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HISTORY FACTS *What does Thomas Jefferson's famous ice cream taste like? *

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HISTORY FACTS *What does Thomas Jefferson's famous ice cream taste like? * Empty HISTORY FACTS *What does Thomas Jefferson's famous ice cream taste like? *

Post by Paul Tue 21 May 2024, 5:16 pm

We Made Thomas Jefferson’s Ice Cream




HISTORY FACTS *What does Thomas Jefferson's famous ice cream taste like? * Scree337




Thomas Jefferson’s complicated legacy encompasses his roles as an American founding father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and the third President of the United States. Jefferson was also an enthusiastic foodie, with a willingness to try new cuisine and an interest in kitchen gadgets. He particularly enjoyed ice cream, a dessert he likely encountered during his time in France from 1784 to 1789. And while Jefferson did not introduce the young United States to ice cream — the frozen treat was served in the American colonies as early as 1744 — he certainly helped popularize the dish, and he is the first known American to write down a recipe for it.
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Jefferson’s ice cream recipe is one of only 10 surviving recipes in his handwriting. It’s unlikely that the President created the recipe himself; the original source was likely his  French butler, Adrien Petit. Still, Jefferson was fond enough of the creamy dessert to write down the recipe and ship pewter ice molds back from France.
While the founding father’s ice cream recipe is simple to make, the tools used in the early 19th century aren’t in common use today. For instance, the “sabottiere” ice cream maker (also spelled “sabotiere”) that Jefferson references was a lidded metal bucket within a larger wooden bucket. Today’s ice cream makers have similar components, but are easier, faster, and less laborious to use. Likewise, the ice cream molds that Jefferson had shipped from France are mostly obsolete today, replaced by silicone popsicle molds and pint- or quart-sized containers.
The website for Jefferson’s Virginia home, Monticello, includes both Jefferson’s original ice cream recipe and an updated version by Jefferson historian Marie Kimball. To make Jefferson’s ice cream, my son and I stuck as close to the original recipe as possible, improvising when necessary. For instance, to bring the ice cream mixture to boiling, we used a large skillet on a gas stovetop rather than an open fire. And instead of straining it “thro’ a towel,” we used a metal sieve.
Though the process took considerably longer than we expected — and longer than Jefferson himself suggested (see the note at the end of the article) — the end result was rich, creamy, and delicious!


Jefferson's Ice Cream Recipe


2 bottles of good cream.
6 yolks of eggs.
1/2 lb. sugar

mix the yolks & sugar
put the cream on a fire in a casserole, first putting in a stick of Vanilla.
when near boiling take it off & pour it gently into the mixture of eggs & sugar.
stir it well.
put it on the fire again stirring it thoroughly with a spoon to prevent it's sticking to the casserole.
when near boiling take it off and strain it thro' a towel.
put it in the Sabottiere
then set it in ice an hour before it is to be served. put into the ice a handful of salt.
put salt on the coverlid of the Sabotiere & cover the whole with ice.
leave it still half a quarter of an hour.
then turn the Sabottiere in the ice 10 minutes
open it to loosen with a spatula the ice from the inner sides of the Sabotiere.
shut it & replace it in the ice
open it from time to time to detach the ice from the sides
when well taken (prise) stir it well with the Spatula.
put it in moulds, justling it well down on the knee.
then put the mould into the same bucket of ice.
leave it there to the moment of serving it.
to withdraw it, immerse the mould in warm water, turning it well till it will come out & turn it into a plate.

(Modern version hereadapted by historian Marie Kimball)

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HISTORY FACTS *What does Thomas Jefferson's famous ice cream taste like? * HF_Jefferson-Ice-cream_photo-1
Photo Credit:  Kristina Wright  

Gathering the Ingredients 


First we gathered our ingredients and supplies. Jefferson’s recipe calls for just five ingredients: sugar, egg yolks, a pinch of salt, cream, and vanilla. But the ice cream-making process requires a number of kitchen supplies, as well as ice and salt, which lowers the freezing/melting point of water. To duplicate Jefferson’s process, I needed to purchase a metal pail, a larger wooden bucket, a large fine sieve, and ice cream “molds,” which were silicone ice cream containers. I also bought a large container of rock salt, as it reacts better with the ice than table salt. 
HISTORY FACTS *What does Thomas Jefferson's famous ice cream taste like? * HF_Jefferson-Ice-cream_photo-2
Photo Credit:  Kristina Wright  

Blending the Eggs and Sugar 


In a large bowl, we whisked six egg yolks, then added 1 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt, creating a thick, bright-yellow mixture.

Related:7 Facts About the Life and Reign of Queen Victoria
HISTORY FACTS *What does Thomas Jefferson's famous ice cream taste like? * HF_Jefferson-Ice-cream_photo-3
Photo Credit:  Kristina Wright  

Heating the Cream and Vanilla


Jefferson’s recipe calls for a “stick of Vanilla,” referring to a vanilla bean, from which we get the more familiar vanilla extract. I made a slit in the vanilla bean before heating it with the cream in order to release those tiny seeds that give vanilla ice cream its speckled appearance. (It also smells amazing!)
The recipe also calls for “2 bottles of good cream,” but doesn’t specify the quantity in the bottles. For this step, we relied on Marie Kimball’s updated version of the recipe and used 1 quart of heavy whipping cream (which is the same as heavy cream).

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HISTORY FACTS *What does Thomas Jefferson's famous ice cream taste like? * HF_Jefferson-Ice-cream_photo-4
Photo Credit:  Kristina Wright  

Pouring the Hot Cream and Vanilla Over the Egg and Sugar Mixture


Once the cream and vanilla reached boiling, we took the pan off the stove and slowly poured the cream over the egg and sugar mixture. Then we gently stirred it until the ingredients were well blended before returning the mixture to the pan.
HISTORY FACTS *What does Thomas Jefferson's famous ice cream taste like? * HF_Jefferson-Ice-cream_photo-5
Photo Credit:  Kristina Wright  

Boiling the Ice Cream Mixture


Kimball’s version of Jefferson’s recipe calls for using a double boiler to heat the ice cream mixture, but we stuck with a single pan, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. After a few minutes, the mixture began to thicken, taking on a custardy texture that smelled like vanilla cake. Once the mixture reached boiling, we took it off the heat.

Related:7 Facts About the Life and Reign of Queen Victoria
HISTORY FACTS *What does Thomas Jefferson's famous ice cream taste like? * HF_Jefferson-Ice-cream_photo-6-1
Photo Credit:  Kristina Wright  

Straining the Ice Cream Mixture 


For the straining step, I intended to use cheesecloth to simulate Jefferson’s towel method, but due to the potential for a literal hot mess, I opted to use Kimball’s recommendation for a fine sieve. Straining the ice cream mixture like this allowed us to catch the small bits of egg and vanilla bean, leaving the ice cream mixture silky smooth.

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HISTORY FACTS *What does Thomas Jefferson's famous ice cream taste like? * HF_Jefferson-Ice-cream_photo-7
Photo Credit:  Kristina Wright  

Putting the Mixture Into the Ice Cream Maker


In place of Jefferson’s “sabottiere,” we poured the strained ice cream mixture into a lidded metal pail, filled the whiskey barrel with an ice and rock salt mixture (per Kimball’s instructions), and then turned the pail at regular intervals, stirring the ice cream mixture occasionally as it slowly began to cool and freeze.  
HISTORY FACTS *What does Thomas Jefferson's famous ice cream taste like? * HF_Jefferson-Ice-cream_photo-8
Photo Credit:  Kristina Wright  

Molding the Ice Cream 


After two hours, the ice cream had cooled and thickened to a milkshake consistency. Jefferson’s recipe calls for the ice cream to be packed into ice molds, which were hinged pewter containers in the shape of flowers, fruit, and other decorative objects, but we used a quart-sized silicone ice cream container instead. In retrospect, I wish we’d used popsicle molds, as the smaller containers would have made the ice cream freeze faster.
Once the ice cream was in the container, it took another two hours to thicken to soft-serve consistency. We could have eaten it then (and we did taste test it!), but we wanted the ice cream to hold its shape when scooped. Since most of the ice in the whiskey barrel had melted at this point, we decided to put the container in our modern freezer overnight.

Related:7 Facts About the Life and Reign of Queen Victoria
HISTORY FACTS *What does Thomas Jefferson's famous ice cream taste like? * HF_Jefferson-Ice-cream_photo-9
Photo Credit:  Kristina Wright  

The Final Result


After freezing overnight, the ice cream was hard-packed and scoopable! Creamy, pale-yellow, and speckled with vanilla bean, it was the richest ice cream we’d ever tasted.
Note: One line of Jefferson’s recipe reads, “Then set it in ice an hour before it is to be served.” The actual time to freeze using his method took several hours just to get to soft-serve consistency. This could be due to the size and shape of the containers we used, but it still seems unlikely that it could be done in an hour, even using Jefferson-era ice molds.
Paul
Paul
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Fri 21 Jun 2024, 6:18 am by Paul

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