09 July 2010

Ice Cream, Just Like Thomas Jefferson Used To Make It.

Did you know that Matt's not a big desserts guy?  It's really annoying, because, as you might have observed, I am a big desserts girl.  I mean, reallly?  What's wrong with him?  Why doesn't he want to subsist on cupcakes and cookies and ice cream?  Matt likes to joke that for dessert he'd just like another steak.  But I think that's stupid because you can't put icing or sprinkles on a steak.  Silly Matt.

I was torn about what my next ice cream flavor would be: Butterfinger or Oreo?  Fancy, I know.  But here's the thing--it kind of is.

Because, like the self-indulgent fatty that I am, I bought both Butterfingers and Oreos.  I figured that all I  needed to make them was a good recipe for vanilla ice cream and then I could do half of the batch with the Butterfingers and the other half with the Oreos (but not mixed, because that would be gross.)  So I set out in search of the perfect recipe for vanilla ice cream.

I found this one from David Lebovitz, which seemed pretty good, except that it called for a vanilla bean, which I didn't have.  And I was all sweaty and gross after a run-in with the demon frog, so I didn't want to go into Fresh Market looking like such a dirtbag.  So I searched again, and this time I found Thomas Jefferson's recipe for vanilla ice cream.  Seriously.  The recipe, written in his own handwriting, is at the Library of Congress.

How cool is that?  The caption at the Library of Congress site says:

"A passionate gourmet, Jefferson acquired a stock of standard French recipes for sauces, fruit tarts, French-fried potatoes, blood sausages, pigs' feet, rabbit, pigeons, and various other dishes. Among the most popular of these recipes at Monticello was this one for vanilla ice cream--written by Jefferson, with his own recipe for Savoy cookies to accompany the dessert on the back."

Are you kidding me right now, Thomas Jefferson?  That recipe was kind of hard to read, so I searched a little more and found it at Monticello's website.  According to Monticello,

"Jefferson was able to enjoy ice cream throughout the year because ice was "harvested" from the Rivanna River in winter and taken to the Monticello ice house, which held sixty-two wagon-loads. The ice house located in Monticello's north dependency wing was used throughout the year primarily to preserve meat and butter, but also to chill wine and to make ice cream. In 1815, Jefferson noted, the ice supply lasted until October 15.

While George Washington's papers contain a prior reference to an ice cream maker, the first American recipe for the dish is in Jefferson's hand:

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."

Why don't I have my own ice house?  Oh yeah, because I have a freezer.  I guess it's nice that I don't have to harvest ice from a river during winter.  That would be hard.

Fortunately, Monticello's site also had the recipe translated into everyday terms, which was nice because I wasn't wild about the idea of straining the ice cream "thro' a towel" or putting it "in moulds, justling it well down on the knee." 

I was old-timey, though, with my dutch oven ice bath.

And even though it sucks that I don't have an ice house, I have some things that Thomas Jefferson didn't have. Oreos.  And Butterfingers.  And a dog who sits on furniture like he's a human! Take that, TJ!

And I have a Cuisinart ice cream maker that doesn't even require ice or rock salt.  Ha!

Okay, back to the ice cream.

IT'S REALLY GOOD!  It's creamy, of course, and has just the right amount of vanilla flavor.  I didn't have "two bottles of good cream" like TJ called for, so I just used a pint of heavy cream and a pint of whole milk, both from Target.

After the ice cream was finished in the fancy schmancy ice cream maker, I divided it into three separate pints.  One Butterfinger, one Oreo, and one plain vanilla. 

(PS--in my opinion, half the fun of eating Oreos is doing this. 

Matt hates it.  I think it's hilarious.)

I made Matt try the Butterfinger as soon as he got home (he who, although he doesn't care about sweets, occasionally craves a Butterfinger Blizzard from Dairy Queen), and he paid me and TJ quite a compliment.  "You've finally made an ice cream that I could eat all of in one sitting." 

WIN!  I win!  Thanks, Thomas Jefferson, for founding our country and for providing me with a great recipe for vanilla ice cream!

Also, Thomas Jefferson, you looked pretty hot in HBO's John Adams miniseries.

Guess I should give you the recipe, huh?

Thomas Jefferson's Famous Vanilla Ice Cream

Beat the yolks of 6 eggs until thick and lemon colored. Add, gradually, 1 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil 1 quart of cream and pour slowly on the egg mixture. Put in top of double boiler and when thickens, remove and strain through a fine sieve into a bowl. When cool add 2 teaspoonfuls of vanilla. Freeze, as usual, with one part of salt to three parts of ice. Place in a mould, pack with ice and salt for several hours. For electric refrigerators, follow usual direction, but stir frequently.


  1. Yum! Great photos! You have me dying for homemade ice cream!

  2. Thanks, Melissa! Next to the banana pudding ice cream that we made a few weeks ago, I think this one is my favorite.

    You can get a Cuisinart ice cream maker for $40.



Related Posts with Thumbnails