June 13, 1789 — This evening, Elizabeth “Betsy” Hamilton — the wife of Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) who was first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States — served ice cream to George Washington. It was said to be the highlight of the dinner party. The dessert caught on, for by August, the president and first lady likewise served ice cream at a party attended by Vice President John Adams and his wife, Abigail, and Chief Justice John Jay and his wife, Sarah. (An inventory of Mount Vernon shortly after Washington’s death listed 10 ice cream pots among the kitchenware.)
Thomas Jefferson was also a great fan of ice cream, especially vanilla, which he first enjoyed in France and may have introduced to America. During his presidency, he sometimes served ice cream balls encased in warm pastry. According to Barbara G. Carson’s “Ambitious Appetites: Dining, Behavior, and Patterns of Consumption in Federal Washington” (Aia, 1990), this generated “great astonishment and murmurings” from the dinner guests.
By the end of the 18th century, the commercial harvesting and shipping of ice from the cold states to warmer ones was taking hold, and Washington-area residents could purchase ice year-round. The ready availability — and eventual affordability — of ice, plus the invention of the hand-cranked, dasher-style ice cream machine and appearance of soda fountains in the mid-19th century changed the ice cream experience dramatically. Ordinary folks, as well as the region’s elite, could enjoy the amazing pleasure of keeping cool with ice cream, sorbets, sherbets and such.
And it is believe that the man who made the cream so popular among the masses was a black man by the name of Jackson. In the early part of the present century kept a small confectionery store in Washington. Cold custards, which were cooled after being made by setting them on a cake of ice, were very fashion able, and Jackson, at Mrs. Hamilton’s suggestion, froze them by placing the ingredients in a tin bucket and completely covering it with ice. Each bucket contained a quart, and was sold for $1. It immediately became popular, and the inventor soon enlarged his store, and when he died left a considerable fortune. A good many tried to follow his example, and ice cream was hawked about the streets, being wheeled along very much as the hokey-pokey carts are now, but none of them succeeded in obtaining the flavor that Jackson had in his product.
Words of Wisdom for June 13, 2016
Vanilla Frozen Custard Makes about 1 quart
The ingredients in modern frozen custard recipes haven’t changed much since Thomas Jefferson brought a recipe back to Monticello from France. At the time, vanilla was still little known in America. Provided by his personal French chef and written down by Jefferson, his version called for two bottles of “good” cream, six egg yolks, a half-pound of sugar and a “stick” of vanilla. As its name suggests, this recipe involves readying a custard mixture. The flavor is richer, the color creamier, and the texture smoother than that of regular vanilla ice cream.
• 1-1/2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
• 3-inch vanilla bean, halved lengthwise (may substitute 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract in addition to amount below)
• 3 or 4 nickel-size pieces lemon zest
• 2 cups whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• Generous 3/4 cup granulated sugar
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- In a heavy 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream, vanilla bean, and lemon zest just to a simmer. Do not boil. Remove the pan from the heat; set aside to steep for 45 minutes.
- In a heat-proof bowl using a fork, combine the milk, egg yolks, sugar, and salt until well-blended. Microwave on high power for 4-1/2 to 6 minutes, stopping and stirring each minute, until the mixture is very hot but does not boil. Set aside.
- Return the cream mixture to medium-high heat and heat just until hot. Stirring constantly, slowly pour half the cream into the milk mixture. Pour this mixture back into the remaining cream in the pan and stir well. (This prevents the custard from curdling.)
- Place the pan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, to prevent the mixture from boiling or scorching. It may be necessary to adjust the heat.
- Watch carefully; if bubbles appear at the edges, immediately lift the pan from the burner and stir vigorously to cool the mixture slightly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens slightly and is very hot to the touch, 4 or 5 minutes.
- Immediately remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve placed over a storage container; discard the solids. Cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 4 hours and preferably overnight.
- Pour the chilled mixture into an ice cream maker and proceed according to manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to a chilled storage container, cover and chill until firm. May freeze for up to 2 weeks.
Per 1/2 cup serving: 295 calories, 4 g protein, 22 g carbohydrates, 21 g fat, 176 mg cholesterol, 12 g saturated fat, 86 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber.
— Recipe from Nancy Baggett, author of "The All-American Cookie Book" (Houghton Mifflin, 2001)