Before the invention of modern refrigeration in the early 20th century, ice cream was mostly a treat reserved for special occasions. It was made by cutting the ice from lakes and ponds during the winter snowy season and stored in holes in the ground, or in wood-frame or brick ice houses, insulated by straw. Many farmers and plantation owners cut and stored ice in the winter for use in the summer. Frederic Tudor of Boston turned ice harvesting and shipping into a big business, cutting ice in New England and shipping it around the world.
The method in which ice cream was made by hand in a large bowl placed inside a tub filled with ice and salt was called the “pot-freezer method”. Another method for making ice cream, “The hand-cranked churn”, was introduced in 1843 by Nancy Johnson. Such method produced smoother ice cream than the pot freezer method more rapidly. Many inventors patented improvements on Johnson’s design.
In Europe and early America, ice cream was made and sold by small businesses, mostly confectioners and caterers. Jacob Fussell of Baltimore, Maryland was the first to manufacture ice cream on a large scale. Fussell built his first ice cream factory in 1851. Two years later, he established the first large-scale commercial ice cream plant in Baltimore and soon he opened factories in many other cities. He taught the business to others, who operated their own plants. Mass production reduced the cost of ice cream and added to its popularity.
The development of industrial refrigeration during the 1870s eliminated the need to cut and store natural ice. Gradually, when the continuous-process freezer was perfected in 1926, commercial mass production of ice cream and the birth of the modern ice cream industry were underway.
In the present era, the most common method for producing ice cream at home is to use an ice cream maker. It is an electrical device that churns the ice cream mixture while cooled inside a household freezer, or using a solution of pre-frozen salt and water, which gradually melts while the ice cream freezes.