History of ice cream

Updated: 4/28/2022
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11y ago

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Origins of frozen deserts like this date back thousands of years to China, and various countries with access to the Himalayas (for snow and ice). They were popular throughout many parts of Asia and spread west and south into the Middle East.

Though it's origins are old, the words used today in English no longer trace their origins back to China. The term sharbat for example is Persian.

Older versions were made with snow and rice water or fruits, by the time it reached the area which became Persia there were sharbats, a non alcoholic fruit drink mixed with crushed ice to produce a slushy like texture.

Later some people would simply take crushed or shaved ice and splash fruit juice on it instead of taking the time to properly mix into a sharbat. That style of desert creation is like a modern snow cone or a sorbet depending on how much juice is added and the texture of the ice.

Sorbet traces it's roots back to France and though it can contain traces of dairy, it's rarely used in traditional recipes.

The next step was developed as people wanted a smoother version of the crushed ice desert with a stronger flavor but not as liquid as a Sharbat. They would mix the drinks for a longer period of time and add small amounts of dairy or eggs to create a creamy texture. This could be drank while liquid (similar to a smoothie but still typically called a sharbat or sharbat with cream, etc) or frozen to a more firm texture and eaten with a spoon: The result was known as Sherbet (derived from its drink version the sharbat).

The term Sherbet traces back to Turkey; it's misspelling as Sherbert became more prominent in some parts of the world.

Eventually people began adding more cream, and would sometimes remove the fruit juice entirely. Using the same smoothing process with mostly cream instead of fruit juice creates either a milk shake (if served partially liquid) or ice cream (iced cream/milk) if frozen to a firm texture.

Doing the same process but replacing the cream/milk with yogurt produces Frozen Yogurt.

In the US, a product must contain greater than 5% dairy to be labeled as ice cream. High quality ice creams far exceed the 5% requirement (low quality ice creams may barely meet the 5% minimum)

The difference between ice cream and Sherbet (or sherbert) is that it only contains between 2% and 5% dairy (the legal requirement for being labeled sherbet in the US).

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