Connecticut has been a significant dairy producing state for almost as long as it has been called Connecticut. Our Yankee focus, however, did not tend toward the unnecessary or the frivolous. At least not until the farming and refrigeration technologies made it possible to direct some of that iron-clad work ethic and energy to the dessert end of the meal.
Don’t misunderstand; iced desserts have been around for a long time in one form or another. Persia is probably the first on record with a combination of vermicelli and a semi-frozen syrup of rosewater and sugar. The Chinese followed, when they used mountain snow to freeze a milk and rice mixture. Nero established relays from the Alps to bring ice to Rome where it was blended with fruit flavors. Some twelve hundred years later, Mughal emperors duplicated the ice relay with horsemen carrying ice from Hindu Kush to Delhi. Finally, Catherine de’ Medici brought iced desserts to France when she married their king.
Since then, the process was tweaked here and there. Cream and milk became important ingredients. Various pieces of equipment were developed then abandoned for the next. Perhaps a butter churn was the seed idea for the first wooden ice cream maker. The next step was taken by a Danish immigrant, a schoolteacher and candy store-owner (now that was clever merger). Said entrepreneurial schoolteacher devised a way of wrapping a block of ice cream in chocolate in 1919. With that the Eskimo Pie was born. One ice cream parlor owner’s elegant daughter pointed out that the chocolate covered ice cream bricks were too messy to be able to eat delicately. This complaint inspired the freezing of a flat wooden handle in one end of the block.
Meanwhile others designed a method of putting a freezer-like contraption on wheels, creating the first ice cream man-on-the-street. Naturally, there was great competition. One improvement led to another all over the western world. The development of Ice cream was not limited to commerce, faster, easier methods of making the frozen treat at home were being made available. Today we have many choices, but like so much else, fresh is best. The freshest, sweetest fruits, milk and cream are transformable into the world’s most popular dessert in a twinkle by an innumerable home counter top ice cream makers.
Let’s return for a few minutes to our local products. Connecticut has produced premium dairy products for decades. Likewise, its maple syrup is second to none. Connecticut has a history of interesting food combinations, like clam pizza and holy pokes, which we will explore another time. But did you know that Connecticut is the birthplace of Maple Bacon Ice Cream? Only Yankee knowhow could figure out how to combine breakfast and dessert.