Our nation's first ice-cream parlor reportedly opened in New York City in 1776 — and about 200 years later, President Ronald Reagan officially designated the third Sunday of July National Ice Cream Day and the month of July National Ice Cream Month.
Ice cream is a $4 billion-plus industry here in the U.S., with consumers buying 4.16 billion pints, according to The Nielsen Company. Manufacturers have introduced smaller pack sizes, single-portion forms and more flavor varieties to get us to eat more ice cream.
So what’s new on the supermarket shelves? Here are some of my favorites for Ice Cream Month 2008!
Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Honey Bee Ice Cream: A rich, vanilla ice cream blended with a touch of golden sweet honey. It is a creamy classic with a mouthwatering twist only the honeybee offers. Honeybees in the U.S. are being threatened; more than 25 percent of the Western bee population has disappeared over the last several winters. Häagen-Dazs is raising awareness of their plight and a portion of the proceeds from each pint of Vanilla Honey Bee will fund honeybee research at the University of California, Davis and Pennsylvania State University. Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Honey Bee is available in 16-ounce pints for a suggested retail price of $4.39; www.haagen-dazs.com. For more info on honeybees, visit www.helpthehoneybees.com.
Turtle Mountain Purely Decadent Ice Cream: Made with organic coconut milk instead of dairy or soy milk, it contains fewer calories, less sugar and less fat than most superpremium ice creams. Sweetened with natural agave syrup, one serving of Vanilla Bean contains 150 calories, 12 grams of sugar and 8 grams of fat. (By comparison, one serving of other superpremium brands’ vanilla on average contains 240 calories, 19 grams of sugar and 16 grams of fat.) $4.99 a pint. www.TurtleMountain.com
Graeter’s: Since its founding in 1870 by Louis C. Graeter, Graeter's French Pot Ice Cream has become a tradition in the Queen City. Today the Graeter family still faithfully uses his century-old recipes and methods of production. Black Raspberry Chip is their signature flavor and all-time best-seller. They hand-select triple-washed black raspberries from Oregon's premier grower. About $5 a pint. www.graeters.com
New Zealand Natural Ice Cream: Made with fresh dairy cream from cows that feed on the green, unpolluted pastures of the “land of the long white cloud.” Available in Vanilla, Cookies & Cream, Hokey Pokey (chunks of crunchy butterscotch folded into New Zealand Natural's creamy honeycomb-flavored ice cream), Chocolate Ecstasy (rich chocolate fudge swirled through New Zealand Natural's famous chocolate ice cream) and Mango Sorbet. $5 a pint. www.nznusa.com
Clemmy’s Sugar Free Ice Cream: This is said to be the world's first totally sugar-free, all-natural superpremium ice cream, made without artificial sweeteners — they use the natural sweetener Xylitol instead. The taste and texture of superpremium ice cream at 25 percent less calories, less fat and zero sugar per serving. Varieties are Vanilla Bean, Chocolate, Toasted Almond, Coffee and Chocolate Mint Swirl; sells for $5.99 a quart. www.clemmysicecream.com
Laloo’s Goat’s Milk Ice Cream: This ice cream ishigh in protein, elevates immunity, provides a good source of calcium, is hormone free, and each flavor is loaded with vitamins A and D. Two newest flavors:Rumplemint, a delicate mint chocolate chip with soft curls of dark chocolate (imported from the home of the world's finest chocolate — Zurich) combined with fresh organic garden mint. Capraccino is Laloo's gold-medal coffee ice cream, made from a popular Italian espresso roast. $6.49 a pint. www.laloos.com
Ben & Bill's Lobster Ice Cream: A butter-flavored ice cream made with cooked lobsters from a local lobster pound. Ben & Bill's pick the meat, butter it, and fold it into the ice cream. Pint, $8.95, quart, $10.95, half-gallon, $21.90. www.benandbills.com
PhillySwirl Ice Cream Cupcakes: Imagine half cake (either chocolate or white) and half vanilla ice cream topped with icing and sprinkles. Available in a six-pack serving tray shaped like a muffin tin and a party-sized 12-pack box (containing two six-packs). Prices range from $4.99-$5.99/six-pack and $7.99-$9.99/12-pack box. www.phillyswirl.com
Read those labels carefully as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually has standards for ice cream:
Ice cream is a frozen food made from a mixture of dairy products, containing at least 10 percent milk fat.
Gelato is an Italian frozen food made from a mixture of dairy products, typically made with fresh fruit or other ingredients, and in the manufacturing process is supercooled while stirring to break up ice crystals as they form. Like superpremium ice creams, gelato generally has less than 35 percent air — resulting in a dense and extremely flavorful product.
“Reduced fat” ice cream contains at least 25 percent less total fat than the referenced product (either an average of leading brands, or the company's own brand).
“Light” ice cream contains at least 50 percent less total fat or 33 percent fewer calories than the referenced product (the average of leading regional or national brands).
“Lowfat” ice cream contains a maximum of 3 grams of total fat per serving (1/2 cup).
“Nonfat” ice cream contains less than 0.5 grams of total fat per serving.
“Superpremium” ice cream tends to have very low overrun and high fat content, and the manufacturer uses the best quality ingredients.
“Premium” ice cream tends to have low overrun and higher fat content than regular ice cream, and the manufacturer uses higher quality ingredients. It is the largest category in terms of sales, with more than 50 percent of the volume.
5 things you need to know for fresh-tasting ice cream:
- Be sure your freezer temperature is set between 5° F and 0° F.
- Store ice cream in the main part of the freezer. Never store ice cream in the freezer door, where it can be subject to fluctuating temperatures since the door is repeatedly opened and shut.
- Never allow ice cream to soften and refreeze. As ice cream's small ice crystals melt and refreeze, they can eventually turn into large, unpalatable lumps.
- Keep the ice-cream container lid tightly closed when storing in the freezer; in fact. what I always do is to put a covering of heavy-duty plastic wrap or aluminum foil around the mouth of the container first — then put the lid over that to ensure a tight seal.
- Don't store ice cream alongside uncovered foods; odors can penetrate ice cream and affect its flavor.
Now enjoy one of America’s favorite foods!
Phil Lempert is food editor of the TODAY show. He welcomes questions and comments, which can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about the latest trends on the supermarket shelves, visit Phil’s Web site at .