Everything you've ever wanted to know about ice cream and more
Is all ice cream the same?
In one very important way all ice creams are the same as they are all gorgeous and are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face, but just think about it for a second, there are many, many different types of products all called ice cream but look, feel and taste very different to one another.
So what are the different types of ice cream?
The first main type is what we in the ice cream trade call ‘soft’ but which is known to millions of happy customers as maybe ‘Mr Whippy’ or ‘Mr Softee’ and is often served as a ‘99’ in a crisp cone complete with a small stick of rich, flaky chocolate.
But not even soft ice cream is all the same as you will see by travelling around the country where in some places it is bright and white like the colour of milk and in others it is more golden like the colour of butter or rich cream. It is not only the colour that differs as individual makers choose the kind of flavour they want with some slightly sweeter than others or having a particular vanilla taste.
The second main type is what we in the trade call ‘hard’ but which is known by millions of happy customers as scooped being served as it is by being scooped out of a tub or container and piled on to a crispy cone.
Scoop ice cream is made in a slightly different way to soft which enables the maker to offer a mouth watering range of flavours and different textures by adding what we in the trade call ‘inclusions’ which are the bits of fruit, chocolate, cookie etc that are blended in to the ice cream when it is made for you to enjoy when you eat it.
So are all ice creams the same? Certainly not!
What is Artisan ice cream?
Quite simply, artisan ice cream is ice cream made by an artisan which the dictionary definition of artisan being a ‘skilled craftsperson’. Delving a bit deeper in to the dictionary tells us that a crafts-person is some one who makes things skilfully by hand.
Although now-a-days, ice cream makers do not plunge their hands in to a bowl to make their ice cream, the artisan makers certainly do take a very ‘hands on’ approach using all the skills that many have learnt from many, many years making ice cream with recipes and techniques often handed down from one generation to the next.
Artisan producers are able to be ‘hands on’ as they make smaller batches of ice cream that will be sold and eaten in as short a time as possible as ‘fresh’ ice cream is the best around.
They also use processes and machinery that need the ‘human touch’ be it in choosing and mixing the ingredients or keeping a close eye on the freezing to make sure the ice cream is of the smoothest, highest quality possible.
How is artisan ice cream made?
As well as the experience and skill of the artisan maker, great ice cream begins with great ingredients.
For most artisan ice cream makers the ingredients include milk, eggs, butter and cream which are blended together and whisked to make a light, melt-in-the-mouth texture we all love.
The first stage in the process is to select the ingredients including the milk which in many cases is produced by their own cows or bought from local farmers and suppliers. The same care is taken over the other ingredients including the flavours and inclusions which are often supplied by specialist companies who source their raw materials from around the world.
Ingredients sorted, the process can begin.
The first step is mixing the ingredients to the artisan makers own recipe before being pasteurised. This involves heating the mix up to kill off harmful bacteria before the mix is cooled as quickly as possible down to a temperature of between 0°C and -4°C for at least 4 hours and often much longer especially as the flavours are added at this stage.
The next step is to churn the mix to blend in some air. It may seem strange that ice cream has air in it but if it didn’t it would come out of the freezer like and ice cube and not like ice cream at all. The amount of air also varies from maker to maker and even from recipe to recipe but it is always added to produce the ‘lick-able’ treat we all love.
During the churning process the temperature of the mix is lowered to between -2°C and -7°C and it is also at this stage that the artisan maker may add pieces of fruit, toffee, cookie or nuts etc to complete the recipe.
This done, the ice cream is put in to a container which may be an individual tub or a family pack or even a ‘Napoli’ tray to be proudly displayed in an open freezer cabinet in an ice cream parlour or shop, and then it’s off to the cold room where the ice cream is ‘hardened’ at a bone chilling temperature of -28°C.
The final stage of the process is getting it to you whether by an ice cream van, in a parlour or your local shop, pub, hotel or restaurant just tuck in and enjoy!
Where can I find Artisan ice cream?
The simple answer to this is anywhere and everywhere but you may need to look a little closer to spot it.
There are around 1,000 artisan ice cream makers across the UK and Ireland from the Channel Islands to the Shetlands and all points north, south, east and west.
Many of the artisan ice cream makers do not sell their products through the high street supermarkets but prefer to sell through smaller outlets such as farm shops, specialist ice cream parlours, local retailers, hotels and restaurants.
Most of the time you may not recognise the name of the maker but one tip is to look at the makers address to see how local they are to you and at the price as top quality, artisan ice cream does cost a little more but delivers great value for money.
Finally, if you are looking for artisan ice cream in your area then why not call the Ice Cream Alliance on 01332 203333 and we will steer you in the right direction or you can use 'Find an Ice Cream Parlour' at the top of this webpage.
Stop Me and Buy One!
Everyone loves ice cream and many people hold a similar affection for the great British tradition, the ice cream van; but how and when did this way of selling ice cream begin and how has it developed over the years?
Ice Cream Factoids
- The people of Scotland and Northern Ireland eat more ice cream on average than those in England and Wales.
- On average, each person in the UK eats 9 litres of ice cream every year; sounds a lot but the Scandinavians eat more with the Americans topping the chart at 20 litres per year!
- Surveys have shown that men are more likely to choose ice cream as a dessert than women.
- Ice Cream Sundaes were created when it became illegal to sell ice cream with flavoured soda on a Sunday in the American town of Evanston during the late 19th century. Some traders got round it by serving it with syrup instead, calling it an 'Ice Cream Sunday' and eventually replacing the final 'y' with an 'e' to avoid upsetting religious leaders
- Most ice cream contains more milk protein weight for weight than is present in milk itself
- Today most ice creams contain only around 5% fat and plenty of calcium, minerals and vitamins
- While many people are only aware of a handful of ice cream companies there are over 1,000 in the U.K. producing hundreds of flavours. Despite this fact, vanilla remains the favourite being chosen nine times out of ten.
- Today more and more ice creams have savoury flavours including Smoked Bacon and Egg, Black Pepper, Chilli and even Black Pudding any plenty made using beer such as Newcastle Brown! The Japanese also have horse meat and the Koreans Green Tea … lovely!
- If you only take a few scoops form a large tub of ice cream, protect the quality of the ice cream by preventing air getting to it by scrunching up a few pieces of greaseproof paper and put these on top of the ice cream before replacing the lid.
- Ice crystals in ice cream show that it has been badly kept ie. it has been allowed to thaw and then been refrozen. If you detect ice crystals you should throw the ice cream away and buy more.
Ice Cream FAQ’s
Why is a '99' called a '99'?
'99' is a trademark of Cadbury Limited and it is used to describe a scoop or swirl of soft serve ice cream with a Cadbury chocolate Flake in it.
Unfortunately, we are not totally clear of the origin of the name for '99 ice creams. We have on occasions tried to gain confirmation from Cadbury but they have never got back to us with a clear explanation. We do, however, have a variety of possible explanations:
- "the king of Italy had 99 soldiers and the flake was said to represent one of these soldiers"
- "99 is top of the house in bingo"
- 99 in Italian means 'top class'
- "it is called a 99 because it was number 99 on the product list"
- If you think you know the real reason for its name do let us know!
Other manufacturers do make chocolate sticks, but only ice creams containing Flakes made by Cadbury's are officially '99s'.
Why is a Knickerbocker Glory so named?
The shape of the knickerbocker glory glass (wide at the top tapering down to narrow at the bottom) got its name from the knickerbockers of Dutch settlers who arrived in New York at the start of the twentieth century. The flared pants were worn tucked into trousers and inspired this now world famous dessert.
Is Ice Cream a Good Food?
With the growing issues of diet and nutrition, ice cream has sometimes received a ‘bit of a bad press’ but does it deserve it?
One problem that ice cream has in the name itself i.e cream which most people know as a relatively high fat dairy product and some of this perception rubs off on to ice cream, but the reality of modern ice cream is somewhat different.
The major food component in ice cream is milk and, of this, milk protein is the most important. There is actually more milk protein in a quality dairy ice cream than in the same weight of milk alone! In addition, milk contains calcium and phosphorus which are very important in the building of bone, along with some essential vitamins.
Fat is necessary in a balanced diet to provide energy, along with sugars including lactose from the milk. Milk fat is especially useful in that it will normally contain Vitamins A and D. It is only when fat and sugar are taken in excess that they can lead to overweight, particularly if little or no exercise is taken.
Another important aspect is that ice cream is very easily taken by sick people and particularly children. Its soothing feel is very helpful if you have a cold or throat infection. For those people who are unable to have ordinary sugar (diabetics for example) there are ices specially formulated for them which are extremely palatable and can give a very useful addition to their limited diet, while very similar ices are available for those who have to 'watch the inches' or are lactose intolerant.
Research has also shown that eating ice cream can actually make you feel better as it affects parts of the brain associated with good feelings. No wonder you can’t help smiling eating ice cream
Does ice cream contain gelatin?
Yes, although not used as extensively as it once was, gelatin may still be used in a few cases as a stabiliser. It can be found in some ice lollies and almost all mousses. It is rarely present in ice cream, however, if you are concerned that the ice cream you are going to buy may contain gelatin check the label or, in the case of a mobile ice cream van, ask to see the ingredients list of the ice cream being sold.
Does ice cream contain eggs?
A few recipes do; most do not. You would have to read the ingredients list to find out if the particular brand you are interested in contains egg. Organic ice cream is the most likely to contain egg as the only emulsifiers allowed by the Soil Association are eggs or lecithin.
Is ice cream likely to affect those with a nut allergy?
Unless the flavour suggests it, ice cream should not contain nuts or nut products, but manufacturers are being encouraged to make positive declarations about the absence or presence of nuts. With the increased awareness of nut allergies, more and more manufacturers are endeavouring to make their manufacturing processes 'nut free' by separating lines that produce nut containing products and those which do not. Other declarations are "made in a nut free environment," "it may contain nuts" even though the ingredients list doesn't show it, and "made in a factory which uses nuts".
Ice cream which is not labelled with the word 'dairy' may be made with vegetable oils which may include palm kernel oil (NB The ice cream may still contain more milk protein weight for weight than milk itself and may also contain dairy fat) some sufferers of extreme allergies may wish to look out for this.
There may be some 'danger' of nut contamination in a scooping cabinet, where the same scoop is used for both 'ordinary' flavours and for nutty ones if you have a nut allergy ask the vendor to use a clean scoop and explain why and be sure to read all labels carefully.