Ice cream history: From parmesan flavor to dried-insect coloring

Here are a few ice cream history facts from Old Sturbridge Village, the living history museum in Massachusetts:

— The Romans made “sweet snow” and Europeans favored “water ice” and, in the 1660s, added cream to the recipe.

— Ice cream in the early 1800s was a rare treat, and usually reserved for the rich and royal. Before refrigeration became widely available in the 20th century, frozen products like ice cream were very expensive.

— Ice cream tastes in early America were a bit unusual according to modern tastes, and included flavors like ginger, asparagus, and even parmesan-flavored ice cream, which tasted like cheesecake.

— Ice cream in the early 1800s was sometimes colored red or pink with cochineal dye, which was made from dried insects imported from Mexico.

— Ice cream in America dates to 1744, and became more popular with the masses after the hand-crank ice cream machine was patented by Nancy Johnson in 1846.

See the old-fashioned methods

On Saturday, July 20, visitors to Old Sturbridge Village can watch old-fashioned ice cream-making using 1830s recipes. OSV historians will demonstrate both 18th- and 19th-century ice cream making techniques during the day as well as highlight ice cream's rich history.

It is part of the living history museum's annual vintage fireman's muster, "Fire & Ice Day."

Antique fire trucks, including early hand-pumpers and a rare 1921 Stutz fire truck, will parade around the Village Common and will be on display throughout the day at the Sturbridge, Mass. tourist destination.

Firefighters will receive half-price admission to Fire & Ice Day.

OSV celebrates New England life in the 1830s and is one of the largest living history museums in the country. The museum is open daily 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Admission is $24; seniors $22; children 3-17, $8; and children 2 and younger, free. Parking is free as is a return visit within 10 days.

For information, call 800-SEE-1830 or visit