What better way to say goodbye to summer than with a simple old recipe for Orange Ice Cream?
This recipe comes from a book that should be in every historic foodie’s repertoire: Fannie Farmer’s The Boston Cooking School Cook Book. There are a lot of editions of this book, the original going back to 1896. Orange ice cream seems to have been a new addition to the book in 1910, but the rest of the ice cream section is the same as the earlier editions, for the most part.
I wrote a little bit about 19th-century ice cream machines in a post about Victorian Walnut Ice Cream, so I probably won’t go into too much detail about the actual freezing methods here. I will say that by 1910 not much had changed as far as ice cream machinery, and very little has changed even now if you think about it. The main differences are technologically-improved efficiency and the ability to store prepared ice cream in a freezer.
Those vintage “nostalgia” ice cream makers with buckets and automatic cranks operate pretty much the same way they would have back when this recipe was written, only powered by electricity instead of by hand. In fact, shortly after I made the Victorian ice cream the hard way I ended up purchasing one of the bucket ice cream machines, which turned out to be one of my better life decisions. The texture and consistency of the ice cream is still authentic, and the preparation experience remains pretty true to the original recipes.
You might find it interesting to read what Fannie Farmer wrote about types of frozen desserts and freezing preparation in her 1910 book:
This is by far one of the least interesting ice cream recipes in the book, but we chose it because it not only appealed to everyone in the household (by everyone I mostly mean the child), it has no liqueur in it, and we already had all the ingredients on hand. It is a simple recipe, but sometimes simple really is best!
Orange Ice Cream
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup thin cream (whole milk)
- 2 cups orange juice
- sugar to taste (or approx. 1/2 cup)
- Strawberries or mandarin oranges (optional)
Add cream slowly to orange juice, sweeten to taste, and freeze. Serve with canned strawberries or fresh fruit mashed and sweetened.
This recipe isn’t complicated enough to justify detailed step-by-step directions. Just combine all of the ingredients and follow the instructions on your ice cream maker. If you’re using the basin-style machine, you’ll need some ice cream salt and a big bag of ice.
Serve as is, or put it in the freezer to firm up a bit more. Top with some crushed or chopped strawberries or other fruit. Mandarin oranges taste delicious with this ice cream!
A note on the sugar: Because it’s done to taste, you might want to add sugar gradually and taste it as you go. I probably used just under 1/2 cup, which resulted in an ice cream that was sweet enough without being too sweet for my liking.
If you have ever had a creamsicle or an orange julius then you know what this ice cream tastes like. It is pleasant and creamy without being too sweet. It was a huge hit with everyone, especially the kids. Garnished with some fruit, it’s the perfect summertime frozen treat!
A Short History of Oranges and Orange Juice
Normally this is where the post ends, but I thought you might be interested in a little bit of orange-related history. Because this recipe is from an American cookbook, I’ll just give a quick overview on how the orange gradually made its way across the world from southeast Asia.
Oranges, and citrus fruits in general, were enormously popular in the era between the American Civil War and World War I. It was a Christmas tradition to include an orange in the stocking, though that custom has since waned in popularity. I’m proud to say my family still gifts Christmas oranges!
But oranges were far from a new and exotic food by 1910. Bitter oranges had been introduced to Europe by Arabs and Moors during the 11th-century, but sweet oranges weren’t widely available outside of India and Asia until trade routes were established during the 15th. Christopher Columbus and Spanish missionaries brought sweet oranges to the Americas early on, planting trees in what is now Florida and California.
Fun fact: The color “orange” is named after the fruit, not the other way around! In the medieval era, the color we now call orange was actually called yellow-red or citrine. In English, anyway. The word “orange” is derived from the Italian “narancia,” which was derived from Arabic “naranj” and Sanskrit “naranga.“
By the early 1800’s, oranges were widely available throughout North America, though they were still a luxury food for many. The Navel orange, the seedless type we now know and love, was first cultivated in Brazil sometime around 1820 and by the 1870’s was the most popular variety.
At the time our ice cream recipe was written, orange juice would been juiced at home, since prepared and canned orange juice wasn’t available yet. Nobody had refrigerators and the pasteurization process for orange juice was in its infancy. Frozen orange juice and orange juice concentrate wouldn’t be available until the 1950’s.
As for the optional fruit toppings, the recipe mentions strawberries, but you could really use any fruit, canned or fresh. My favorite is canned mandarin oranges, but since I like to stick to period ingredients I thought I would do a little digging to see if it’s actually an historically-accurate option. As of right now, my verdict is “sort of.” A wide variety of fruits were being canned and mass produced, but I haven’t been able to find any evidence of mandarin oranges (or any oranges) among them at that time. Further research is needed to give you a definitive date when canned mandarin oranges were first available, but the fruit itself was being imported from China as early as the 1840’s. So using canned mandarins is a stretch, authenticity-wise, but the fresh fruit is fair game.
As an added bonus for those of you who made it this far, check out this excellent book of Sunkist orange recipes (1916). It was compiled by Alice Bradley, Principal of the Boston Cooking School, “Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery.”
- Adamson, Melitta Weiss. Food in Medieval Times. London, UK: Greenwood Press, 2004.
- “How did the Navel Orange Originate?” CulinaryLore. September 28, 2016.
- Etymonline. “Orange.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Accessed August 31, 2021.
- Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala. “Mandarin Orange.” Singapore Infopedia, National Library Board. Last updated 2016. Accessed August 31, 2021.