History students make, taste ice cream from the 1700s

WALTON, Ind. (AP) — Americans have been in love with ice cream since the country began.

Back then, it took much time and money to collect the ingredients needed to hand-make the sweet delicacy. But that didn’t stop Thomas Jefferson and George Washington from indulging in the favored dessert.

“Ice cream was a rich man’s game,” Matt Barnett said about 1700s America.

Lewis Cass Junior High School eighth-graders in Barnett’s history classes have been recently learning about early America. Resources were hard to come by compared to today’s advances in technology and automation, goods that many now take for granted. Ice cream is on the top of that list.

Barnett received a grant from the Miami-Cass REMC to make a 1700s ice cream maker, called a sabotiere. The French device consists of two containers, one insulated to keep the ice cream ingredients and a wooden bucket for ice and salt.

Once the ingredients for the ice cream are inside the tube — Barnett handmade his with some friends out of copper — and ice and salt are layered in the bucket, the maker agitates the tube in the ice, twisting it back and forth for hours, until it reaches a thick and creamy consistency.

On Friday, Jan. 26, students tested the first known ice cream recorded by an American, Thomas Jefferson. It consisted of cream, egg yolks and sugar. Many students preferred today’s traditional ice cream, which they later ate in comparison. George Washington’s favorite was a chocolate concoction.

Kaylie Williams, 13, said the ice cream had a tangier and smoother taste than that of modern ice cream.

“I didn’t know that they made it like that,” Kaylie said. “It’s cool to learn that they had to do all that. Not everybody got it since it was hard to make.”

Kaylie and Elli Jones, 14, both spent a few minutes each hand-making a new batch of the ice cream in the sabotiere near the end of the class period.

Barnett said in 18th century United States, ingredients for ice cream were difficult to obtain. People typically ate it in the warm months of the year, when the cows would be ready to milk and the weather was hot enough to enjoy the cold cream.

In order to get ice, people would hire teams on horses to go out on the ice of a body of water and cut large chunks of ice on top with saw blades. Then, they would store the ice with sawdust during the year in a heavily insulated ice house.

Since the ice was dirty from storage and the body of water, no one would eat it and would instead use it as a way to keep the ice cream and other foods cool. Barnett said sugar was also expensive to purchase.

Some people used Parmesan cheese and oysters to “sweeten” the ice cream, Barnett added.

As he teaches students about history, Barnett said he uses interactive activities with food or music to put them in that time period. He said it’s his way of going “outside the book.”