The History of Ice Cream

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A yakhchal

Whilst there are all sorts of spectacular stories about the origins of ice cream, including Marco Polo bringing it to Europe from China, or Catherine de' Medici introducing it to France there doesn't seem to be any real evidence to substantiate any of these theories. It is true that various ancient civilisations used ice in desserts, and that the Ancient Persians even had the equivalent of giant "refrigerators" known as yakhchals which were naturally cooled structures used to store ice through the summer which had been gathered in the winter from nearby mountains; but what these peoples ate were more akin to ices rather than ice cream.

Evidence of the predecessors of today's ice cream being made was in China during the Tang period(618-907 A.D.), when milk was heated and allowed to ferment to something similar to 'yoghurt' which was then mixed with flour and camphor and chilled before being served. However the first technical description of ice making using various salts which were mixed with ice to get low enough temperatures to freeze liquids in a container, was by an Arab medical historian Ibn Abu Usaybi c1230-1270 A.D. The process didn't reach Europe until 1503, in Italy where it was initially considered more of a magician's trick and the results were not used for edible food until the 1660s when sorbets were eaten in Naples, Florence, Paris and Spain.

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From this........ ...........to this

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