Artisanal gelato (Italian ice cream) has ancient origins: in the Genesis, it is said that Isaac offered Abraham goat’s milk mixed with snow (a kind of sorbet); the Pharaohs in ancient Egypt were used to offer goblets filled with fruit juices and snow and even Alexander the Great quenched with beverages made from fruit or honey mixed with snow.
The Romans learned from the Greeks to use snow to cool drinks: an old recipe handed down to us by Pliny the Elder tells us how the Romans (only the rich though) were customary to enjoy sorbet. They mingled finely crushed ice and honey to another portion of ice mixed with fruit juice, so as to realize a kind of ice cream.
With the fall of the Roman Empire and the arrival of the Middle Ages, the pleasure of enjoying these cold drinks was lost, although in the East the technique continued to be refined even further : a disciple of Muhammad discovered the method for freezing fruit juices by putting them in a container, surrounded by another one filled with crushed ice.
This method has been used for many centuries up to the invention of refrigerators.
And it was again from the East, through the Arab populations in Sicily, that gelato (ice cream), this delicacy in the form of “sherbet” (sorbet), was re-introduced in our country.
Also from the East, with the Arab population, the art of “Carapigna” spread through Spain and the by the Spaniards in Sardinia (especially in the Middle Campidano area) .
The “Carapigna” is not a sorbet, but a slush (water, sugar and lemon) which has a white color: it looks like snow in lemon flavor.
It is produced by inserting the mix in a gelato (ice cream) maker (“carapignera“) which is now made of stinless steel while in the past it was made of aluminum and zinc, placed in a tub (“su barrile“) filled with ice and salt.
The mixture solidifies by twirling the sorbetière very quickly, thanks to the action of the salt, and it is detached from the walls through the appropriate palette; the “carapigneri” continues to swirl the ice cream maker and to detach the “carapigna” until it is ready .
Even today this tradition survives thanks to the passion for this beautiful art of Graziano Pranteddu, from Tuili, that he learned from his father (who was also a “carapigneri“).
It was precisely our countrymen to spread and perfect the recipes: two names that stand out as having made the history of gelato (ice cream): Ruggeri and Buontalenti.
Ruggeri was a Tuscan poultry seller who participated in a cooking competition at the Medici court and impressed everybody with its “‘sweet ice and flavored water.”
Same location and time, Bernardo Buontalenti (Master Bernardo) famous architect, painter and sculptor , began to dabble with gelato (ice cream) and succeeded so well that his recipes became famous throughout Europe.
Subsequently, an enterprising Sicilian, Francesco Procopio moved to Paris, inaugurated “Café Procope”, which still exists today, where he created a new recipe to make the sorbet using fruit, honey, sugar and ice using a machine (of the invention grandfather) originally intended to be used by fisherman for the maintenance of fish.
He offered its patrons “icy waters” (granita), fruit ice creams, “anise flowers”, “flowers of cinnamon”, “frangipani”, “ice cream lemon juice”, “ice cream, orange juice,” “strawberry sorbet”, which literally sent crazy also important people in the Parisian beau monde like Napoleon, Voltaire or Balzac.
In the United States, in New York, it was another of our fellows, John Bosio, to open the first American ice cream shop.
From the history of gelato (ice cream), it is clear that the Italians were the undisputed protagonists and they still are.
In fact, by 1800 an entire population (Zoldo), due to the devastating floods in their valley, moved from Trentino to Germany and Austria in search of fortune: initially they dedicated themselves to the sale of baked pears, biscuits and confectionery and as a result they became true experts of sorbet and gelato (ice cream).
The contribution of Zoldo was fundamental in the spread of homemade gelato (ice cream) in central and northern street trading and soon was replaced by the one in fixed form.
Even today Zoldo is called “the valley of ice cream” and ice cream parlors of Zoldo are scattered all over the world, especially in Italy and Germany, but even in Peru, Japan, China, South Africa.
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