The President Who Popularized Ice Cream In The United States

It doesn't take much to persuade most people to get an ice cream. But did you know that it was a U.S. president who we have to thank for the first American-written recipe? Thomas Jefferson wasn't only a Founding Father, but an incredibly passionate foodie – famous for his fixation on the peas in his split pea soup, of all things. One of his greatest loves was ice cream, which it's widely believed he came across for the first time when visiting France between 1784 and 1789. And despite the dish already existing in the U.S. for decades at that time, Jefferson's soft spot for ice cream propelled it to new heights of popularity.

His writing of an ice cream recipe is certainly a notable milestone for everyone's favorite sweet treat. The document also holds great historical significance; it's one of the limited 10 surviving recipes in Jefferson's handwriting, and the creation made the dessert more widely accessible for people to make from scratch. There's a great novelty in a U.S. president writing down instructions for making ice cream, although the real credit is believed to belong to Adrien Petit, his French butler. Jefferson's granddaughter, Virginia Jefferson Randolph Trist, later rewrote a remarkably similar recipe, this time crediting Petit. Perhaps Jefferson's sources were a family secret.

How did Thomas Jefferson make his ice cream?

Nowadays, you know the score for America's favorite frozen dairy treat. There are dozens of different ice cream variations, from peanut butter to peppermint flavors. Thomas Jefferson didn't quite have the flavorsome creativity that we have in modern times. Instead, he opted for a simple vanilla recipe and relied on placing a casserole dish over a fire, hand-whisking, and finally, a sabottiere (a simple cannister in an ice bucket) for the freezing process. He harvested ice from the Rivanna River over winter, storing it in bulk in his Monticello ice house to last nearly a full year. 

There's no denying that the president had a great knack for forward planning and resourcefulness. Of course, now we use stovetops, machine whisks, and refrigerators to make the dessert. Still, it's incredible to see how innovative early ice cream-making was. By looking at Jefferson's story, you learn a lot about the development of cooking equipment over the years. And if his ice cream sounds tasty, why not try Thomas Jefferson's favorite three-ingredient muffins? We don't call him a foodie for nothing, and he was certainly a pro at minimalistic recipes.