History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

01 July 2013

Ice Cream!

Hi all! It is with great regret that I announce that this is my last regular Hoydens post. I've just been overwhelmed with commitments lately. I've had a wonderful time talking to all of you for the past two years and I've learned so much--thanks for everything! I'll miss you.

In other news, I recently bought a Cuisinart ice cream maker and I LOVE it. I have been making ice cream non-stop. I've never made custard before and it's definitely taking me a while to get the hang of it, but I haven't produced anything actually BAD yet, so. I thought in honor of the season I'd post some period ice cream recipes from Hannah Glasse's The Complete Confectioner. The book was first published 1760, but I'm using the version edited and expanded by Maria Wilson in 1800, similar to how Joy of Cooking has gone through many editions. Hannah Glasse's name became so synonymous with cookbooks that this 1845 joke political letter to the Times used her name (trigger warning: fatphobia):

via Wikimedia Commons.

[transcription: NORFOLK SAUCE. TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES. Sir--As I cannot doubt your sympathy with your poor countrymen, in the event of a scarcity, I beg to send you my receipt for dressing a very simple dish:--NORFOLK CURRY. Take a duke, no matter how foolish, but the fatter the better, stew him down with "peppers, and a variety of things of that description," and serve him up as the principal dish at an agricultural meeting--any fool can cut him up. This is a very warm dish to the stomach, if "not palatable at first," wash it down with a glass or two of milk punch. Yours truly, HANNAH GLASSE. Beefsteak Club, Dec. 12.]

First, here's how they made ice cream:

The Method of Icing all Sorts of liquid Compositions 

When your composition is put in the sabotiere, take some natural ice and put it in a mortar, when it is reduced to a powder, strew over it two or three handfuls of salt; then take your pails, put some pounded ice in the bottom, and place your sabotiere in those pails, which you fill up after with ice to bury the sabotiere in. You must take care in the beginning to open your sabotiere in order not to let the sides freeze first, and on the contrary detach, with a pewter spoon, all the flakes which stick to the sides, in order to make it congeal equally all over in the pot; then work them well, for they are much more mellow by being well worked; and their delicacy depends entirely upon it. Do not wait till they are thoroughly iced to begin to work them, because they would become too hard, and it is not possible to dissolve what is congealed in lumps or pieces: when you see they are well congealed let them rest, taking care for this time there should be some which stick to the sides of the icing-pot; this will prevent them from melting and make them keep longer in a right degree of icing.

If your composition does not congeal so quickly as you wish through the melting of your pounded ice, you may change that ice in the same manner as you put it before; for as there is always a hole at the bottom of those pails, you may let the water of your melted ice run off, by taking out the stopper without disturbing the sabotiere; then fill your pails up again as you did before, continuing rolling your sabotiere till you see the composition is congealed to the point you wish.

You could then scoop your soft ice cream into moulds and freeze it hard for serving.

You can see an engraving of an 18th-century sabotiere at the lefthand side of this page; mouseover to see a photo of the same thing (according to the site, sabotiere is a corruption of sorbetiere, which makes more sense). And here are a series of photos of a professional reenactor using one along with some period molds--according to the site, it takes between half an hour and an hour and forty-five minutes of hand-spinning the sabotiere to make ice cream, depending on the room's temperature! I'd love to see what the inside looks like but can't find a picture, although I did find one for sale from the mid-19th century that said it had a ceramic lining. (It is interesting to see that the cookbook quoted on that page, Borella's 1770 The Court and Country Confectioner, uses almost word-for-word some of the same instructions above. Without more research I can't tell who copied from whom, but I am always amazed by how different Georgian and Regency intellectual property laws were from our own.)

Look at this recipe for apricot sorbet using apricot kernels ("clarified sugar" in this book means simple syrup made with water into which an egg white has been beaten to a froth; the egg white traps the impurities and then floats to the top, making a skin which is easy to skim off):

To make Apricot Ice 

Take very ripe apricots, cut them very small in a sieve, which place over a pan, squeeze them well with a spoon through that sieve, and after it is done, add some clarified sugar to it; take afterwards about twenty almonds from the stones of those apricots, pound them very fine in a mortar, moistening them with a little clear water; when they are well pounded mix them with your apricots; if you see your mixture is too thick, squeeze in the juice of three or four lemons and a little water, till you see it is neither too clear nor too thick, then put it in the sabotiere, and proceed as before directed.

The very first flavor in the book for a cream ice (as opposed to a plain sorbet-style ice, of which there are many) is pistachio! Yum.

To make Pistachio Nut Cream Ices

Take any quantity of cream in a pan, put in another four yolks of eggs for every pint of cream you are to employ; pound your pistachio nuts very fine in a mortar, and put them in the pan where you dropped your yolks of eggs; mix the whole together, add some pounded loaf sugar to it, keep stirring it continually, then add your cream by little and little, stirring and turning it till the whole is mixed properly together; then set your pan over the fire, and stirring it with a wooden spoon till you see composition is near boiling, when take it off immediately; for from the moment you set your composition over the fire till that it offers to boil, it has a sufficient time to incorporate well and thicken sufficiently, without need of boiling; and should you let it boil, you would risk the turning your cream into whey, on account of the yolks of eggs, which would do too much. Take great care likewise your cream is fresh and sweet, for, otherwise, as soon as it is warm it will turn into curds and whey; therefore take care to stir it continually, from the time you set it on the fire till you take it off; after which pour it into a sieve and pass it into a pan, then put it in the sabotiere to make it congeal after the usual manner.

I was surprised to see:

To make Coffee Cream Ices 

Take about a pint of coffee made with water and rather strong, when settled, draw it clear and add half a pound of sugar; set it on the fire and let it boil till your sugar is at a very high degree; take it off from the fire and let it cool, after which make your cream, as before directed, with the yolks of eggs, and put your coffee in, then proceed as usual.

I really thought coffee desserts were a modern thing, but no! Among all the usual fruit (strawberry, currants, pineapples, apricots, etc.) there are also recipes for Tea Cream Ices, Brown Bread Cream Ices, and Royal Cream Ices (which are made with coriander, cinnamon, and orange or lemon peel).

And now some of my favorite recipes I've experimented with so far in my own ice cream maker:

Peach-and-Toasted-Pecan Ice Cream, recipe from Southern Living. This stuff is incredible...when I tasted the peach initially I thought the vanilla was too strong but when I added the nuts, the flavor was perfect.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream. This stuff is amazing, but a LITTLE too much like eating peanut butter--next time I'm slightly decreasing the peanut butter and increasing the milk.

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream. Easily the best I've made so far (I also got great results pureeing most of the berries, and none of those weird chunks of strawberry-ice-cube). In my opinion this recipe tastes like Haagen-Dazs. But be warned: the listed one-quart yield is WRONG. This stuff overflowed my 1.5qt ice cream maker once I added the strawberries. So make it in a two-thirds batch.

Any recommendations for your own favorite recipes?

Au revoir!

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