It seems it all started with Persian snow. People would put snow in a bowl and pour grape juice over it – a real treat in hot weather. They obtained the snow from the hills or from underground cool stores where they kept snow just for this purpose. It seams they also devised a dessert made from ice and fruits which was served to royalty during the summer time.
Ice has been served as food in warm climates for thousands of years – emperor Nero gathered ice and topped it with fruit. In the sixteenth century, the Mughal emperors used horsemen to bring ice from the Hindu Kush to Delhi to be used in fruit sorbets. Recipes for french flavoured ices appear from 1674 and ice cream recipes seem to appear in the 18th century in England and America.
The ice cream sundae has its origins in the late 19th century. Various people claimed to have invented the first sundae, but there is no concrete evidence to support their stories. Some references say that the sundae was invented to get around blue laws, which strictly forbid serving sodas on Sunday. Ice cream cones and banana splits started to become popular in the early 20th century. Again a number of food companies claimed to have invented the ice cream cone around 1904.
Here in the UK ice cream remained quite an expensive treat until it was imported in bulk from Norway and the United States in Victorian times. The first ice cream stall was opened by Carlo Gatti outside Charing Cross station in 1851, where he sold scoops of ice cream in shells for a penny each.
The 20th century saw an increase in availability and popularity of ice cream. Ice cream became more popular throughout the world during the second half of the 20th century because cheap refrigeration became more common. Ice cream stores began to open in one place after another and more flavours and types became available.
A new development in the ice cream industry came with the introduction of ‘soft ice cream’. A research team in the UK discovered a way of doubling the amount of air in ice cream. This reduced manufacturing costs since less ingredients were used. Soft ice cream machines became popular with the typical lines of children outside ice cream vans.
Recent developments have included gluten free ice cream and during the 1980’s thicker ice creams came back into fashion as ‘premium’ products with brands such as Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs.
Vanilla is the most common ice cream flavour, so much so that it is often referred to as ‘plain ice cream’. Vanilla is also used as a flavour enhancer for complementary flavours such as chocolate, caramel, custard and coffee.