There Before Dolley Madison
Dang, TJ, you are all over our comfort food list. Although the author of the Declaration may have introduced the french fry to the colonies, he was definitely not the first dude to make the icy confectionery in the western hemisphere. He was, however, the first one to write the recipe down that we can find. Like the french fry recipe, he brought it back from France along with a chef who knew the secrets of junk food. Out of just 10 recipes the founding father ever recorded, ice cream and french fries are both present. Now that’s our idea of a Friday night dinner.
And while Dolley Madison gets all the credit for popularizing the treat at the White House, Jefferson beat her to it. (Washington served it at suppers at Mount Vernon, but there’s no record of him doing so at the President’s House.)
You’d eat well at one of Jefferson’s state dinners is what we’re getting at.
Ben & Jerry’s Serve Porn Producer Two Scoops of Regret
Proving that there’s nothing the porn industry won’t spoof, a California-based production company released a line of DVD titles themed after ice cream — because nothing says sexy time like ice-cold temperatures and hairy, plump hippies. Apparently satire doesn’t extend to ice cream, though, because Caballero Video got cease-and-desisted faster than an ice cream cone on a hot summer day.
Packaged in cows and clouds, the porno titles included names like “Boston Cream Thigh” and “Peanut Butter D-Cup.” Sadly, the rest of the list is lost to history, but at least eight other spoof names existed for a time. Of course, they’d have to work harder than that to top the company’s real-life flavor, Schweddy Balls, based on the SNL skit starring Alec Baldwin.
It’s their right to sue to protect their trademark, but we can’t help feeling a better way of resolving the matter would be to let Ben & Jerry’s produce a line of Caballero-themed pornographic ice cream.
The Grossest Flavor of All
Ice cream comes in almost any flavor you care to name: garlic, rosemary & olive oil, charcoal, and any number of meats and cheeses. But there’s one flavor nobody’s daring enough to try, except for maybe Divine, and he’s dead. And that’s poop.
Of course, the Australian family that received this complimentary fecal sundae never expected it, and certainly never expected the surprise at the bottom. The details of such a story cannot run in a family publication such as Man Cave Daily, but we assure you they are grotesque…but not grotesque enough to put anybody off eating ice cream. Some pleasures are worth the risk.
Enjoy more surprisingly stirring food history in Happy National Doughnut Day!.