The history of ice cream
Take a journey as you discover the discovery, evolution and final perfection of ice cream
Italians have long been known as the artists behind ice cream. Their decadent treats are created using the most luxuriously thick cream, smoothest milk, and organic flavourings such as cacao and vanilla pods to produce a product that not only blows the roof off your taste buds, but also claimed the fame for Italy as the ice cream capital of the world.
However, Italy was not the pioneer of this delightful dessert. Truth be told, the history of ice cream divulges that Marco Polo introduced ice cream to the Italians in 1300 A.D, but it was the Chinese who first made ice cream from frozen milk and rice in 200 B.C, while the Persians first created flavoured ice in 500 B.C. There is also talk that the Romans produced this icy treat in 37 B.C, when they topped some ice with fruit, but there’s still a debate surrounding that because there was no blending and mixture involved.
In 500 B.C the sun was still scorching the earth, much like it does today, and citizens of the Persian Empire would keep frozen ice in “yakchals”, which are underground caves. They would pour grape juice over the ice and eat it to stay cool during the hot summer months. However, it was the Arabs who in the year 800 actually introduced milk and sugar to the mixture, turning it into a delectable delight.
So, one can say that the magic mixers of the Middle East took a recipe and improved it a thousandfold when they eventually started adding nuts, rosewater, fruit and cream and turned it into a rich delectation that was gaining popularity from Cairo to Baghdad and every village in between.
Marco Polo, when in the far east, learned the story of ice cream and returned to Italy with a recipe for what is known today as “sherbert”. In the meantime, the 15th century British royalty had always enjoyed something called “cream ice”, which was only made available to the public in the 16th century.
It was finally a Sicilian who took stock of all these international delicacies and by using the most decadent parts of each recipe, combined them with butter, eggs and cream and froze it, creating ‘ice cream’. Because ice cream was so popular in Italy and not really known in France it was only after France’s Henry II married Italy’s Catherine de’ Medici that things changed. This innovative Sicilian entrepreneur sold ice cream at Paris’ first café, which proved to be the stage for iced desserts to meet the world.
The Italians have continued to improve on the ice cream, remaining steadfast to the original recipe of cream, eggs and milk. While modern industry has found ways to remove the luxurious creaminess and rich fullness from this dessert by injecting air into the mixture and removing half the good stuff, the real Italian ice cream is still made the original way, and is still considered a taste sensation.
Today, there are only a few true retailers who still make and sell the real ice cream, but Gelaré is proud to be amongst those who stick with the original method, and the way mamas used to make it.