Historic Recipe: Parmasan Cheese Ice Cream (1819)

Source: The Complete Confectioner; or, the Whole Art of Confectionary Made Easy by Frederick Nutt (1819)

I actually made this a few weeks ago, but I’m only getting around to writing it up now…One of the things I want to do at work this year is make some period-appropriate food in the historic house. Unfortunately, there isn’t really the capacity to heat anything in the public spaces, so I’ve been searching for no-cook recipes. I alighted on ice cream because it’s fun to make with salt and ice and could be quite an interactive process. During my research, I found this recipe and it was just too weird not to make.

There are references to flavouring snow and ice with a range of additives including honey, fruits and juices as far back as 500 BCE in Persia, and then later in Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. Ice cream in a more recognisable form, however, seems to have developed in Europe around the sixteenth century in either Italy or England but many of the related stories are entirely anecdotal. One of the first records of it being made available to the general public comes from Paris in the 1670s, when it was sold at Café Procope. Ice cream became increasing popular in the eighteenth century and the first recipes for it appear at the end of the seventeenth century and these become increasingly prevalent throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The use of eggs in this recipe is not usual for the period.

Recipe:
Take six eggs, half a pint of syrup, and a pint of cream; put them into a stewpan, and boil them until it begins to thicken; then rasp three ounces of Parmasan cheese, mix and pass them through a sieve, and freeze it.

The spelling of parmesan is the original and I can’t work out if this is still an acceptable alternative spelling or whether a lot of people on the internet just spell it incorrectly. Thoughts welcomed.

I started by making the syrup, which I assumed was simply a sugar solution, so I heated up some water and dissolved a significant amount of caster sugar in it. I also halved the recipe as it seemed quite a lot (and even halved it made plenty). I mixed the beaten eggs, sugar syrup and cream together and heated them, stirring regularly, it did thicken as suggested and then I took it off the heat and added the parmesan. I was going to miss out the sieve stage, but there were enough small lumps to make me think it was probably worthwhile doing, so I finished up by rubbing it through a sieve. I then put the mixture in a metal tin and stuffed it in the freezer where it froze quickly and without any ice crystals.

As you might expect this was pretty odd. The closest description I can come up with is frozen curd tart/egg custard. Despite the amount of sugar and cream it tasted savoury, but also like it should be served with something else – maybe a contrasting flavour? I’ve subsequently inflicted it on a number of other people who have all reacted in a similar manner, mostly confusion.

Suggested alterations: I really don’t know what to do with this recipe

Final verdict: I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now and I still don’t know what to do with it

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