Ever wonder where some of our favorite things came from and exactly how long they have been around or perhaps how they are made? Well, if you have any young, eager-to-learn, little people in your life you are certain to hear what, why, and how questions that get your mind wondering. Where does ice cream come from? It is my role as parenting examiner to help you with these tough ones.
The oldest ice cream company in America is Bassetts and they have been making the frozen treat since 1861. It was Lewis Bassett, a schoolteacher, who started a summer business with dairy cows and a mule pulling a large crank on a humungous ice cream making machine in his backyard. Perfected by his grandson, the high-butterfat, all-natural confection evolved into popular flavors such as rum raisin, Irish coffee, cinnamon, and its signature Philadelphia-style vanilla speckled with vanilla bean. For most of this history lesson, the treat was made in the basement of Reading Terminal Market, however, as demand increased early in the 1970’s, production relocated to larger facilities in Philadelphia. Today, the six-generation run Bassetts ice cream is made cooperatively with Galliker’s Dairy in Johnstown, PA.
How is ice cream made? At Bassetts, locally produced milk and cream are put in metal tanks and pipes and combined with sugar, whey and stabilizers. It is then pasteurized under extreme heat and the flavoring ingredients such as vanilla beans, coffee, and pureed banana are added. This mixture is then combined with air and is quick-frozen in a machine that forces the finished tasty treat through tubes and out into its tubs on the moving conveyor belt. These tubs are frozen at 20 degrees below zero before they are distributed to the Reading Terminal Market, restaurants, and ice cream stands, along with pint containers, which are available at grocery stores in the Philadelphia area. What makes this ice cream exceptional? Family members say quality ingredients and the lighter texture. Having 40 flavors with new concoctions like pomegranate, blueberry crunch, green tea, and the candy-filled Gadzooks also keeps customers intrigued.
Where do we get ice cream? We have a little bragging to do here, locally. Rockton, Illinois’ Dairyhaus is a Northern Illinois gem. The little limestone building on East Main Street in downtown Rockton was built in 1946. It houses this 29-year-old family run ice cream shop that serves over fifty flavors of “one-of-a-kind homemade ice cream”. They have quarts in 10 scrumptious flavors available for purchase at Woodman’s on Perryville in Rockford, IL. Dairyhaus might not be the oldest in America, but surely a keeper and a must visit.
Have a favorite ice cream “hot spot”? Favorite flavor? Let me know!!