The Gallery: Thomas Jefferson’s Ice Cream

After the revolution, Jefferson spent a number of years in France before becoming President.  In this time, he amassed an amazing culinary collection that would influence his dinner table for the rest of his life.  One of the dishes he enthused about was ice cream; not only did he buy an ice cream maker while abroad, but the Library of Congress also holds the vanilla ice cream recipes that Jefferson jotted down in his own hand.

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1780s – Thomas Jefferson’s Handwritten Recipe
ICE CREAM.
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.
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Below, an adaption of this recipe for the modern kitchen.  And if you’ve always wanted to know how to make ice cream from scratch, sign up for my class at the Brooklyn Brainery a week from today, on Sunday, September 4th.  I’ll go through the process step by step and talk about the origins and science of ice cream making.  See you there!

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Basic Ice Cream Recipe
Inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s recipe, with some modern instructions pulled from “Martha Stewart’s Easy Ice Cream

6 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 quart heavy cream (for a lighter ice cream, use 2 cups cream and 2 cups milk)
1 vanilla bean (or, other flavoring of your choice)
Additional mix-ins

1. In a glass bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and salt until blended.
2. Add split and scraped vanilla bean to 1 quart of cream; bring to a boil, then pour slowly into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
3. Cook egg and cream mixture over a double boiler, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard thickens slightly and evenly coats back of spoon (it should hold a line drawn by your finger).  Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl set over ice, or place in refrigerator, until chilled.
4. Churn in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, adding mix-ins like nuts or fruits in the last few minutes. Transfer ice cream to a resealable plastic container and freeze until firm, about 2 hours.

 

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