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Lemon Ice Cream, Circa 1839

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Lemon Ice Cream

Freezing condenses flavors, which is why ice cream has to be sweet, otherwise the flavors in it will be tight and bitter. Lettice Bryan knew that in 1839, when she wrote the following recipe for Lemon Ice Cream, which is included in Richard Sax’s exhaustive and recently updated “Classic Home Desserts: A Treasury of Heirloom and Contemporary Recipes” (Hosuton Mifflin, $35).

Lemon Ice Cream

Pare the yellow rind from three lemons, put it into a porcelain skillet, with the beaten yolks of eight eggs, a quart of rich sweet cream, and simmer it gently till the flavor of the lemons is extracted; then strain it into a bowl, and stir in it while warm three quarters of a pound of powdered loaf sugar. When it is cold, stir gradually into it the juice of the three decorticated lemons, and freeze it as directed. … As much of the sweetness is lost by the process of freezing, ice creams require more sugar than the common cold creams.

From Lettice Bryan, “The Kentucky Housewife,” 1839

What is powdered loaf sugar? It’s a finer ground version of loaf sugar, which is defined on as follows:

“Loaf sugar is sugar which comes in the form of a solid block, rather than as a granulated substance. Through the early 20th century, the bulk of the sugar on the market was in the form of loaf sugar, for a variety of reasons. Several sugar producers continue to make loaf sugar as a nostalgia item, and in the developing world, loaf sugar continues to be extremely common.

“To make loaf sugar, sugar producers pour hot sugar syrup into a mold which is in the shape of a cone or loaf. When the sugar cools, it can be wrapped and packaged for shipping and eventual sale. The advantage to loaf sugar is that it is easy to handle and ship, because blocks are much less difficult to handle than granulated sugar. Producers of loaf sugar also obviously do not need to worry about clumping.

“The disadvantage of loaf sugar for cooks is that it can be difficult to handle in the kitchen. Loaf sugar was often hung from the ceiling in the kitchen, although it could also be stored in cupboards. Historically, people used tools known as sugar nips to break chunks off their loaf sugar so that they could use it in cooking and baking. Because of the difficulty involved in obtaining precise measurements, loaf sugar was especially irritating for bakers. It also had to be thoroughly broken up so that it would not clump in baked goods and other foods.”

In other words, the sugar is meant to be dissolved into the ice cream mixture before freezing.

For a taste of some decidedly different ice creams in San Antonio, click here.

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