Except for those who may suffer from the occasional ‘brain freeze’, there is nothing we look forward to more on a hot summer’s day than a refreshing serving of ice cream. This popular dairy snack and dessert food has a long history and has evolved from a manually manufactured luxury household item to a highly automated modern industry.
In fact, the earliest manifestations of what we now call ice cream did not involve any dairy products at all. Some believe it may date back to more than 3,000 years ago in ancient China where snow was combined with the juices of oranges, lemons and pomegranates to make a healthy tasty treat. It is known that Alexander The Great enjoyed a delicious mix of snow, honey and fruits. Others trace the origin to ancient Persia, Egypt and the Middle East where snow was replaced with ice.
By the Middle Ages ice cream had made its way to the royal courts of Italy, France and England where it remained the private prerogative of the privileged. In the 1700s American politicians including Washington, Jefferson and Madison used ice cream to impress their guests. Early production involved placing the ingredients in a metal container surrounded by a freezing mixture of ice and coarse salt and then mixing until smooth. In the eighteenth century cream, milk products and egg yolks began to appear in the previously dairy-free flavoured ices. But still ice cream was mainly reserved for special occasions.
In 1843 ice cream finally became available to the masses when a New Jersey woman named Nancy Johnson invented the first hand crank ice cream freezer. Visionary entrepreneurs began making ice cream in their homes and delivering the goods by horse-drawn wagons to retail outlets like their local drugstores. By mid century industry pioneers like Jacob Fussell of Baltimore, William Breyer of Philadelphia and Thomas Webb in Toronto had opened their first ice cream manufacturing plants.
The first ice cream cone appeared at the famous St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. It became an instant success when a vendor, who was not getting much business selling waffles to the fair’s visitors, rolled them into a cone shape for use as a container instead of a small glass dish. By the Roaring Twenties the industry had matured even further with the introduction of ice cream sticks, bars and sandwiches.
Yet with the exception of modern refrigeration procedures, large machinery used by today’s manufacturers and government regulations to maintain quality control, the process of making ice cream remains relatively simple. Much like your great grandmother used to do. Cream and concentrated milk products are blended with sweeteners and stabilizers to prevent the formation of ice crystals after freezing. Liquid flavouring if needed is added prior to freezing. The mix is then pasteurized and homogenized to remove bacteria and provide the ice cream with its unique texture. During the continuous freezing process, the freezer blades whip and aerate the mix, and other ingredients like fruit and nuts are added. In recent years, most manufacturers have removed peanuts and nuts from the process and also offer less sweet and lactose-free varieties.
Today, the ice cream industry provides a full rainbow of flavours. But vanilla, strawberry and chocolate remain the most popular. And we love our ice cream. Canada is the fifth largest consumer of ice cream in the world with a market worth $365 million a year. We also have a wide assortment of products to choose from ranging from cones and sundaes to shakes, sherbets, frozen yogurts, pies and cakes, and specialty items from Europe and Asia. The 1990s saw a return to the older, thick ice creams sold as premium blends.
So if you’re a traditionalist like this writer perhaps you’ll agree with broadcaster Barbara Walters who has said: “A Hot Fudge Sundae and a trashy novel is my idea of heaven.”
There are many great places to grab a scoop or two in and around our wonderful Georgian Triangle…here are some great choices and this is what they have to offer:
Avalanche – 18 Schoolhouse Lane, Collingwood – 705.444.9230
Avalanche is the only parlour in Collingwood with homemade gelato's & sorbets. Gelato is Italian ice cream which is made with whole milk & a small amount of 18% cream. It is more dense than brand name ice creams because there is not as much air whipped into the product.
Craigleigh General Store and Restaurant, Highway 26, Craigleith – 705.445.2239
Offers a dozen flavours of Chapman’s Ice Cream
Espresso Post – 139 Hurontario Street, Collingwood – 705.446.1740
Originally they introduced ice cream to compliment their espresso. A fantastic "dessert" they have is called Luna, two scoops of vanilla ice cream served in a glass that they pour a fresh shot of espresso over. Your face will be amazed. Ice cream is supplied by the Mad River Ice Cream Company in Creemore.
Crave The Chocolatier a la Mode – 155 Hurontario Street, Collingwood
Offers premium Ice Cream and specialty chocolate
Indulge - 175 First Street, Collingwood
16 Flavours of Stoney Creek Premium Ice Cream, 16 Flavours of Yogurt, home-made waffle cones. Indulge is know to give very large scoops!
John and Gary’s – 72 Main Street East (Highway 26), Stayner
Offers 26 Flavours of Breyers premium ice cream, frozen yogurt with fresh fruit, funnel cake and other tasty treats.
Aarden’s Chocolates – 270 Main Street East, Stayner - 705.428.3385
Offers 3 different flavours of ice cream; chocolate, vanilla and caramel. It's an old French recipe that Master Chocolatier Mark makes from scratch with absolutely no preservatives and only the freshest ingredients.
Grandma Lambe’s – Highway 26, Meaford
Offers 6 flavours of ice cream and frozen yogurt.
Submitted by John Hanlon and Julie Card