Tag Archives: ice cream

19th Century Maple Ice Cream – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

IMG_3257A manuscript (i.e. handwritten) cookbook can tell us a great deal about its creator. What foods were available to her? How would her family have celebrated holidays and birthdays? Was she an elite woman with a cook who could prepare elaborate dishes, or a farm wife who had to prepare simple, hearty fare and preserve her harvest to feed her family? Do the recipes reflect a particular ethnic or religious background or geographical location? As is the case today, routine meals do not require a recipe. It is the special occasion recipes, especially those that require careful measurements to work properly, that are recorded for future reference.

We know, based on the ingredients, that Rubenstein Library’s New England Manuscript Recipe Book, [ca. 1860]-[1900] comes from the northeastern United States. It is no surprise that the little book includes a page of maple recipes, since maple is such a distinctive regional product.


I was intrigued by the Maple Ice Cream Recipe, in part because I am the proud owner of a fancy electric ice cream maker, so much easier than the hand-crank models that would have been available when the recipe was recorded. There is also the nostalgia of tasting maple:  Santa always left a maple sugar woman in my Christmas stocking.

This is an extremely simple recipe, with just three ingredients: eggs, maple syrup, and cream:

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I made a couple of changes. Given concerns about salmonella, I was not comfortable leaving the egg whites uncooked. I was also worried that mixing the eggs and syrup and boiling the mixture would result in curdled eggs. Instead, I boiled the syrup for about ten minutes to reduce it slightly, thereby intensifying the flavor. In a separate bowl, I beat the whole eggs. Then I slowly dribbled in about a cup of hot syrup, whisking the egg mixture constantly before whisking the egg mixture into the pot of hot syrup. Then I brought the mixture to 170 degrees, turned off the heat, and stirred in the cream.

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Finally, I strained the mixture through a sieve to remove any solids and chilled it overnight before freezing, emptying into a plastic container, and leaving it in the freezer for a few hours to firm it up. The result: an absolutely luscious and elegant frozen dessert.

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How did it taste? I brought in the whole container to share with my Rubenstein colleagues and it got rave reviews. It is very rich (note the quart of heavy cream!), but delicious.

Intrigued by the annotations (1896, Mrs. Kimber Thomas, Ladies Uplift Club), I did some searching and found a Morrisville, Vermont Uplift Club in The Register of Women’s Clubs (1922). I wondered whether Mrs. Kimber Thomas was given the recipe for Maple Ice Cream in 1896 and contributed it to an Uplift Club fund-raising cookbook and was thrilled to find a reference to this 53-page cookbook: Tried and Proven Recipes from Many Households. Morristown, Vt. : Ladies of the Uplift Club. The one known copy is in the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Staff have dated it to 1921, based on advertisements printed in the cookbook. As I write this, I am waiting for scans that I hope will confirm my hunches about the Maple Ice Cream recipe’s provenance. The tradition of noting the source and date of a recipe is a lovely way to link culinary creations to a vast network of friends, family, community, and history. The additional information would also allow us to more precisely identify the origins of this precious little cookbook.

Post contributed by Elizabeth Dunn, Research Services Librarian

Doris Duke’s Bittersweet Chocolate Ice Milk

Long live the Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen! We’ve had so much fun trying out recipes from our collections that we have decided to continue the series on the last Friday of each month.

Christmas is over, but that doesn’t mean that you have to stop eating. If you have room in your life for a little more dessert, I highly recommend trying Doris Duke’s Bittersweet Chocolate Ice Milk, one of hundreds of recipes available in the Doris Duke Papers.

Doris Duke’s collection includes boxes and boxes of recipes and menus from each of her houses — Duke Farms (Somerville, New Jersey), Rough Point (Newport, Rhode Island) , and Shangri-La (Hawaii). Duke appears to have collected a lot of her recipes during her travels (Thai and Hawaiian recipes were favorites), but her books also have plenty of American-style comfort food. Looking through the recipes was really fun, and it was hard to choose just one. I found a great one called Wine Jelly, which appears to be Doris Duke’s take on jello shots — except with sherry.

I wanted to make something to share with the Rubenstein Staff Holiday Party, so I went with the chocolate ice milk. It’s not quite as wild as some jello shots, but does have a ridiculous amount of chocolate, as well as espresso and a bit of cognac. And don’t worry about your New Year’s resolutions: it’s ice milk, not ice cream, so it’s totally healthy!

Doris Duke’s Bittersweet Chocolate Ice Milk, from Box 177 (Folder 2) of the Doris Duke Papers.

The recipe dates from the early 1990s, so I found it fairly easy to make. The “bittersweet” part of the title is misleading — although the recipe has a cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, it also has a full 2 pounds of semi-sweet chocolate. I used chocolate chips to save myself the effort of chopping chocolate. I also used homogenized skim milk, which seemed to work fine.

step 1The trickiest part for me was tempering the eggs, which involves pouring some of the warm chocolate into the yolk mixture, and then reuniting all of it back on the stove top. Do not expect any drastic change in the chemical composition of your mixture. When I finished heating everything and was ready to let it chill for 30 minutes, it basically looked like a giant bowl of chocolate milk. I was worried I would have to serve it with a straw.

step2After chilling for 30 minutes, a loose film had started to appear on the top of the mixture, which was reassuring. I put it in my ice cream maker for about 20 minutes, which thickened it up nicely. After an overnight in my freezer, it was ready for the party.

Verdict: This dish reminded me of hot chocolate, except it was frozen. It is extremely rich and pairs well with cake. Don’t skip the cognac. Just think: what would Doris do? (I know what you’re thinking. She’d also make the Wine Jelly. Here’s that recipe.)

wjPost contributed by Meghan Lyon, Technical Services Archivist.