Ice Cream á la 1800s

Image of Jefferson's Handwritten Ice Cream Recipe (click to enlarge)

A couple weeks ago, Tricia asked me to do a post on ice cream for 4th of July weekend. She figured in my vast arsenal of books I’d have an ice cream recipe, and she was correct, to a degree. I have made ice cream from an 1800s recipe, but I didn’t actually have a copy of the recipe or a picture of an ice cream maker. What I thought would be a simple search turned into hours of research—that in all honesty I can’t say I minded, as I learned a fair amount. Not to mention I ended up finding not just one but four recipes!

The history of ice cream in the United States goes back to recipes brought from Europe by the colonists. However, it wasn’t until the 18th century that cream, milk and egg yolks were introduced to the previously dairy-free recipes. Like most food preparation in the 1800s, making ice cream wasn’t simple and required one very important ingredient that wasn’t necessarily available year round. Any guesses? Did I hear someone say ice? You are correct. Electricity was still a couple decades away and the freezer even further. If you wanted ice cream, you needed ice (cut from the rivers and lakes in the winter and stored in ice houses for use throughout the year for as long as the harvest lasted), and a sabottiere (from the French word: sorbetière).

Sorbétière and pail

The sabottiere is the inner canister shown in the picture to the right. The prepared ingredients would be placed in the canister with the lid secured. The sabottiere was then placed in a bucket where a mixture of ice and salt was packed around it. When a recipe called for “turning the sabottiere” it meant someone had to manually grab the handle and turn the canister clockwise and then counterclockwise, for whatever length of time the recipe specified.

Ice cream lovers are in good company. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson enjoyed it too. In fact, the first written account of an American recipe for ice cream comes from Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson’s recipe included two bottles of good cream, six egg yolks and half a pound of sugar.

His entire recipe can be found HERE.

The following recipes are two variations to Jefferson’s recipe. These recipes come from Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats by Miss Leslie, of Philadelphia and can be found HERE.

Recipe from Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats

Recipe from Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats

In my research, I found way too much information to cover here, but for those interested, here are the links to some other sites:


8 Responses to Ice Cream á la 1800s

  1. danielle hinesly says:

    What a fun topic! When I was little (a long time ago!) I thought it was great fun to be included in the job of turning the ice-cream handle. We had competitions to see who could do it the longest. My father has invited me over for homemade ice-cream today. Ha! You can bet that none of us will be “turning the sabottiere.” YEA for electricity!

    (I am also wondering what the original dessert was that had no dairy products.)

  2. Tricia says:

    Wow, thanks, Jennifer! I had no idea I was setting you up for hours of research. Very informative. I think I would have made myself scarce when it came time to turn the canister back and forth. 😀

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Amy Twinkler, J. L. Bell. J. L. Bell said: More historical American ice cream: […]

  4. Catrina says:

    Ice cream mixed in with a little history… it doesn’t get any better than that. Loved it!

  5. Jennifer says:

    @ Tricia – It’s ok 😀 I thought I actually had a recipe, but couldn’t find it, so I researched 😀 It was fun. It’s interesting reading the old cookbooks. I still think I have a cookbook that has a recipe in it…will probably find it one of these days, but it’s very similar if not the same as the one I posted from the other cookbook. When we made it (as part of the schoolhouse day events with my town’s Historic Commission – we used cream, milk and sugar (no raw eggs :D) and we took peaches soaks in sugar and added that into the mix. You could probably add just about any fruit flavor.

    @ Danielle – I think the first link Brings you to Georgian Ice, talks about the non-dairy and how they used to use molds for the ices. They did some fancy stuff!

  6. QNPoohBear says:

    Did it take you a long time to find the photo of the ice cream maker? I have a reproduction 1860s ice cream maker for my American Girl dolls and it actually works too. It even came with a recipe! It’s so hot here right now, all I want to eat is ice cream. Your post helps cool me off.

  7. […] my post last year on Ice Cream a la 1800s, where I talked a bit about the origins of ice cream and more specifically the first “ice […]

  8. Mariah says:

    I just stumbled across this site and I LOVE it! So full of interesting information that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else on the Internet. I greatly enjoy reading your posts and am so happy I found this blog! SUCH an interesting subject matter!

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