Strawberry Ice Cream

Katie Maxwell, Visitor Services and Design Coordinator

During the course of my research for the recently concluded seminar, Philadelphia at the Table: Treasures of The Larder Invaded, I came across this menu from the 1876 Centennial Exposition:

At the very top of the menu, there is an ice cream section that lists both “Strawberry” and “Strawberries and Cream.” I have no idea what the difference is between strawberry ice cream and strawberries-and-cream ice cream, but I’d like to find out.

My previous attempts at making ice cream have been…mixed. Although I resolved afterward to just buy my ice cream, I’ve decided to give ice cream making another shot. I discussed one of my ice cream failures with author and food historian Dr. William Woys Weaver in this video. (To skip straight to ice cream, go to time 31:56.) During this discussion, I learned that in the absence of a proper, churning ice cream maker, I should have been stirring the ice cream during the freezing process. This time I’m consulting another expert, Sarah Tyson Rorer. She ran the well-respected Philadelphia Cooking School in the 19th century and wrote a number of cookbooks. Her 1886 book, Mrs. Rorer’s Philadelphia Cookbook: A Manual of Home Economies has a whole chapter on ice cream (445) with the following advice early on:

To make good Philadelphia ice cream, use only the best materials. Avoid gelatine, arrowroot, or any other thickening substance. Good, pure cream, ripe fruit, or the best canned in winter, and granulated sugar, make a perfect ice cream.

[….] The best ice cream is made by first scalding the cream and dissolving the sugar in it while hot. When raw cream is frozen, the flavoring is not so prominent, and the cream has a frozen snowy taste, and is never perfectly smooth and velvety.

Already I discover what happened when I made “Lemon Ice Cream.” The recipe called for beating the cream and flavor together and freezing the mixture. As a result, it did indeed have a “snowy” texture.

Now onto Rorer’s strawberry ice cream recipe on page 452:

Make precisely the same as Raspberry Ice Cream, omitting the lemon juice, and using one and a half quarts of berries.

Fortunately the raspberry recipe is on the preceding page. Rorer helpfully lists the ingredients separately:

1 quart cream

1 quart of raspberries (one and a half quarts strawberries)

1 pound of sugar

Juice of one lemon

Strawberries, cream, and sugar each in their own bowls.

I find weight more helpful than volume for measuring fruit since I don’t know what size strawberries Rorer was working with. According to some internet sleuthing, one and a half quarts of strawberries is somewhere between 30 and 36 ounces. (I ended up with 33.5 ounces.)

Put half of the sugar and half of the cream on to a boil in a farina boiler ;

Ingredients in pot over boiling water on a stove.

I’m pretty sure a farina boiler is something like a double boiler, so I’ve put my ingredients in a metal bowl set over a pot of boiling water.

when the sugar is dissolved, stand aside to cool.

Ingredients in bowl with a fork.

Rather than dissolving, my sugar is melting together in clumps. Maybe I’m supposed to whisk while the mixture boils…

A few minutes of vigorous whisking on the stove later,

Ingredients in pot, smoothly incorporated.

This looks more like it. While this cools, I move on to the strawberries.

Add the remaining half of the sugar and the lemon juice to the berries, mash

Strawberries and sugar in a glass bowl.

I took the liberty of slicing the strawberries in half, and I now realize my bowl is too small.

Strawberries and sugar mixed in bowl.

My sugary strawberries are very quickly turning into syrup.

and stand aside one hour,

Syrupy strawberry mixture in bowl.

There appears to be as much liquid as there is fruit.

then strain through a fine muslin.

Syrupy strawberry mixture in a strainer over a bowl.

I don’t have “fine muslin,” so I’m simply using a strainer.

Add the remaining half of the cream to the sweetened cream, and freeze.

Metal pan filled with frozen cream.

By this time, the scalded cream has cooled to room temperature. I don’t have any kind of ice cream maker, so I’m using a metal 13” x 9” metal pan. It takes a bit under 2 hours to freeze including the time half-way through that I take it out and mix it with a fork.

Metal pan filled with frozen cream being mixed with a fork.

I’m mixing it up again, from the edges in. Hopefully this will make the texture more ice-cream-like.

When frozen, stir in the fruit juice,

Metal pan filled with unmixed juice and frozen cream.

beat thoroughly, and finish as in preceding recipes.

Metal pan filled with evenly mixed juice and cream.

It took a little while to mix everything into a uniform texture. I ended up with a pale pink color. I take it out of the freezer and mix it every 45 minutes or so. After the addition of the strawberry syrup, it takes another four to five hours to freeze again. (The preceding recipes Rorer alludes to include advice on using ice cream makers.)

The moment of truth:

Strawberry ice cream in a glass serving dish with a fresh strawberry.

It’s actually pretty good, my most ice-cream-like ice cream yet! While it doesn’t have quite the creaminess of store-bought ice cream, it looks, scoops and tastes like actual ice cream. It definitely tastes like strawberries although I miss the chunks of fruit that modern ice cream usually includes. The bad news is that I still don’t know the difference between strawberry ice cream and strawberries-and-cream ice cream. The good news is that I finally successfully made ice cream!