June 18, 2020

Keeping Cool Onboard

A little bit about the international ice trade and refrigeration on HMCo. built boats - but most importantly, a simple ice cream recipe!

Ad from the Bristol Phoenix, June 16, 1883

We've been noticing a lot of ads for ice cream in the historic issues of the Bristol Phoenix in the past few weeks! That combined with the hot weather has made us a bit curious to sample some of our own while learning a bit about the history of refrigeration and boats. HMCo. was all about innovation, but also luxury and comfort for their customers, so ice boxes to keep fancy drinks and snacks chilled make regular appearances on Herreshoff plans. Perhaps it should not come as a surprise that yes, some HMCo. boats even carried refrigerators once the technology became more widely available in the 1920s (our own BELISARIUS (HMCo. #1266) on display in the Hall of Boats is one example). It was certainly a step up from the cork-lined ice boxes that came before, but still unwieldy and heavy stuff. We will probably never be able to say whether or not any HMCo. boats ever carried actual ice cream aboard, but we do have plenty of evidence of ice chests and other ways to store and keep food cool. So, in the spirit of experimental archaeology, we thought we'd share a a few ice cream (and ice) history links with you today.

Where did ice come from before refrigerators and freezers were invented? Though ice harvesting at the local level has much longer history around the world, the international trade was powered by ice harvested in places like Maine during cold months and shipped all over the world during the 19th century. You can learn a little more about the history of the international ice trade and its founder Frederick Tudor in this PBS clip (for a much longer multi-part Frederick Tudor history, you might want to check out this series). This video about ice harvesting in Maine helps show how ice harvesting actually works, and you can learn even more here at the Thompson Ice House Harvesting Museum website.

Now, onto the important stuff: we thought you might enjoy this Smithsonian blog post and recipe for icebox ice cream from 1927, or maybe listen to this podcast episode on the history of ice cream. And finally, what you've been waiting for: a recipe for ice cream in a jar at home! (Recipe adapted from the NY Times). This recipe makes about three servings; feel free to add your own touches - fruit, chocolate chips, etc.!

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt
  • A 16 oz glass jar with a lid (eg. a clean pasta sauce jar or Mason jar)

1. Pour the cream, sugar, vanilla and salt into the jar, and screw on the lid tightly.

2. Shake vigorously for about five minutes until the cream thickens and almost doubles in size. It should be about as thick as pancake batter.

3. Freeze for at least 3 hours before eating.

Detail of plan showing BELISARIUS' interior - can you spot the refrigerator? Image courtesy the Haffenreffer-Herreshoff Collection, MIT Museum