Thursday, 11 August 2011

Georgian Ice-cream

Georgian ice-creams created by Historic Food - Left to Right - Royal Cream, Chocolate, Burnt Filbert Cream & Parmesan Cream.
Out on the street on a hot summer's day, you might stop at an ice-cream parlour or gelateria for a sundae or a cone. It might even be just a quick stop off at the supermarket or corner shop for a tub of your favourite flavour or an ice-lolly or two. However you get your icy kicks, it would be fair to say that it's easy to get hold of in one form or another. 

So how would our eighteenth century counterparts have done so? 

Flavoured ices had been around for thousands of years before the 1700s, but it is widely accepted amongst food historians that the first real "iced-cream" recipes were created in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, originating in Italy and then spreading throughout Europe.

The first recipe to be written in English came courtesy of Mrs. Mary Eales' Receipts in 1718; a book of dessert recipes (later published as The Compleat Confectioner) containing directions for the making of ice-cream,

"Take Tin Ice-Pots, fill them with any Sort of Cream you like, either plain or sweeten'd, or Fruit in it; shut your Pots very close; to six Pots you must allow eighteen or twenty Pound of Ice, breaking the Ice very small; there will be some great Pieces, which lay at the Bottom and Top: You must have a Pail, and lay some Straw at the Bottom; then lay in your Ice, and put in amongst it a Pound of Bay-Salt; set in your Pots of Cream, and lay Ice and Salt between every Pot, that they may not touch; but the Ice must lie round them on every Side; lay a good deal of Ice on the Top, cover the Pail with Straw, set it in a Cellar where no Sun or Light comes, it will be froze in four Hours, but it may stand longer; than take it out just as you use it; hold it in your Hand and it will slip out..."

Food writer Hannah Glasse also included a recipe for ice-cream in her book The Art of Cookery, in 1747.

These recipes provide us with the basics of a Georgian ice-cream; sweetened cream or milk poured into a covered mould, which is then plunged into a bath of ice crystals and salt and left to set in a cool, dark place. 

This leads us to the important question of where the ice itself came from. Where possible, ice and snow would be transported from mountain regions to use for culinary (and medical) purposes. If you were not surrounded by mountains, the simple solution was to make the ice yourself by leaving containers of water outside on a freezing night. Of course, this method wouldn't work during warmer months, therefore various methods were used to store and preserve ice; purpose built ice-houses for the wealthy, and caves and cellars for the not-so-wealthy.

As the century progressed, so too did the very industry of ice-cream itself. By the 1760s, a number of confectionery establishments had sprung up in European cities, selling ice-cream in a variety of exotic and downright extraordinary flavours. In 1789, the fantastically named Frederick Nutt published a book called The Complete Confectioner, in which he detailed recipes for flavours including Bergamot Water Ice and Parmesan cheese. Nutt was an apprentice to Italian confectionery expert Domenico Negri, who owned and ran The Pot and Pine Apple on Berkeley Square, London. 

The Pot and Pine Apple would later become Gunter's Tea Shop, a fashionable Regency destination and ever-popular purveyor of ice-cream.

Anyone for a Parmesan sundae...? 

Image courtesy of Historic Food.


  1. A parmesan sundae sounds delightful. Nice to read the history of ice-cream and its ancient counterparts. Warmly wish you a nice weekend.

  2. I'm not one for fancy flavours... but it is fascinating to read these old recipes. I think you'd love Lucy Worsley's book If Walls Could Talk if you haven't read it already.
    Have a lovely weekend!

  3. Parmesan ice-cream...defintely not for me! I hope you have a lovely weekend, too! :)

    Ingrid - Me neither. Give me plain old chocolate any day. My caveat is a weakness for Ben & Jerry's Phish Food though. Wow.

    Lucy Worsley's book is on my to-read list. I think she's brilliant and think it's amazing that you got to meet her!