AN ANCIENT TREAT
Although the crank ice cream freezer wasn’t invented until 1843, and the first large-scale commercial ice cream plant in 1851, research shows that ice cream was first created in the cold regions of China more than 4,000 years ago. There, milk and cream, perhaps some overcooked rice, and spices were packed in snow to harden.
Fruit ices were also developed, prepared with fruit juices, honey and aromatic spices. Snow and saltpeter served as an ancient ice cream maker to freeze ingredients in a container.
Through trade routes, the frozen desserts were introduced to Persia about 2,500 years ago. The Persians called the frozen concoction sharbat, “fruit ice” in Arabic and the origin of sherbet, sorbet and sorbetto.
Alexander the Great, who battled the Persians for 10 years before finally toppling the Persian Empire in 330 B.C.E., discovered fruit “ices” sweetened with honey and chilled with snow. He returned to Greece with the knowledge; and within three centuries, Emperor Nero was serving fruit juices mixed with honey and snow at his banquets.
Here’s more on the history of ice cream.
Turn history into fun: With the next fresh snowfall, you, too can make sharbat—or snow ice cream, also called snow cream. Transport yourself back to ancient China, or to Alexander the Great’s conquest of Persia. (Nero’s banquets? Maybe not so safe!)
First up is a simple recipe from Julie Blanner for strawberry snow cream, ready in just three minutes.
RECIPE: SNOW ICE CREAM (SNOW CREAM)
1/4 cup Strawberry Nesquik*
1/4 cup milk
2 cups clean snow
Optional garnish: fresh or frozen/thawed strawberries
*Instead of Nesquik, you can purée frozen strawberries and add sweetener as desired.
1. COMBINE the Nesquik and milk, and pour over the snow. Blend as desired.
1/2 cup fruit juice
2 cups clean snow
Optional sweetener: agave or honey
Sweeteners: try whatever you like, from honey and maple syrup to lower-glycemic sweeteners like agave and sucralose (Splenda).
Flavors: Instead of fruit or juice, add an extract to the snow: coffee, lemon, mint, vanilla, etc.
Prepare as above.
Top photos: An ancient recipe with modern decorations, and the preparation process, from GimmeSomeOven.com. Bottom: Strawberry snow ice cream from Julie Blanner.