How Ice Cream is Made
Do you have a favorite flavor or brand of ice cream? Most people do and will frequently defend their favorite flavor or brand with intense loyalty. While each manufacturer
develops its own special recipes, ice cream production basics are essentially the same everywhere.
Of course the most important ingredients in ice cream come from milk and are crucial in determining the characteristics of the final frozen product. According to
Federal regulations, ice cream must contain at least 10% milkfat. Ice cream manufacturers vary the percentages of milkfat, which affects the palatability, smoothness, color,
texture, and food value of the finished product. Gourmet or superpremium ice creams contain at least 12% milkfat, sometimes more
Nonfat solids (the non-fat, protein part of the milk) contribute ice cream's nutritional value, which includes calcium, minerals, and vitamins.The usual sources of nonfat solids
are nonfat dry milk, skim milk, and whole milk.
Various sweetners are used in making ice cream, including cane or beet sugar, corn sweeteners, and honey. Ice cream makers commonly use stabilizers, such as plant derivatives, to
prevent the formation of large ice crystals and to make smoother ice cream. Emulsifiers, such as lecithin and mono- and diglycerides are also used in small amounts and provide uniform
whipping qualities during freezing as well a a smoother and drier body and texture when frozen.
These basic ingredients are agitated and blended in a mixing tank. Then the mixture is pumped into a pasteurizer where is is heated and held at a predetermined temperature. The hot mixture is then "shot" through a homogenizer, where pressure of 2,000
to 2,500 pounds per square inch breaks the milkfat down into smaller particles, allowing the mixture to stay smooth and creamy. The mix is then quick-cooled to about 40 degrees fahrenheit and frozen via the "continuous
freeze"method (the "batch freezer" method) that uses a steady flow of mix that freezes a set quantity of ice cream one batch at a time.
During freezing, the mix is aerated by "dashers," revolving blades in the freezer. The small air cells that are incorporated by this whipping action
prevent ice cream from becoming a solid mass of frozen ingredients. The amount of aeration is called "overrun," and is limited by the federal standard
that requires that the finished product not weight less than 4.5 pounds per gallon.
The next step is the addition of bulky flavorings, such as fruits, nuts and chocolate chips. The ingredients are either "dropped" or "shot" into the semi-solid ice cream after it leaves the freezer.
After the flavoring additions are completed, the ice cream can be packaged in a variety of containers, cups, or molds. It is moved quickly to a
"hardening room" where sub-zero temperatures freeze the product to its final state for storage and distribution.
Enjoy National Ice Cream Month!