We All Scream
April 25, 2019 1:57 PM   Subscribe

How did ice cream get so expensive? Economy, regular, premium, super-premium -- Faux-European sophistication vs. cheerful American stoners -- "These ice creams have pornographic amounts of butterfat"-- What is a batch, anyway? -- "collect the ice cream as it snakes out of the spigot like cold, bloated toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube" -- "Ice cream should get better if you scale up" -- Who's afraid of stabilizers? -- Air, ice, and crystals -- But is it un-American? -- Nostalgia.
posted by Hypatia (120 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ice Cream Expert Guesses Cheap vs Expensive Ice Creams

also, I couldn't resist

MetaFilter: signifiers that speak to a contemporary anti-bourgeois bourgeois culture
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:12 PM on April 25 [11 favorites]


The best ice cream I ever had was a Mr Whippy cone in Ireland. I didn’t know it had a higher percentage of butterfat than an American soft-serve cone, so it was a wonderful surprise. But that surprise and that day of vacation can’t be bought again.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:18 PM on April 25 [11 favorites]


Huh. The author seems to mostly concentrate on the upper end of the market and the premium-ization of ice cream, but what I've noticed--and is probably the opposite side of the same coin--is the number of brands that you would think are "ice cream" that actually... aren't. All the Breyers products in my local grocery store's freezer case are "frozen dessert" or some other euphemism for not-actually-ice-cream.

But really isn't that what you'd expect given growing inequality? Where once there was one uniform product for everyone, with differences mostly as a matter of taste, now we have both a cheapening at the low end, and the addition of new ultra-luxe stuff at the high end.

It's the middle that's getting squeezed. And in addition to the obvious negatives to that, it also chips away at what once might have been a common, cross-cutting experience. I mean, who doesn't like ice cream? (Well, the lactose intolerant, but hell with them.) But if the current trend continues, you're going to get kids who probably won't ever eat real ice cream, and others who won't have ever needed to look at the stuff that the lower class' kids have to eat in place of ice cream. It's just one more way in which we are becoming non-overlapping, non-interacting social classes, isolated not just by wealth but by experience on a very basic level.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:28 PM on April 25 [79 favorites]


I’ve never bought any of these fancy pints because fuck that. Ben and Jerry’s is good and you can get it on sale for like 4 bucks sometimes.

It still makes me sad what Breyer’s did to their ice cream. I loved their black cherry and now it’s a weird color and tastes like cough syrup.
posted by Automocar at 2:31 PM on April 25 [17 favorites]


It's really too bad that oxygen liquifies a few degrees above the liquefaction point of nitrogen, because if the situation were reversed, everyone could so much more easily have their own little kitchen nitrogen liquifier and make better ice cream than almost anything you could buy, not to mention other frozen foods of a quality which is simply unavailable in stores.

But that would make home oxygen concentrators impractical, and make medical oxygen in general more expensive and difficult to produce, so I guess things are better the way they are, but still.

I do have a functioning oxygen concentrator I bought at a thrift store, but I suppose the time has come to admit to myself that I'll never get around to modifying it to decant liquid oxygen that I can use to produce bottled water that's under high oxygen pressure rather than high CO2 pressure. Oh well.
posted by jamjam at 2:34 PM on April 25 [3 favorites]


Well, the lactose intolerant, but hell with them

*cries*
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 2:36 PM on April 25 [36 favorites]


Yeah, cheap "frozen dessert" can be pretty nasty, probably best suited for little kids who just want to taste sugar. I've partaken of a pint or two of the higher-end stuff from time to time and haven't generally found it worth the markup (one or two exceptions). But even Haagen-Dazs or B&J isn't particularly cheap these days.
posted by praemunire at 2:38 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


B&J makes a few dairy free versions of their favorites and I can tell you the dairy free Cherry Garcia is choice. Made with almond milk but very tasty.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 2:41 PM on April 25 [9 favorites]


But really isn't that what you'd expect given growing inequality?
I guess but I'd say health consciousness (lower calories) and more people who are lactose intolerant are probably equally as likely.

Nutrition info:
Haggen Daz or Ben & Jerry's they are pretty close to the same

vs
Turkey Hill
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:44 PM on April 25


Lots of parallels with the move from microbrews to craft beer.
posted by sfred at 2:44 PM on April 25 [4 favorites]


Tillamook has a line of specialty pints including one entitled Sweet Cream which is what it says on the carton: unflavored cream and sugar. Tastes like handmade. It is simply sublime. The only problem is hardly any store carries it. The fools.
posted by y2karl at 2:46 PM on April 25 [17 favorites]


Why did this have to get posted while my freezer is broken? Sob.
posted by Sequence at 2:46 PM on April 25


pornographic amounts of butterfat

I'm not sure if this should be the title of my autobiography or first studio album.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 2:50 PM on April 25 [31 favorites]


Really good ice cream: the Good Eats philly-style / no-eggs vanilla ice cream with frozen dairy milk bars whacked into dust and mixed in.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 2:52 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


I liked Breyers because it didn't have gum thickeners in it; their mint chocolate chip had the best flavor, and at least they don't dye it green,though with stabilizers, the crisp taste is gone. Häagen-Dazs usually doesn't use gum stabilizers, so I have always quite liked it, especially the coffee flavor. Ben & Jerry's Coffee, Coffee, Buzz, Buzz, Buzz has espresso in the chocolate fudge chunks, and is delicious, despite the gum stabilizer. Graeters, an Ohio chain, has the best chocolate chunks; they're fudge-y, not hard and waxy.

A friend has an ice cream machine and we learned that higher butterfat means less intense flavor. The strawberry ice cream with more milk had a distinctly better strawberry flavor. Gelato has lower fat and less air churned in, and such excellent flavors.

I am lactose intolerant. I was at the store recently, Häagen-Dazs was on sale, and I got some. Butter pecan ice cream with bourbon is heavenly. Once started, I had some B&J's and Talenti. And then my inflammation/ arthritis flared up, reminding me that dairy is not an option.

There are non-dairy choices, using coconut, almond or cashew milks and they're really very good, but they're not ice cream.
posted by theora55 at 3:00 PM on April 25 [7 favorites]


I spent a lot of last summer making ice cream at least 3 times a week (it was a great hobby for sure). It wasn't really cheaper than buying ice cream, but I do have expensive taste in ingredients (organic dairy and eggs, and vanilla is so expensive!). I haven't read this whole article yet, just wanted to say it was relatively expensive to make. And so worth it. For the record, the Serious Eats Philly-style was my favorite and I made it a lot, mostly because it was 1) DELICIOUS and 2) easier and faster than a custard style. For custard, Stella Parks's recipe is the current winner (SIX egg yolks, and not a huge batch. If you use bourbon instead of vanilla, it tastes like eggnogg).
posted by jeweled accumulation at 3:27 PM on April 25 [7 favorites]


Tillamook makes Speculoos ice cream, full of crumbled Biscoff, which I had the misfortune of buying two weeks before my local Sprouts stopped carrying it.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:34 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Huh. The author seems to mostly concentrate on the upper end of the market and the premium-ization of ice cream, but what I've noticed--and is probably the opposite side of the same coin--is the number of brands that you would think are "ice cream" that actually... aren't. All the Breyers products in my local grocery store's freezer case are "frozen dessert" or some other euphemism for not-actually-ice-cream.

But really isn't that what you'd expect given growing inequality? Where once there was one uniform product for everyone, with differences mostly as a matter of taste, now we have both a cheapening at the low end, and the addition of new ultra-luxe stuff at the high end.


Ummm, those are vegan "ice creams", many of which are great. Some ice cream is good, some is bad. Some vegan "ice cream" is good, some is bad. Not everything labeled "frozen dessert" is cheap and horrible.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:54 PM on April 25 [3 favorites]


I still haven't found an ice cream in North America as good as the Glasgow Italian café ice cream of my youth: Crolla's, Nardini's (okay, so Largs, not Glasgow), Colpi's, Boni's, Equi's, Verrecchia’s, Coia's, Capaldi's, Bonaldi's, Castelvecchi's. All slightly different, all basically selling just vanilla ice cream. Except for Colpi's who make real "milk ice": no vanilla.
posted by scruss at 3:57 PM on April 25


everyone could so much more easily have their own little kitchen nitrogen liquifier and make better ice cream than almost anything you could buy

There was a liquid nitrogen ice cream place near my house and my kids and I went there once last year because it seemed interesting. It was fun to watch them make the ice cream before my eyes but the end product wasn't great. I walked by the shop last week and it was no longer there. Likely because they didn't get many repeat customers.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:08 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: I suppose the time has come to admit to myself that I'll never get around to modifying it to decant liquid oxygen that I can use to produce bottled water that's under high oxygen pressure rather than high CO2 pressure. Oh well.
posted by theory at 4:10 PM on April 25 [6 favorites]


The best ice cream I ever had was

some a friend made at home with an old-fashioned hand-cranked device. It was vanilla and I generally don't even think of having vanilla unless it's going to be a topping. But that stuff was the best.
posted by philip-random at 4:23 PM on April 25


There is at the Broadway Market QFC a nondairy ice cream made from avocados that comes in lemon and chocolate. What a concept. Which, at $7.49 a pint, will go untasted by me.
posted by y2karl at 4:37 PM on April 25 [4 favorites]


I make my own ice cream, with a Cuisinart ICE-30BC machine that I’ve had for about 7 years. It’s the electric kind where you freeze the bucket in the freezer for 24 hours before you churn. I agree that if you’re using good quality ingredients, it’s not cheaper per se per pint than buying it, but it costs about the same per pint as Ben & Jerry’s and the quality is stellar. Of course, I’m not a commercial creamery and don’t have to worry about scale, or stabilizers.

I’d say I spend about $20 on a typical batch for milk, cream, eggs, and whatever chocolate, coffee beans, or mix-ins I might be putting in, and my machine produces 4-pint batches. I’ve got a batch of butter brickle (butterscotch ice cream with toffee chunks) and a batch of chocolate in my freezer right now, that I made last week.

I use the ice cream cookbook, “The Perfect Scoop” by David Leibovitz, which not only has a ton of fantastic recipes for the ice cream itself, but also recipes for making mix-ins and toppings. If you can only buy one ice cream cookbook, I’d suggest that one.
posted by Autumnheart at 4:43 PM on April 25 [27 favorites]


Jenni's ice cream book is SOLID and highly recommended. If you have her book and Ben & Jerry's you are in very good hands. I buy a lot of cookbooks and ice cream was my thing for a while but those two books seem to get the love. Jenni's was all tested with the Cuisinart frozen churn model and so really reliable. Ben and Jerry's is down to business and lovely.

But the best ice cream I had was at my aunt's house with peaches from her orchard. That whole generation is gone now. I would really like to know what the recipe was because I know it was not cooked custard base. She grew up in the 1930s and got married in WWII. Would love to know what the recipe of that period was that used the old rock salt ice cream churns. I think she used whole milk because it was rich but not excessive and required no cooking. Philly style? Not sure. If a fellow Mefite has a family recipe they are willing to share, I am willing to churn.
posted by jadepearl at 5:06 PM on April 25 [10 favorites]


Ummm, those are vegan "ice creams", many of which are great. Some ice cream is good, some is bad. Some vegan "ice cream" is good, some is bad. Not everything labeled "frozen dessert" is cheap and horrible.

While you're right, Breyers does apparently do a few flavours of non-dairy ice cream now, I think Kadin2048 was referring to something else.

A lot of Breyers' lines used to be labelled as "All Natural Ice Cream" and came in 2L tubs, but over the years that's changed. First the packages started getting smaller, quietly dropping to 1.86L, and I see they're down to 1.66L now. Then they changed their recipes such that those products could no longer legally be called "Ice Cream" and they had to change the labelling to "Frozen dessert". That's the point at which I stopped buying Breyers and switched to Chapmans - even their budget line is actual real ice cream.

I see Breyers now has a Premium line that's real ice cream again, but why would I switch back when Chapmans is as good or better than the old Breyers and has never even flirted with shrinking package sizes and low-quality ingredients?
posted by Secret Sparrow at 5:09 PM on April 25 [10 favorites]


As a kid I was never into ice cream at all (despite it being a staple in my house and my brother and dad having a bowl every single night) but lately I'm loving some of the local ice cream makers in my city, including one that specializes in Asian flavours (black sesame ice cream is my all-time favourite) and another that makes a banana brown butter flavour that kills me every time I eat it. When I left my last job my boss, who normally takes people out for a coffee (which I don't drink) or donuts (which I can't eat) took me for ice cream at the Asian ice cream place at my request, so I am now an ice cream convert, I guess. Probably the ice cream of my childhood, which often came in 4L pails, just wasn't very good.

I make my own ice cream, with a Cuisinart ICE-30BC machine

I have a similar machine that I just got last year and I made a LOT of ice cream with it and generally liked the results, but strangely, my favourite flavour that I have made with my ice cream maker so far wasn't an ice cream at all but a sherbet: BA's Roasted Strawberry-Buttermilk Sherbet. I also swapped the strawberries for nectarines and added some jalapenos and for a roasted nectarine-jalapeno version and it was amazing. Man I can't wait to start making ice cream again.
posted by urbanlenny at 5:19 PM on April 25 [6 favorites]


Yeah, the new model, of which my ICE-30BC is an ancestor, looks pretty sweet. When mine craps out, I’ll definitely upgrade.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:23 PM on April 25


I buy ice cream so rarely that price is basically irrelevant, but I still end up mostly buying Haagen Dazs since it is reliably good. One of these days I'll give the really expensive stuff a try. I got served some cheap stuff recently and it was terrible, much worse than the cheap gallon ice cream of my childhood.

Mostly the article was frustrating because I am now craving ice cream, but don't have any.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:24 PM on April 25 [3 favorites]




I've lived in Japan for long enough that $7.50 for a pint of very good ice cream sounds perfectly reasonable to me at this point. On the other hand, the country is full of gelato places, if only because cream is so outrageously expensive (i.e. probably not nearly as heavily subsidized by the government), so I guess maybe this will come off as complaining that I'm bored of steak and could go for a hot dog.
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:30 PM on April 25


The new Magnum vegan ice-cream is very close to the real thing. The pea protein they use is a far superior dairy substitute to anything else I've tasted. Almond milk isn't creamy enough, while soy milk is a bit more creamy but adds its own unwanted taste, coconut milk is the creamiest but also brings its own flavor along.
posted by xdvesper at 5:30 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


A lot of Breyers' lines used to be labelled as "All Natural Ice Cream" and came in 2L tubs, but over the years that's changed. First the packages started getting smaller, quietly dropping to 1.86L, and I see they're down to 1.66L now. Then they changed their recipes such that those products could no longer legally be called "Ice Cream" and they had to change the labelling to "Frozen dessert".

Can I just say that I really hate this "Things cost about the same but are shittier" inflation and would very much prefer old-style "shit's more expensive now" inflation?
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:35 PM on April 25 [43 favorites]


If a fellow Mefite has a family recipe they are willing to share, I am willing to churn.

This is out of the aforementioned “Perfect Scoop”, but indeed it doesn’t contain any eggs, and you don’t cook the custard, although you do cook the peaches for a little bit.
This is the first ice cream that springs to mind when people recall hand·cranked, old·fashioned fruit ice creams from their past. More than any other homemade ice cream, this is perhaps the most beloved of all flavors and is indeed best when spooned right out of the machine,just moments after it's been churned.

An easy way to peel peaches is to cut an X at the bottom and then lower them
in a pot of boiling water for about 20 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the
peaches to a colander and shock them with cold water, then let them cooL Afterward,
you'll find their fuzzy peels just slip right off.

1 1/3 pounds (600 g) ripe peaches (about 4 large peaches)
1/2 cup (125 ml) water
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1/2 cup (120 g) sour cream
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
1/ 4 teaspoon vanilla extract
A few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice

Peel the peaches, slice them in half, and remove the pits. Cut the peaches into chunks and cook them with the water in a medium, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, covered, stirring once or twice, until soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat, stir in the sugar, then cool to room temperature. Puree the cooked peaches and any Iiquid in a blender or food processor with the sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla, and lemon juice until almost smooth but slightly chunky.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:40 PM on April 25 [16 favorites]


In metropolitan Chicago and other fortunate Midwest outposts, we have the marvel that is Oberweis of which there is literally no equal.
posted by hwestiii at 5:52 PM on April 25 [4 favorites]


Here in America, isn't it worth a little more to support an ice cream that is part of the resistance? (and is also probably delicious?)

If you want expensive ice cream, try the Bahamas.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:58 PM on April 25 [4 favorites]


One thing about the more expensive ice creams like Haagen Dazs or Ben & Jerry's is that their small container sizes means that I'll actually be able to enjoy all of the ice cream before it is no longer at its best, whether that is due to ice crystals forming, turning gummy or acquiring freezer smell. So if ice cream is going to cost $4-6 regardless of the amount I don't feel that buying the supposedly better quality smaller container is an extravagance because I wasn't going to eat the extra ice cream in the larger containers anyway.

For our son's 2nd birthday we had an ice cream themed party at our house. Dessert was naturally an ice cream station where there were different flavours of ice cream, cones, toppings, as well as some different magic shells I had made. We've done park birthdays for him since so no ice cream (unless a truck happens to come by) which is probably the one negative of having a park birthday.

When I was a kid the best ice cream I had ever tasted was the Peshawari Ice Cream in shops in Karachi. I think it was just cream and sugar but it was so creamy that your mouth would have a coating for a good 20 minutes after you finished it. The best ice cream I had as an adult was a coconut ice cream in some cafe/art space in Kyoto maybe 15 years ago. I'm not sure why I ordered coconut ice cream to begin with because it wasn't a favourite flavour at the time but now I will order that wherever I go and it is never as good.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:13 PM on April 25 [4 favorites]


Here in America, isn't it worth a little more to support an ice cream that is part of the resistance? (and is also probably delicious?)

That's cute but they're still owned by Unilever. They're not the worst giant multinational company but I'd rather my dollars go to a local company.
posted by octothorpe at 6:25 PM on April 25 [3 favorites]


Also seconding Jeni's recipes. I'm now an ex-Columbus-ite, which means no more Jeni's AND no more Graeter's, which is tragic. (Jeni's for when you want the fancy high-flauten flavors; Graeters which you want solid execution of the classics, you can love both.) New England's ice cream game is surprisingly lack luster, at least where I am, and we don't even have a Whole Foods or similarly fancy grocery store to get the $$$ pints if we wanted them.

But, the homemade Jeni's does hit the spot, and bonus, there's no futzing about with eggs.
posted by damayanti at 6:34 PM on April 25 [4 favorites]


I have never understood why Ben and Jerry's was so expensive when it was relatively poor-quality ice cream with bits in it to disguise that fact. I guess now I know.

Anyway, my tastes run towards Blue Ribbon vanilla icecream (this is the the ubiquitous local brand) - lots of air, pretty creamy - so knowing that industrialisation produces more consistent, higher quality icecream is good to know.
posted by Merus at 6:34 PM on April 25


Okay, fine, I'll stop in at a Byrne Dairy in upstate NY and gnaw at a mint ice cream sammy while gazing down at a lush ice-age gorge. Happy now?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:37 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


A lot of Breyers' lines used to be labelled as "All Natural Ice Cream" and came in 2L tubs, but over the years that's changed. First the packages started getting smaller, quietly dropping to 1.86L, and I see they're down to 1.66L now. Then they changed their recipes such that those products could no longer legally be called "Ice Cream" and they had to change the labelling to "Frozen dessert".

Some Breyers flavors when they were in their all-natural phase were my favorite ice cream in a typical supermarket. I could forgive them for using the shrink ray, but changing the fundamental experience of the product is a betrayal, especially when so many others have stepped up to do a better job.

If you sell out your brand, that is your brand. Ask Schlitz.

I know it's trendy but I'm so in on Salt & Straw right now. I'll have to try Jeni's. Not tellin' y'all about my favorite small shop in Torrance; they sell out too fast as it is. :)

I bought an ice cream maker about a year and a half ago and have had a ton of fun with it, even though it probably accounts for 10lbs of a 20lb weight gain run. Have definitely discovered both the boost that comes with extra fat... and diminishing returns above 20%. Still trying to learn the art of making a nice smooth custard with eggs (things that require attentive timing are not always my strong suit, and this seems to).
posted by weston at 6:44 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


I am reading this thread despite starting keto because I am a MASOCHIST.

*sobs brokenly*

But this was an excellent article - it’s not that my taste buds are changing so much as they are actually changing the quality.
posted by corb at 6:47 PM on April 25 [8 favorites]


heir small container sizes means that I'll actually be able to enjoy all of the ice cream before it is no longer at its best, whether that is due to ice crystals forming, turning gummy or acquiring freezer smell.

The trick is to store the ice cream carton in a plastic bag in the freezer. Keeps the texture perfect.
posted by jeather at 6:55 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Corb, keto ice cream is amazing. Cream cheese, heavy cream, lots of eggs, almost any flavorings and Truvia to sweeten. Tons of recipes out there.
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 7:04 PM on April 25 [5 favorites]


we have the marvel that is Oberweis of which there is literally no equal.

If you can support the family's shitty political views as Jim keeps trying to run for Governor or - what now? - a Congressional seat, it is pretty good ice cream. It's just a little harder to swallow.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:05 PM on April 25 [5 favorites]


If you can support the family's shitty political views as Jim keeps trying to run for Governor

Yes, Jim is cause for Oberweis family shame, but the dairy and their ice cream predate his questionable political career by many decades. I try not to let my distaste for one mar my enjoyment of the other.
posted by hwestiii at 7:24 PM on April 25


Jeni’s is so, so good. The goat cheese cherry has the most perfect cherries every time, for one. They are about to open one near an event we do annually in Chicago and I was heartbroken they hadn’t opened yet when we were there earlier in the month.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:29 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Rum is the best ice cream stabilizer, in my experience.

In all seriousness, I make my own ice cream because all the ones available at the local IGA are too sweet. It's surprisingly easy if you can sacrifice the space for a machine. It's literally the only dessert I don't screw up.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:35 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


The trick is to store the ice cream carton in a plastic bag in the freezer. Keeps the texture perfect.

I will have to buy a big container of ice cream and try that.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:40 PM on April 25 [3 favorites]


The last ice cream recipe you'll ever need: NYT ice cream base recipe (but I think 1/8 tspn is too much salt and leads to melty ice cream, I go with a little pinch instead)

I find it does save money: in a 2-3-pint batch I spend about $2 on the cream, $1 on the eggs (+free whites to save for meringues and angel food!), and some spare change on the milk and sugar. Depending on the flavorings (ie not vanilla bean) it ends up costing half as much as a premium ice cream and tastes just as good.

Plus there's an amazing flavor I've discovered that I have yet to see in a store anywhere: black sesame-honey. After a few batches of tweaking the recipe I settled on 1/2 cup roasted black sesame and 2 tbspn good honey (reduce the sugar a bit to compensate). Grind them together in a food processor, steep them in the hot milk for like 15 minutes then strain it. As it cools add 1/2 tspn vanilla, and maybe 1/4 tspn sesame oil if you want a touch of spiciness although I think this hurts the texture a bit. It ends up dark grey, and the sesame gives it a nuttiness that is subtle enough for the complexity of honey/vanilla to come through. Highly recommended.
posted by ilikemefi at 7:45 PM on April 25 [13 favorites]


Speaking of vanilla bean... one of the things I seem to have learned in the last few years is that not all of them are created equal. Anyone have types/sources they're fond of? I'v had some good luck with one or two madagascar bean sources on Amazon but I don't only want to feed that beast.
posted by wildblueyonder at 7:48 PM on April 25


Okay, fine, I'll stop in at a Byrne Dairy in upstate NY and gnaw at a mint ice cream sammy while gazing down at a lush ice-age gorge. Happy now?

I had some really disappointing ice cream in upstate New York. The ingredients are fresh, so it should be amazing, but a lot of it wasn't that great and definitely didn't live up to the hype.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:02 PM on April 25


Well, the lactose intolerant, but hell with them

*cries*


The following suggestion isn't ice cream, and so is technically off-topic but you can make an amazing vegan mousse in about 5 minutes using a mixer, a can of coconut cream (not milk), cocoa powder, and sugar to taste.  Just chill the can of coconut cream in the coldest spot of the fridge overnight before you make it, and you're good to go. It easily gets thick enough that you'll question its non-dairy provenance.

Seriously, it's astounding, and so easy to make it's wildly dangerous.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 8:22 PM on April 25 [6 favorites]


Yeah for the record I wasn't referring to vegan ice creams—at least in my grocery store those are in their own area (and for the most part, not cheap). I've had some coconut-based ones and they're quite good. I've yet to have a french vanilla that tastes like actual ice cream, though, but if you told me it was sorbet or something besides "ice cream" so I wasn't expecting that particular taste, I wouldn't complain or anything.

I was referring to the weird and seemingly on-the-sly reformulations of some well-known brands, Breyers being the specific example. They kept most of their packaging the same, so if you weren't looking you'd assume it's the same stuff you've been eating for years, but have reformulated it to the point where it's no longer legally "ice cream". I suspect they have either removed butterfat and replaced it with xanthan gum or some other thickener, or are just blending in more air.

Neither technique is totally illegitimate in its place—being able to eat a big bowl of not-quite-ice-cream that only has 110 calories in it is cool, if that's what you're looking for (and lord knows I should be looking for it a lot more), but the way to do it on the up-and-up would be to create a distinct new product for that market segment. Slowly cheapening the existing product in a way that makes it look like they're hoping people just won't notice, and then creating a new premium brand that's essentially the same as what the standard product used to be, is shady AF. To me it shows a lack of respect for their customers, particularly the customers that they think are buying the non-premium stuff. (Especially obnoxious because someone might think to themselves that by buying Breyers they're getting something special or better than the store brand, when at least in my grocery store the store brand is equivalent to Breyers' formerly-standard-now-premium product.)

FWIW, Ben and Jerry's went the other route when they started producing lower-fat products. They didn't monkey with their standard recipe, but brought out the lower-fat versions with distinct labeling, alongside frozen yogurt and now several non-dairy products. That seems like the right way to do it.

I'm also salty about the Breyers thing because it's the sort of behavior you'd expect if the underlying cost of ingredients was going up, but instead there's a vast milk surplus in the US; literally so much milk that people aren't sure what to do with it. They're cutting their product solely to maximize profits.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:23 PM on April 25 [10 favorites]


This thread reminds me...my husband and I were just reminiscing about old commercials and were laughing about Frusen Glädjén. I don’t know if I ever actually ate any, but I remember the commercials.
Also, Halo Top is gross.
posted by Biblio at 8:35 PM on April 25 [3 favorites]


One thing about "frozen dessert" is that it has waaay less saturated fat and cholesterol than ice cream. Like 15-25% of the fat. Having noticed the difference I feel guilty buying "ice cream" now; as someone not overweight but in questionable health I feel like I shouldn't be buying stuff with "16 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon" (*estimate). Reader, the last time in the freezer aisle I bought "frozen dessert" on purpose. (Tell me how it's killing me through some other ingredient.)
posted by sylvanshine at 8:47 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Ample Hills is actually the best ice cream FIGHT ME

....I've got an electric churn to make my own ice cream as well, and I have copies of the Ben and Jerry's cookbook, the Ample Hills cookbook, and David Liebovitz's PERFECT SCOOP. I've dabbled in all of them; Liebovitz has a really interesting flavor that's just chocolate and cream with a shit-ton of pureed raspberry. Ample Hills and Ben and Jerry's both have a similar proclivity to weird flavors (Dastardly Mash, "The Munchies", etc.), but one thing I really dig from Ample Hills is a lemon sorbet recipe they have that involves limoncello.

I also have a fondness for mint ice creams, and prefer the mint flavor to be fairly strong. For years I would joke to friends that if they ever made an Altoids flavor ice cream I'd be down with it. Then once I was making some mint chocolate chip and accidentally put in a TABLESPOON of mint extract instead of the teaspoon the recipe called for; and when I tasted it, I realized that "wait....this is Altoids ice cream. ....And I do like it."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:51 PM on April 25 [3 favorites]


I was gifted Jeni’s cookbook and a Cuisinart mixer a few years back and now I’m the ice cream guy for family and work events. I love the lemon cream recipe in her book. I did mint once, where you steep fresh mint leaves in the cream and strain before freezing and it ended up kind of medicinal tasting.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 9:04 PM on April 25


I also have a fondness for mint ice creams, and prefer the mint flavor to be fairly strong.

FYI, Blue Marble's Midnight Mint Cookie is pretty mint-y. One of the upmarket flavors I would splurge on, occasionally.
posted by praemunire at 9:12 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


I mean, who doesn't like ice cream? (Well, the lactose intolerant, but hell with them.)

You mean like “hell with” the overwhelming majority of people from South America, Africa, South and East Asia? Okay.
posted by invitapriore at 9:37 PM on April 25 [3 favorites]


wildblueyonder, Penzey's has vanilla beans. (Back in 2011, Cook's Illustrated reversed its decade-old stance and rec'd brands found in supermarkets.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:42 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Every time I make a parfait, I wonder why I ever buy commercial ice cream. After reading the article, I now get that it's because the ice cream deteriorates as soon as it leaves the factory, so even though a parfait isn't technically an ice cream, it's fresh and you still get the awesome creaminess and taste of the ingredients. Parfaits are easy to make and you don't need a machine, but you do need to eat them when they are ready and eat them up. 6 egg yolks whipped till light in color with 3 tbspoons of sugar, 1/2 liter of whole cream whipped in another bowl till you can make peaks, but not too hard. Mix the two together gently with either vanilla corns, melted nougat or melted chocolate, freeze and eat. No custard, no churning. Pure deliciousness. (If using vanilla, not at all cheap, either).

I do have an ice-cream machine and I am now looking forward to making that peach recipe Autumnheart posted. I mainly use it for sherbets and gelatos, and I've long though I should get the Leibovitz book, since I enjoy his writing already and I don't use my machine enough.
posted by mumimor at 11:23 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


Walk up to the freezers at Whole Foods

I found the problem.

Seriously, this whole thing sounds like a report from an alternate universe. Ice cream isn't expensive, it's readily available, and it's good. I've never seen this shortage of real ice cream, is it regional?
posted by bongo_x at 1:32 AM on April 26


In NZ you can get a 2 litre tub (4 pints?) of Tip Top ice-cream for about $3.50USD - its generally pretty great. Not cheap but not fancy. I've started to measure summers duration by the number of tubs I consume.Theres been a recent explosion in high-end ice-creams & gelatos (3 to 4 times the price by volume) but apart from the odd special occasion I stick with Tip Top (I'm basic that way).
posted by phigmov at 2:38 AM on April 26


Yeah Chapman’s is reliable at $3.50 or so a 2l brick. They have premium tubs and froyo for about $5 for 2l. Breyers can go to hell and we don’t give Nestlè shit, which leaves house brands and yupmarket pints. Honestly we usually buy the 4l tub of institutional ice milk and add mixins and it’s nice. Summer though we haul out the Cuisinart monster and I make sorbet out of the Minute Maid juice cans. Amazing.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:58 AM on April 26


Chapmans also is pro local community and puts its money where its mouth is.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:17 AM on April 26 [2 favorites]


Seriously, this whole thing sounds like a report from an alternate universe. Ice cream isn't expensive, it's readily available, and it's good.

This article is focusing on the price, not availability, and it's focusing on "premium" ice creams like Ben & Jerry's and Ample Hills and similar high-end brands; they aren't exclusively at Whole Foods, and they can indeed get up to $10 a pint.

And yes, they are usually better than most supermarket tubs and things like Breyers and such. At least to my mind. And that's not coming from a snooty place, that's coming from an experience of taste. I find that a lot of the supermarket brands put things in them that makes it feel funny in my mouth; even Haagen Dasz, when it toyed with a "gelato" line some years back, didn't work for me because it added some stuff that was supposed to replicate the consistency of Italian gelato, but it just felt non-ice-cream-like and fake to me.

Summer though we haul out the Cuisinart monster and I make sorbet out of the Minute Maid juice cans.

This is the way to do it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:21 AM on April 26


I did mint once, where you steep fresh mint leaves in the cream and strain before freezing and it ended up kind of medicinal tasting.

I was going to try that recipe after a request for mint chocolate chip, but after calculating the quantity and cost of mint leaves that the recipe called for, and reviews that said that the flavor wasn’t quite what I had in mind, I swerved at the last minute. After some googling, I made a regular vanilla ice cream, with mint extract in place of the vanilla, but hedged with about 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla to smooth the flavor. (I was trying to avoid Altoids ice cream. *heh*) That did the trick.
posted by Autumnheart at 4:37 AM on April 26


I've switched over to Coaticook ice cream (not sure if it's available outside of Canada), and it's really nice. The problem is that they don't make coffee ice cream. It's almost unavailable anymore! I don't want all your fudge ripples and chocolate chunks, just give me coffee.
posted by jeather at 5:03 AM on April 26


I had some really disappointing ice cream in upstate New York. The ingredients are fresh, so it should be amazing, but a lot of it wasn't that great and definitely didn't live up to the hype.

Counterpoint: Stewart's Shops
posted by mikelieman at 5:04 AM on April 26


mikelieman...is that a point for or against?

I read somewhere, a ways back, can't recall where though I feel like it was linked to or pointed out on Mefi, that the way that economies were going, everyday items would become luxurious spends because what had been considered luxuries was out of reach, yet we are still human and do feel better by having access to something special. This seems to be happening with high-end chocolate, coffee, ice cream, etc. while vacations or having children feels more and more untenable.
posted by kokaku at 5:09 AM on April 26 [2 favorites]


... and would very much prefer old-style "shit's more expensive now" inflation

You cannot overstate this. They make their product UNAVAILABLE when they change its ingredients.
posted by filtergik at 5:47 AM on April 26


I've had the impression that brands of ordinary, non-premium ice cream have taken advantage of the public's acceptance of paying >=$4/pint for Ben & jerry's etc to creep their prices up, over the years.
posted by thelonius at 5:49 AM on April 26


A lot of this article's language is kind of gross and not appetizing although I don't think the author is saying the ice cream is gross. Or is she?

All of my favorites are local ice cream or gelato shops wherever I am living at the time. Hopefully with a lot of rotating flavors. The shop I linked to has flights of four flavors served in a banana split dish and you can sit in a garden to eat it.

I have trouble managing premium ice cream at home because you usually have to let it sit out on the counter for a while to scoop it and then you are putting partially melted ice cream back in the freezer. I buy ice cream bars for at home but none of them really do it for me.
posted by BibiRose at 5:55 AM on April 26


Best ice cream I ever had was stumbling across Amorino Gelato on a hot, sweaty Saturday in Lyon, France. I'd just wandered down a medieval era staircase into a small square, saw a bunch of people in line, and like a good former New Yorker, got in line right behind them.

I love the concept, because you pay by size of the cup/cone, and then can pick as many flavors as you want. If you want a micro-bit of fifteen different flavors, you can do it! They also sell insulated pint boxes to-go.

They don't have many locations in the US, sadly, but there is one about 45 min from my house, and I am seriously debating buying a cooler just to make a trip there.
posted by basalganglia at 6:15 AM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Two different times in the last 10 years or so, I've had ice cream have issues at a self checkout register, because the weight sensor in the bagging area or conveyer thinks what I've put on it isn't heavy enough, and so must be the wrong item. In both cases it was when an ice cream brand sneakily dropped from a half gallon (2 quarts) to 1.75 quarts, or worse, 1.75 quarts down to 1.5 quarts but still want the consumer to think they're buying a half gallon.

The cause for the error? The company so badly wanted the size reduction to not be noticed by the consumer that they used the same SKU and everything, and the weight expectation on the self checkout is based on the SKU.

At some point standard containers are going to be down to like 1.5 pints but they'll still be shaped the same as they presently are and we'll be asked to not notice that they've shrunk to miniature size.
posted by tocts at 6:28 AM on April 26 [4 favorites]


Way upthread, but isn't gelato just ice cream made with less butterfat, like . . . much American ice cream?

Also avocado creams and smoothies are effing delicious and vastly preferable to me over anything less creamy than half and half.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:35 AM on April 26


I have never understood why Ben and Jerry's was so expensive when it was relatively poor-quality ice cream with bits in it to disguise that fact. I guess now I know.

Ben & Jerry's is also riding on reputation. The quality has notably dropped since the brand went full corporate, but after building a lot of customer loyalty.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:36 AM on April 26


[on preview, forgot to opine that Ben & Jerry's is usually too complicated, too sweet, and therefore gross]
posted by aspersioncast at 6:39 AM on April 26


I mean, who doesn't like ice cream? (Well, the lactose intolerant, but hell with them.)

We like it quite a lot, we just don't like what comes later. When we buy ice cream, we're mortgaging our immediate future.
posted by UltraMorgnus at 6:40 AM on April 26 [3 favorites]


Hubby likes making Thai coffee ice cream. Starts with the Ben & Jerry's vanilla base, and adds super strong brewed Thai coffee at the start of churning. It is amazing.
posted by xedrik at 6:47 AM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Reading through this thread, I realize I don’t got game in the ice cream arena. I feel like I should cop to the fact that my favorite, go-to ice cream for the past five years has been the rather pedestrian but delicious Fry’s/Kroger store brand “Private Selection” label of “Denali Extreme Moose Tracks” chocolate.

I could murder a pint of that right now.
posted by darkstar at 6:54 AM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Way upthread, but isn't gelato just ice cream made with less butterfat, like . . . much American ice cream?

I freely admit that I'm beginning this sentence this way because it sounds badass, but - according to the dudes at the gelato class I took in Florence, not necessarily.

Speaking very broadly - ice cream starts with a base of cream, milk, egg yolks, and sugar, that's cooked into a custard-like mix before you chill it in the ice cream maker. And gelato - also speaking very broadly - starts with a similar process, except there's more milk and less cream and less, or no, egg yolks. It's also churned at a slower rate so there's less air mixed in, and served at a slightly warmer temperature so it's a bit of a different texture.

However - the ice cream I mention above is what's called "French style" ice cream. There is also an "American style" ice cream base, which doesn't necessarily involve egg yolks. And there are many different "ice cream" recipes that involve different ratios of cream to milk; same too with gelato. However, the gelato being served at a warmer temperature is more of a consistent distinction, to the point that the dudes at the class I took said that that was the bigger distinction.

So...some gelato recipes may have less butterfat, and some "American" ice cream recipes may have more butterfat than others. It's more a difference of consistency than ingredients; you may be able to get that difference in consistency through the ingredients (butterfat content does this, or Haagen-Dasz adding some artificial ingredients that affected the texture), but you can also get that difference in consistency just by leaving a pint of ice cream out on the counter for a little while longer than usual before eating, or letting your homemade ice cream sit in the freezer for a shorter time than you usually would.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:54 AM on April 26 [4 favorites]


I've had my own fancy ice cream maker (one of the plug-in models that includes its own electric freezer, and has a removable bowl) since the late-1990s. I'm also a former chemist and a home food experimenter and my partner is a chef-instructor at a local community college. So I get kind of obsessive and geeky about ice cream. Especially now since I'm trying to keep a low carb diet for health reasons. And even so I visit ice cream makers occasionally (and obsessively) too.

Here in the SF Bay Area, we are spoiled for choice (though worryingly some very fine ice cream and frozen dessert purveyors have gone out of business recently or over the years. Ici recently went out of business which was a loss. They were slightly to a lot better than Humphry Slocombe depending on who you talk to.

Also many years ago, a nut-based sorbet company that used the (coveted by many) high torque blender, the PacoJet (which a couple foodie friends and I actually seriously thought of going in on together, until we found out that it doesn't freeze food, just purées food that you have to industrially freeze first to super low temperatures - like -22F - before you can purée with the PacoJet), Scream Sorbet, was briefly in business, and then out of business. For what it's worth, their nut-based vegan sorbets were out of this fucking world. They were so rich and so smooth and so silky...

The only comparison I can draw to that texture in conventional ice creams is liquid nitrogen ice cream, especially the ice creams and sorbets you can get from industrially prepared liquid nitrogen shops like Smitten, which is about a mile from me. (Note: though I've certainly been regaled by tales of home-frozen liquid nitrogen ice cream when I lived in Boston - especially over retellings of epic BaitCon gatherings, I never did it myself.) In liquid nitrogen ice cream, the texture is so fine and there's no butter risk from overchurning the dairy (which is the hobgoblin of my home experiments - I love high-fat ice cream bases but unless I almost freeze them before home-churning, home-churning always risks generating little clumps of butter in the final product).

Leaving aside tech-based ice creams for the nonce, I want to say that of the SF Bay Area's current choices for conventional, dairy-based ice creams, I'd say my 3 favorites are:
1) Humphry Slocombe (Various locations in SF and the East Bay). Very good product. Conscientious purveyor. High quality experience.
2) Freezing Point Creamery (Oakland Chinatown). For the Thai Ice Cream Rolls experience, one of the best choices unless you go to the South Bay.
3) Secret Scoop (Berkeley). Thai Gelato. Exotic flavors, small portions, super guilty pleasure.

And before I go on too long (I could but I ought to be doing other things this morning), Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop is pretty dang good. His introduction and basics section cover all the tech, technique, ingredients, thickeners, and stabilizers discussion stuff I'd cover in the same sections of the imaginary ice cream book I'd write. But if you want to seriously fucking geek out, invest in a copy of Caroline Liddell & Robin Weir's Frozen Desserts: The Definitive Guide to Making Ice Creams, Ices, Sorbets, Gelati, and Other Frozen Delights. If for no other reason that Chapter 9: Chemistry of Ices, which includes discussions on ingredients and proportions for certain mouthfeels, as well as extensive discussion of a little spreadsheet for calculating the solids in your ices. I can't recommend the whole book enough.

(Also, some gelato recipes make up for less fat by adding starch, typically cornstarch, but other starches will provide gelling/thickening in the same way - wheat, potato, tapioca, etc. - you have to experiment. I also almost got in a fight with a proud Italian over this, but a lot of home Italian gelato makers will scoff at the idea that starch is part of their recipe, saying they use a product called "Whip It" which is, you guessed it, made largely of corn starch.)

Speaking of, one of my favorite home gelato recipes is Saveur's recipe for Milk Gelato, with an awesome "secret" ingredient - don't worry, they reveal it in the recipe, but I've often made it and been tempted not to tell anyone. Also I would be remiss if I didn't link to Saveur's round-up of their best Ice Cream Recipes.
posted by kalessin at 7:24 AM on April 26 [6 favorites]


mikelieman...is that a point for or against?

It's good ice cream at an affordable price. I'll go to my grave loving Cherry Garcia, and always appending "New Jersey's Finest" to Haagen Daaz, but they're doing whatever I want from ice cream right.
posted by mikelieman at 7:31 AM on April 26


Oh I forgot - I intended to also say that the absolute best conventional ice cream I've ever had was one I earned by hiking all over Madison, WI, and finally ending up at the University of Wisconsin's Agricultural and Life Sciences Department's Ice Cream Shop at Babcock Hall. If you are within driving distance, do yourself a favor and go. It's staffed by students and the ice cream comes from their Dairy Plant, which you can also tour if you time/plan it right.

But if you are anywhere near and can manage to go, do. Their ice cream is fantastic and amazing in equal parts.
posted by kalessin at 7:37 AM on April 26 [1 favorite]


an ice cream brand sneakily dropped from a half gallon (2 quarts) to 1.75 quarts, or worse, 1.75 quarts down to 1.5 quarts but still want the consumer to think they're buying a half gallon.

Has anyone else noticed that a pint itself isn't a pint anymore? You'd think you're lucking out to get Ben + Jerry's on sale for $4 a pint -- it's not a pint.
posted by Dashy at 7:46 AM on April 26


I thought Ben and Jerry's was still holding out at a 16 oz pint. But Haagen Daz is 14 oz, I think? I do always check if the pint I'm considering is actually a pint though.
posted by kalessin at 7:48 AM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Blue Bell is a pretty damn good brand, only available in certain areas, it's my go to brand now that Ben and Jerry's changed Cherry Garcia enough that I no longer find it to be irresistible.

Also just want to chime in for the record that Breyer's ruined two or more decades of brand loyalty for me when they started screwing around with their product without making that clear in their packaging. I didn't know they had a premium version, but now I don't really trust their brand anymore so not interested. Take that!

I started making home made ice cream last year and after a couple of fitful starts, made something that I think can stand with premium supermarket products, but to get there damn is it a fussy, time consuming and expensive process. So unless and until my kids develop an interest in making homemade ice cream, I think I'll hold off with that.
posted by skewed at 7:50 AM on April 26


I am old enough to remember when a half-gallon of ice cream had three quarts in it, so I am all about "times suck, get off my lawn," but what I really want to know is if everyone else can really buy a pint of heavy cream for $2? Because it's more like $4 in Minnesota.

Also, I am shamed by all the recipes for fabulous homemade ice creams. I haven't made any for years, and then it was a recipe that came with the hand-crank machine I bought for a dollar at a rummage sale. Even though I only made one batch before I bought one with a motor because I didn't want to have to buy special shirts to fit my one Popeye arm.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 7:54 AM on April 26


Anybody else remember Mellorine? Came in big honkin' rectangular containers. That's all I had as a child.
posted by OldAndTired at 8:02 AM on April 26


I can find pints of Schroeder heavy cream in Minnesota on sale for $2 sometimes, usually around the holidays when stores are stocked up on ingredients. The catch is finding pasteurized cream vs. ultra-pasteurized. I usually go with Schroeder or Kemp's premium. For whole milk, if I feel like I don't need to put on the dog, I go with Sweet Meadow pasture-grazed (that's my go-to milk brand anyway), whereas if I do need to put on the dog, I'll buy Autumnwood or whatever in the glass bottle.

But yeah, the cream, eggs and milk is what jacks up the price for sure. Costco sells two dozen cage-free eggs for a very reasonable price. Spices and extracts can be expensive in the sense that you're plopping down a chunk of cash for good quality, but at least it lasts a long time.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:05 AM on April 26


Ben and Jerry's is still a pint. It's Haagen-Dazs that's shrunk.

Seems like a good place for this classic GIF series.
posted by praemunire at 8:44 AM on April 26


I grew up getting mint chocolate chip ice cream at Friendly's restaurants, and I will still get any MCC anywhere, even the green stuff.

A few years ago in Atlanta, at a now-forgotten restaurant, I had mint ice cream that was PERFECT - creamy, sweet, and tasted like fresh mint leaves. It makes me want to plant a ton of mint and buy an ice cream maker just to think of it.
posted by corvikate at 8:49 AM on April 26


I’ve finally read this whole article and it is AMAZING, but small artistic business business strategy is one of my big interests (as a small artistic business owner) and I really didn’t know much about medium and large-scale ice cream production. ALSO the link in it to the article about Halo Top blew my mind (it’s in the section talking about overrun).
posted by jeweled accumulation at 9:11 AM on April 26


we have the marvel that is Oberweis of which there is literally no equal.

I grew up eating Oberweis ice cream, still have it every time we go to IL, and I am here to tell you that Graeter's is superior. Far, far superior.
posted by cooker girl at 10:10 AM on April 26 [2 favorites]


Tillamook is good American middle class ice cream, and I’m glad they sell it in North Carolina now. Craving strawberry at the moment.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:28 AM on April 26 [2 favorites]


Fuck Blue Bell forever.
posted by asperity at 11:55 AM on April 26


Wait, no, this one's the one I really meant to link. Seriously, any ice cream but this is probably acceptable.
posted by asperity at 12:04 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Before I went full bore ice cream geek (if we don't count joyous childhood experiences with Swenson's and the always amazing Baskin-Robbins back then), the reason I got into the geekery and got my own Lello/Simac Il Gelato ice cream maker was primarily because I lived in Boston in Jamaica Plain, and my inspiration at that time (around 2000) was the excellent J.P. Licks. Massachusetts also is blessed by Herrell's in Northampton, but their deal was, when I last visited, mix-ins, like Cold Stone Creamery later seemed to industrialize/turn into a franchise. Unsure of the timeline but I wouldn't be surprised if Cold Stone heavily borrowed the idea from Herrell's and other small-scale ice creameries from the Massachusetts area. If I remember correctly, Herrell's also did some very nice frappes (their term for milkshakes).

Another one I think of quite fondly but don't get often is Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in the Columbus, OH area. It's a chain, but it's well known for a large variety of flavors and for their waffle cones.

I also miss Tommy's Restaurant in Coventry Village, Cleveland, OH, specifically for their Black Raspberry Milkshakes.

And I missed talking about a few favorites/notables from the SF Bay Area (especially the East Bay). There's Fenton's Creamery, which is in the Oakland Piedmont area, and which is a visual Easter Egg in a number of Pixar flicks, not least Up, and which always draws a crowd. I don't really like their high overrun (lots of mixed in air, very soft) style of ice cream, but they appeal to many, and they're widely known for their huge sundaes.

There's Lush Gelato, solid work, and interesting flavors. There's Mitchell's Ice Cream, which makes a lot of Asian exotic flavors and supplies restaurants widely around the whole SF Bay Area. There's Foster's Freeze (a chain in California) - I have occasionally visited to get a shake. For shakes, also notable are Gott's Roadside, Saturn Cafe, and all the little Mom and Pop burger shops (and those that aspire to it). The Red Onion in Richmond/El Cerrito, TrueBurger in Oakland, Beep's on Ocean Ave in San Franciso, The Smokehouse on Telegraph and Woolsey in Berkeley. What's interesting to me about these smaller burger joints is that they can end up sourcing some of the best ice cream in the area: Straus, Mitchell's, etc. Though admittedly sometimes it's just the oasis of a reasonable milkshake after coming in from a walk in the hot sun.
posted by kalessin at 12:08 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


I can find pints of Schroeder heavy cream in Minnesota on sale for $2 sometimes

Hoo boy, not to diminish Schroeder, but let me introduce you to manufacturer's cream!
posted by rhizome at 12:09 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Oh, by the way, the proper name for that Tillamook specialty ice cream is Authentic Sweet Cream Gelato. I also like their Double Nutty Peanut Butter Ice Cream.
posted by y2karl at 12:43 PM on April 26


Thrifty Ice Cream is still around, and affordable (especially when it is often BOGO). Chocolate Malted Crunch, man, Chocolate Malted Crunch.
posted by linux at 12:44 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Fuck Blue Bell forever.
posted by asperity at 1:55 PM on April 26 [+] [!]


:(

another simple pleasure ruined by greed
posted by skewed at 1:36 PM on April 26


We once lived round the corner from Mitchell's Ice Cream in San Francisco. As kalessin says, lots of exotic varieties. I recall four kinds of coconut. It's still a family destination for us when we're up there.
posted by mdoar at 3:16 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Yeah. I had a killer Lucuma ice cream from Mitchell's. They're also well known for their Ube (Purple Yam) which is very popular, and I'm pretty sure I've had an really enjoyed their Lychee (though I prefer the closely related Longan, which I never see in ice cream - wonder why and I better make it myself some day with fresh longan next time I have it in hand - which also makes me think a loquat sorbet would also be delicious).
posted by kalessin at 3:44 PM on April 26


They carried Jeni's pints (about a half-dozen flavors) at Target for a while, and I realized that most Target shoppers at my local store were passing them up, either because of unfamiliarity or the $9.99 price. So, the price kept dropping, and I kept taking them home. We tried every flavor at least once. Enjoyed them all.

I then had pear sorbet at a Jeni's shop in an indoor farmer's market in Nashville that was literally the best frozen dessert I have ever tasted in my life. I dream about it, sometimes. It was served with a little cookie.

I can't have sugar anymore (stupid pancreas) so I guess I'm reading through this thread because I'm a straight-up masochist. Sigh.
posted by 41swans at 4:00 PM on April 26


Also, some gelato recipes make up for less fat by adding starch, typically cornstarch, but other starches will provide gelling/thickening in the same way - wheat, potato, tapioca, etc. - you have to experiment. I also almost got in a fight with a proud Italian over this, but a lot of home Italian gelato makers will scoff at the idea that starch is part of their recipe, saying they use a product called "Whip It" which is, you guessed it, made largely of corn starch.

The dudes at the gelato class were mega-purists - the little recipe they gave us has nothing but milk, cream, sugar, and cocoa powder. This was in one of those cheeseball cooking classes they design for tourists, but they really tried to drive home the avoid-additives message. "Even if you don't make it and are just buying it," they said. They claimed that the best way for you to know if you were heading into a really good gelateria was to just have a look at the color of their banana or pistachio flavor - if the pistachio was green or the banana was yellow, get out of there, because true pistachio and banana made with only natural ingredients were usually pale gray colors. If they added fake coloring to the gelato, they argued, what else may they have added?

I had a similar experience of this claim when I stopped at a gelateria and got two scoops of two different sorbets in one cup - apple and grape - and both were exactly the same color. But oh, the taste....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:48 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


Yeah. I've lately been having to experiment with various additives because of the blossoming of food allergies and food sensitivities and dietary restrictions among friends. I don't like to do it, but when ingredients get restricted down to odd jigsaw puzzles and one is not free to just use high fat dairy and white sugar and cocoa, one has to get pretty creative. We have been putting our vitamix to good use, substituting raw torque/power for additive ingredients to make "ice cream" made mostly of pulverized ice cubes and primary flavoring ingredients (and a mix of nut and dairy milks) and very little sugar. But it's kind of well-suited to our ice-shard loving tastes.

Also in our household we do like a milk float - where one floats ice cream or frozen desserts in milk and we go for frozen milk crunch/texture by letting the frozen thing sit in the milk a while before stirring it all up with a spoon.

So despite also searching for various obscure ways to get super smooth, silky ice creams for guests and special projects and geeking out, we also happen to personally like ice and dairy crystals (and I even like little flecks of butter in overchurned ice creams) for our own enjoyment.
posted by kalessin at 6:07 PM on April 26


Hoo boy, not to diminish Schroeder, but let me introduce you to manufacturer's cream!

Don’t tell me about this awesomeness unless you can include where to buy it! (Google says: apparently nowhere near me.) Although I guess I might wind up with too-much-butterfat problems if I used a cream that rich. I’ll stick with the retail stuff.
posted by Autumnheart at 7:39 PM on April 26


Autumnheart, I'm lucky enough that I have a drive-thru dairy within visiting distance (and outside of Google), so if you have one of those, give them a poke. Heck, I had initially gone to this one to get a half gallon of HWC when I saw MC on the bill of fare, so that's my secret.
posted by rhizome at 7:49 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Frusen Glädjé. I don’t know if I ever actually ate any

I sure did -- they made good stuff!

I've had the impression that brands of ordinary, non-premium ice cream have taken advantage of the public's acceptance of paying >=$4/pint for Ben & jerry's etc to creep their prices up, over the years.

Absolutely this -- no longer is inexpensive ice cream available... but I had no idea the high-end stuff had gotten so expensive!

black sesame ice cream is my all-time favourite

I like it, too (along with the Musk Melon that Baskin-Robbins sells in Japan) but gray ice cream is a bit of tough sell, if you've never tasted it.
posted by Rash at 11:43 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Black sesame is certainly still a specialty flavor that mostly sticks with fancy Asian or Asian fusion places in these parts and comes and goes but it's actually one of two grey ice creams I've seen recently. The other made grey by activated, food safe, carbon.

I think folks around the SF Bay Area, especially foodies, like the sort of modernist light grey aesthetic of these ice creams, given a general bent toward modernist architecture and design in the fancy restaurants that serve it.
posted by kalessin at 7:00 AM on April 27


I went to the Ben and Jerry's factory recently, and it appeared they were still doing the regular 16oz pints. Apparently they do limited runs of larger containers for Costco and for scoop shops, but the bulk of their production line is geared towards pint containers. And they do some smaller single-serving packages as well, but the tour guide said that 90% or so of production was pints.

The tour guide's explanation of why they do pints vs. larger quantities (and this is all presumably in addition to the obvious reason, which is "because then we can charge more, duh") is because it results in the container living in your home freezer, with its freeze-thaw defrost cycles and blasts of warm air and marginal temperature, for less time than a half gallon would. The result of small containers is that you eat it faster, and the perception of quality is higher. Which is interesting, just in the sense that you can influence the customer's perception of quality by forcing them to use a product in a particular (some would argue inconvenient) way. When you start looking for this you start seeing it everywhere, incidentally.

Also their ice cream base involves eggs, which I didn't realize. (Which I guess technically also makes it frozen custard? I've never been super clear on the ice cream vs. frozen custard distinction, except that "frozen custard" is something I associate with getting from weird little stores on the NJ shore boardwalk that also sell saltwater taffy.)

If their quality has declined I suspect it has to do with their distribution rather than production, because the latter doesn't seem to have changed much. Ice cream is very sensitive to temperature control, and some of the flavors are quite perishable, and I have a feeling that Unilever isn't nearly as obsessive over controlling distribution as the original owners were.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:29 AM on April 27


I've never been super clear on the ice cream vs. frozen custard distinction, except that "frozen custard" is something I associate with getting from weird little stores on the NJ shore boardwalk that also sell saltwater taffy.

Traditionally ice cream is frozen custard, or at least started that way. All that means is that you make a custard-like base out of cooked cream, milk, and egg yolks, and you then cool that down and freeze it in the ice cream maker.

All ice cream started out being made that way. Then for a while home ice cream makers in the US were making a base that didn't involve cooking a custard and didn't include yolks, because it was easier. In some circles, the egg yolk-custard-style base is called "French style" and the non-egg version was called "American style", or sometimes "New York style" or "Philadelphia style". But most people just care about the "ice cream" part.

So it's not too much of a leap to assume that a little later on someone started making their ice cream with the egg-yolk style of base, and wanted to distinguish it in some way from the non-egg version, so they started calling it "frozen custard".

Today you'll find the distinctions way less clear; some ice cream recipes involve eggs, some don't, some call themselves either "Philadelphia style" or "French style", some just say "ice cream" because who can tell the difference any more.

And that's just the Western-world ice cream, we haven't even gotten into the weird ice creams you get in Turkey and parts of the Middle East where they include ingredients that make the ice cream kinda....stretchy?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:46 PM on April 27 [4 favorites]


Also, some gelato recipes make up for less fat by adding starch, typically cornstarch, but other starches will provide gelling/thickening in the same way - wheat, potato, tapioca, etc. - you have to experiment. I also almost got in a fight with a proud Italian over this, but a lot of home Italian gelato makers will scoff at the idea that starch is part of their recipe, saying they use a product called "Whip It" which is, you guessed it, made largely of corn starch.

Interestingly (and I wish that I could find where I read this, which I thought was in a David Lebovitz recipe for an amazing chocolate gelato made using corn starch rather than eggs), gelato in Italy isn't all made with eggs; whether or not the gelatos traditionally contain eggs is dependent on the historical availability of eggs on the Italian peninsula. In the north, where eggs were more abundant , that is how gelato is made, but in the South, particularly in Sicily gelato is traditionally made with starch - and ultimately is a kind of a frozen churned pudding, since you kind of do the same process with thickening a milk and cocoa mixture on the stove and chilling it, then adding that to your ice cream maker.
posted by urbanlenny at 9:12 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]


Inspired by this thread, when I went to the store today I bought a pint of the most expensive ice cream they had. It's not the fanciest store, so it was only $8, but definitely one of the"ultrapremium" varieties that highlights the extra cream and lack of extra air.

I am a person who likes milkfat, but this tastes greasy rather than luxurious and definitely isn't making me say "wow." I'll be going back to my usual Haagen Dazs next time, but if I end up at a Whole Foods I'm still curious to see what $12+ gets you in the ice cream world.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:19 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]


Kadin2048: Which is interesting, just in the sense that you can influence the customer's perception of quality by forcing them to use a product in a particular (some would argue inconvenient) way. When you start looking for this you start seeing it everywhere, incidentally.

Yup, another example of this is a brewery near me (Avery), which puts foil on the necks of some of their fancier high ABV and/or barrel aged beers, both for looks, and to make it inconvenient to drink them straight from the bottle rather than pouring them into a glass where you can better appreciate their aromas.
posted by JiBB at 3:20 PM on April 29 [2 favorites]


There are a bunch of recipes that get around the ice crystal problem by, as far as I can tell, adding buckets of fat and sugar until the water doesn't freeze right any more. They taste fine too me, but in curious what more experiences I've cream readers would think. Here's an example :

https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-no-churn-ice-cream-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-220413

I mean, who doesn't like ice cream? (Well, the lactose intolerant, but hell with them.)

You mean like “hell with” the overwhelming majority of people from South America, Africa, South and East Asia? Okay.

Yeah, that was definitely one of those moments where I remembered that this place is mostly not intended for people like me.

Nothing wrong with enjoying fun things not available to everyone, but it's sort of weird to be quite so unaware how niche your hobby is.

posted by meaty shoe puppet at 7:50 PM on April 29 [1 favorite]


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