What's your favorite treat on a hot summer day? If your answer is ice cream, you're in good company. Every year, Americans eat over a billion gallons of this cold, sweet treat. Hard or soft serve, chocolate, vanilla, or even mango, ice cream is here to stay.
Thousands of Gallons at a Time
Most of the ice cream we eat comes from factories. The factories mix up their ice cream in giant cylinders called vats. The basic ingredients for the ice cream base, such as milk and cream, are poured into the vat. Most companies use the same base recipe for every single flavor. A typical ice cream vat can hold about 3,000 gallons of ice cream at a time. A giant machine stirs the vat, mixing all of the ice cream's ingredients together.
Once the base is finished, the factory then adds the flavor. This is where the chocolate, caramel, vanilla, or strawberries get stirred into the mix. The factory makes a huge batch of a single flavor. A different flavor will be added to the next batch. According to a 2013 survey of the International Ice Cream Association's member companies, the top three ice cream flavors in America are currently vanilla, chocolate, and butter pecan.
After the mixing is complete, the flavored ice cream is sent through tubes where it is whipped and frozen. At this point, the ice cream is what we call "soft serve." The factory packages the product into cartons and then quickly freezes it to make "hard" ice cream.
The U.S. government regulates the ice cream industry and sets strict standards for foods that claim the name. Ice cream must have at least 10% milk fat and weigh at least 4.5 pounds per gallon. Dairy items that don't meet these standards are called "frozen desserts."
See for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-7s7WrTX7k
Check out the following videos to go behind the scenes of a traditional ice cream parlor, discover an 18th-century presidential recipe, and learn about a shop that makes "high-tech, old-fashioned" ice cream.