July 4 – A Day for Ice Cream!

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month. Certainly a great deal of ice cream is consumed on July 4th, which is celebrated as Independence Day in the U.S. It is also the day that no less than THREE American presidents died! They were Thomas Jefferson, John Adams (both in 1826 on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence) and James Monroe, a neighbor of Jefferson’s, who died five years later in 1831.

Thomas Jefferson’s most important contribution to this country in my opinion was not, as you might think, those OTHER things he did, but the fact that he popularized making and eating ice cream in the new country of America.

Thomas Jefferson and Ice Cream from San Francisco Chronicle Illustration by Tom Murray

He was able to serve ice cream throughout the calendar year because he had an ice house at Monticello. Primarily used to preserve meat and butter, it also kept wine and ice cream chilled. (He observed that: “snow gives the most delicate flavor to creams, but ice is the most powerful congealer and lasts longer.”)

The first American recipe for ice cream was in Jefferson’s own hand, and it is transliterated for you by the Monticello website, here. I have copied it for you below:


2. bottles of good cream.

6. yolks of eggs.

1/2 lb. sugar

mix the yolks & sugar

put the cream on a fire in a casserole, first putting in a stick of Vanilla.

when near boiling take it off & pour it gently into the mixture of eggs & sugar.

stir it well.

put it on the fire again stirring it thoroughly with a spoon to prevent it’s sticking to the casserole.

when near boiling take it off and strain it thro’ a towel.

put it in the Sabottiere* (*The sabottiere is the inner cannister shown in the drawing. There was no crank to turn it; when Jefferson wrote “turn the Sabottiere in the ice 10 minutes,” he meant for someone to grab the handle and turn the cannister clockwise and then counterclockwise.)


then set it in ice an hour before it is to be served. put into the ice a handful of salt.

put salt on the coverlid of the Sabotiere & cover the whole with ice.

leave it still half a quarter of an hour.

then turn the Sabottiere in the ice 10 minutes

open it to loosen with a spatula the ice from the inner sides of the Sabotiere.

shut it & replace it in the ice

open it from time to time to detach the ice from the sides

when well taken (prise) stir it well with the Spatula.

put it in moulds, justling it well down on the knee.

then put the mould into the same bucket of ice.

leave it there to the moment of serving it.

to withdraw it, immerse the mould in warm water, turning it well till it will come out & turn it into a plate.


Thanks for bringing the ice cream idea back from France, TJ, and Happy July 4th!

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