America’s Favorite Dessert

Monday was National Ice Cream Day. The whole month of July celebrates ice cream, I suppose, because of the warm weather. As most of you can attest ice cream is one of America’s favorite desserts. It was always my go-to dessert when it was really hot. The hayers loved ice cream.

A man named John W. Wallace compiled a historical sketch about ice cream for the Walker Ice Cream Co. That company used to be based in Warren, Pa. It was also a milk-bottling company. My husband and his family had a farm that sent their milk to Walker’s Creamery.

Wallace had a quote from the Bible that seems to indicate that ice cream has been in existence for a very long time. “And Isaac brought forth the milk of the goat, cool with the snow of the mountain, and said to Abraham ‘Eat and drink for the sun is hot.'” I looked, but I could not find this exact quote. Maybe in the various translations it was changed.

It appears that ice cream was not really discovered, it was developed over time. The trend went from sherbet to frozen pudding to ice cream.

The first advertisement for ice cream appeared in a New York newspaper in 1786. Since it is made of milk products, it is good for you, right? At least one well-known diet plan would disagree with that. They do not recognize ice cream as a source of calcium. Maybe that is because the making of ice cream has changed over the years. I am not sure, but I do know when we made our own it was a healthy treat.

People have asked me if we always made our own ice cream when we had our dairy. The answer is no. We made some ice cream, but the majority of what I served was purchased at a store. Our dairy was made up of registered Holsteins. Holstein cows are not known for their cream or fat content. If we wanted to make ice cream we had to skim off some of the cream, and that could cause a lower milk check if it was done too often.

The electric ice cream freezer that my husband and I had once received as a gift from my mother has now been passed on to another generation. I gave it as a Christmas gift to my daughter and her husband since they were the last ones to make use of it when they were visiting one time. Jill and I made the custard before they left to do the farm chores. By the time they came home the mixture was chilled enough that the ice cream could be made. We were enjoying homemade ice cream about midnight that night.

I found a small unit with a metal inside that you place in your freezer until it is frozen. The brand name appears to be French although the little recipe book says to send your recipes to a Virginia address. After the metal bucket was cold you removed it and placed it in the ice cream maker. Next you poured your mixture into it and simply stirred until you had ice cream. When the grandchildren were small we made ice cream quite often. The children took turns cranking it until it was thickened. At that point we put it into the freezer unit of the refrigerator so that it was ready to serve for supper.

This little “freezer” has many recipes. There is even a recipe for grapefruit sorbet that is very calorie friendly along with basic vanilla and chocolate recipes. Just maybe it is time for some good old-fashioned homemade ice cream. I even noticed that the ice cream mixtures could be stored for a period of time. I could make up a batch, take the little unit and we could enjoy homemade ice cream at the fair.

I have one sherbet recipe that does not even need a special freezer. You simply put it into the freezer, then remove it and stir it every so often until it is frozen. I used this type when I made a “slice of watermelon” for a party. In a 9-inch spring form pan lined with waxed paper I put a ring of lime sherbet. Then I filled in the center with raspberry sherbet. I poked in a few chocolate chips to look like seeds and froze it. When it was time to serve the slices I unmolded it using the waxed paper and flipped it onto a plate. A few shortbread cookies and I had dessert.

Vanilla is still listed as the favorite flavor with chocolate, strawberry and butter pecan close behind. It is said that most of the vanilla that is used in the United States and Europe is used in ice cream. Be sure to read your labels to see what type of vanilla is used in the product you purchase since pure vanilla is not always used. While you are reading that label be sure that real dairy ingredients are featured.

When you enter “ice cream” in your search bar you come up with all kinds of recipes for ice cream, gelato and frozen custard. I remembered seeing one of the Food Network people make a simple gelato so I checked on the recipes. I could not find any that sounded simple or could be done in a short amount of time.

There are small companies that produce small batches of ice cream as well as very large companies. When we were in Vermont we visited the Ben and Jerry’s facility. We got the behind the scenes tour plus a taste of a flavor they were working on and were asked for our comments.

Why not enjoy some ice cream for dessert this evening? You will be glad you did.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at