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ice cream / ice-cream

Ice-cream. Cream or milk, sweetened, flavored, and congealed by a freezing mixture. Sometimes, instead of cream, the materials of a custard are used. — Webster, 1882

The Ladies’ Aid Society of the Congregational church will give a strawberry and ice cream festival in Couse’s hall Wednesday evening the 18th inst. Don’t fail to be there. – De Smet Leader, 1887.

Custard used for custard pies can also be used to make ice cream. In Farmer Boy, while Almanzo and Royal were pounding ice to do the “freezing” part, Alice and Eliza Jane whipped up an egg custard using six cups of sugar (the only definite measure Laura Ingalls Wilder gives us in Farmer Boy), and (perhaps) 6 eggs, separated, 10 tablespoons of flour or some other thickening agent such as arrowroot, 2 quarts of cream/milk mixture (more cream than milk), a dash of salt, and maybe some flavoring. One assumes from Farmer Boy that the ice-cream was plain egg custard, but in the manuscript, Wilder wrote that it was flavored with wintergreen.

The Wilders didn’t have one of the new-fangled patent ice-cream freezers such as the one shown in the illustration at left. Like threshing their wheat with flails, they must have preferred to make ice-cream the old-fashioned way, in a tin pail surrounded by ice and salt to do the freezing, with frequent stirring. Crank ice-cream freezers had only been around for a dozen or so years, and early cookbooks often included suggestions as to how to tell your “tinner” to construct a container to be used only for making ice-cream; read them below in Directions for freezing Ice-Cream.

An ice-cream parlor was in business in De Smet by early 1885; perhaps Almanzo, who was so fond of ice-cream, treated Laura there during their courtship?


Rich Custard for Ice Cream. One quart of cream, The yolks of six eggs, Six ounces of powdered white sugar. A small pinch of salt, Two tablespoonfuls of brandy. One spoonful of peach water. Half a tablespoon of lemon brandy. An ounce of blanched almonds, pounded to a paste. Mix the cream with the sugar, and the yolks of the eggs well beaten, scald them together in a tin pail in boiling water stirring all the time, until sufficiently thick. When cool. add the other ingredients and freeze.

Ice Cream, No. 1. 2 quarts cream; if thick, add 1 pint milk / 2 cups sugar / 2 tablespoonfuls vanilla. This is the simplest, and to many the most delicious, form of ice-cream. Scald the cream; melt the sugar in it, and flavor when cool. Freeze. The cream should be very sweet and highly flavored, as both sweetness and flavor are lessened by freezing.


To make Ice Cream. One quart of milk. One and a half tablespoonfuls of arrowroot. The grated peel of two lemons. One quart of thick cream. Wet the arrowroot with a little cold milk, and add it to the quart of milk when boiling hot; sweeten it very sweet with white sugar, put in the grated lemon peel, boil the whole, and strain it into the quart of cream. When partly frozen, add the juice of the two lemons. Twice thisquantity is enough for thirty-five persons. Find the quantity of sugar that suits you by measure, and then you can use this every time, without tasting. Some add whites of eggs, others think it is just as good without. It must be made very sweet, as it loses much by freezing.

If you have no apparatus for the purpose (which is almost indispensable), put the cream into a tin pail with a very tight cover, mix equal quantities of snow and blown salt (not the coarse salt), or of pounded ice and salt, in a tub, and put it as high as the pail, or freezer; turn the pail or freezer half round and back again with one hand, for half an hour, or longer, if you want it very nice. Three quarters of an hour steadily, will make it good enough. While doing this, stop four or five times, and mix the frozen part with the rest, the last time very thoroughly, and then the lemon juice must be put in. Then cover the freezer tight with snow and salt till it is wanted. The mixture must be perfectly cool before being put in the freezer. Renew the snow and salt while shaking, so as to have it kept tight to the sides of the freezer. A hole in the tub holding the freezing mixture to let off the water, is a great advantage. In a tin pail it would take much longer to freeze than in the freezer, probably nearly twice as long, or one hour and a half. A long stick, like a coffee stick, should be used in scraping the ice from the sides. Iron spoons will be affected by the lemon juice, and give a bad taste.

In taking it out for use, first wipe off every particle of the freezing mixture dry, then with a knife loosen the sides, then invert the freezer upon the dish in which the ice is to be served, and apply two towels rung out of hot water to the bottom part, and the whole will slide out in the shape of a cylinder. If you wish to put it into moulds, pour it into them when the cream is frozen sufficiently, and then cover the moulds in the snow and salt till they are wanted. Dip the moulds in warm water to make the ice slip out easily.

If you wish to have a freezer made, send the following directions to a tinner.

Make a tin cylinder box, eighteen inches high and eight inches in diameter at the bottom, and a trifle larger at the top, so that the frozen cream will slip out easier (167). Have a cover made with a rim to lap over three inches, and fitted tight. Let there be a round handle fastened to the lid, an inch in diameter, and reaching nearly across, to take hold of, to stir the cream. This will cost from fifty to seventy-five cents.

The tub holding the ice and freezer should have a hole in the bottom, to let the water run off, and through the whole process the ice must be close packed the whole depth of the freezer.

Modern ice cream recipe using 6 cups sugar: 6 cups sugar, 6 eggs, separated, 10 tablespoons flour, 2 quarts cream/milk, dash of salt, 6 tablespoons vanilla. Scald milk and add sugar, flour and salt. Mix well. Add beaten egg yolks. Cook until thickened. When cool, add beaten egg whites and vanilla. To freeze, add 3 pints whipping cream and the rest milk. Makes 3 gallons. — Catharine Esther Beecher, Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book (New York: Harper, 1850), 163-168.


ice cream / ice-cream (FB 12, 28), see also custard
     ice cream social (PG), see ice cream social