Sub Zero Ice Cream and Yogurt’s unique dessert is built upon ice cream’s evolution across the centuries. While we might offer the most innovative technique for freezing ice cream, we are indebted to the minds and taste-buds that came before us. As a tribute to the history of this wonderful dessert, here’s a quick survey of the development of ice cream.

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Nowadays, it’s easy to take ice cream for granted. After all, we have refrigeration processes that make ice cream in minutes (or, in our case, seconds), freezers that store ice cream for months, and preservatives to make ice cream last years (something no one really wants to think about). However, for centuries throughout the warmer parts of the world, only the rich and powerful could afford frozen desserts because ice had to be imported from the mountains and/or stored in ice houses.

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While America has capitalized on the frozen dessert, ice cream’s origins have been pin-pointed to ancient China (doesn’t everything good seem to come from ancient China? Gunpowder, porcelain, fireworks, noodles, fortune cookies…). Records have been found of Emperor Tang, founder of the Shang dynasty, ordering concoctions made of ice, camphor and cow, goat or buffalo milk.

Photo courtesy of China A2Z
Photo courtesy of China A2Z

The craving for frozen foods spread as figures such as Alexander the Great and Emperor Nero sent runners to bring ice down from the mountains to cool their wine and eat with fruit. The Arabs were the first people to add sugar to their ice and when Marco Polo made his expedition, he brought back the idea of flavored ice. The Italians claim to be the creators of the first prototype for modern day ice cream with the emergence of ice made with sweetened milks in 1664. Ice desserts became all the rage for French and Italian courts and the combination of ice with milk branched into various desserts as European chefs experimented to satisfy their patrons.

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Ice cream first hit the American scene in the 1770s, although there is some debate as to who opened an ice cream parlor first, Giovanni Bosio or Phillip Lenzi. Ever since then, American ice cream lovers have been developing new methods, recipes and technologies for producing their favorite treat. Some of these people include:

1813— Mrs. Jeremiah Shadd, a freed slave who owned her own catering business and invented what Americans now recognize as ice cream. After tasting Mrs. Judd’s creation, Dolly Madison made ice cream the official White House dessert.

1832— Augustus Jackson, called the “father of ice cream”, improved manufacturing methods to freeze custard and developed many of the traditional flavors we enjoy today. After working in the White House as a chef, he moved to Philadelphia to start his own catering business and sell ice cream.

1843— Nancy M. Johnson invented the hand cranked ice cream freezer and her machine is still used to make ice cream today. She made it possible for ordinary people to make ice cream in their homes.

1851— Jacob Fussel opened the first large scale commercial ice cream factory in Baltimore.

After first eating ice cream in 1789, George Washington bought an ice cream machine for Mount Vernon. In 1790, a merchant reported that the former president spent $200 for ice cream during that summer alone, which he served at his afternoon receptions.

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Thomas Jefferson learned how to make ice cream during a visit to France. Not only did he bring home a sobetiere to use at Monticello, but he also hired a French chef, recorded ice cream recipes, and served ice cream at the White House.

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These days, ice cream comes in all flavors and consistencies and can be found virtually anywhere. It comes in bowls, cones and cups, is eaten by straws and spoons, and often finds itself smothered in melted toppings. Fast forward the development of ice cream to 2004, and you find Jerry Hancock, the founder of Sub Zero Ice Cream and Yogurt, opening the first Sub Zero restaurant after spending two years developing a technique for making delectable ice cream using liquid nitrogen. Ice cream has come a long way.

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