July is the celebratory month for ice cream. During the past decade, the nation’s soft spot for frozen delicacies has sparked a creamy, dreamy billion-dollar industry that diversified into serving various cultural preferences, tastes, dietary restrictions and lactose allergies. Here’s a primer to help you get the most fun and flavor from summer’s icy indulgences.
Freaky Flavor of the Month
Japanese creameries have cornered the market on frightful frosty treat flavors from charcoal, eel and shark fin noodle to horseflesh sushi, sardine brandy and octopus ice creams. A popular flavor from the Czech Republic of Prague is beer, blending dark lager, caster sugar and whipping cream.
French gastronomes have concocted such exotics as caviar ice cream with beaucoup white sturgeon Alverta Royal Petrossian eggs, along with foie gras avocado, and fragrant flavors of lavender, jasmine, thyme and rose. Italian Parmesan and prosciutto ice cream can be enjoyed as an appetizer, a cheese course or a dessert.
For domestic lollapaloozas, look for honey garlic, sweet corn and sea salt, candy cap mushroom and jalapeno dill pickle at trendy eateries and ice cream parlors throughout the land.
These dairy-free ice cream doppelgangers are vegan-friendly, easy on the gut for those who are lactose intolerant, and low-fat for the cholesterol-conscious. Such delights, churned from luscious young coconut cream, silky and smooth soy, almond, cashew, hazelnut, oat, hemp and rice “milks,” or icy, fruity sorbets, are refreshing respites on sizzling summer days.
Frozen fruits, especially rich creamy bananas, avocados and mango chunks, along with strawberries, blueberries, green grapes, and the zest or juices of key limes and Meyer lemons can be blended with non-dairy bases and honey for a divine dessert with an oomph of fiber, potassium, immune boosting C’s and antioxidants.
The International Dairy Foods Association reports that the average American downs more than 48 pints a year — that’s more than 200 scoops, earning first place for global ice cream consumption. New Zealanders secured second place at 40 pints, Australians snagged third place with 32, and our neighbors to the north a mere 27 pints, eh!
Vanilla is top banana for flavor choice, while chocolate limps along at fifth spot, trailing fruit, nut and candy-mix flavors.
The decadent Häagen-Dazs brand was actually created by a pair of Americans named Reuben and Rose Mattus, who dreamed up the name to exude a sophisticated Danish air. The Danish alphabet does not even contain umlauts (accents).
Toppings aren’t just for kids. They add a layer of flavor, texture, nostalgia (and in some cases, fiber and phytonutrients) to frozen treats. Dial up your next delight with everything from crushed candied pecans, heart-healthy olive oil granola, raw young coconut shreds, candied lavender florets and zippy crystallized ginger chunks to grilled nectarine or pineapple slices, liqueur-drenched berries, organic coffee or fig syrups, and roasted marshmallows with crushed graham crackers for a riff on s’mores.
Cherry Almond Compote
1 1/2 pounds Bing cherries, stems removed and pitted
1/2 pound sour cherries, stems removed and pitted
1/3 cup brown sugar (adjust to taste)
2 1/2 teaspoons nut- or fruit-flavored liqueur such as Amaretto (almond), Frangelico (hazelnut) or Kirsch (cherry)
1/2 vanilla pod
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Method: Take a thin knife and slit the vanilla bean (pod) lengthwise, then taking the flat side of the knife, scrape the seeds down the length of the pod. Set aside.
In a saucepan, combine cherries, sugar, and vanilla bean seeds, and cook on low to medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and juices flow.
Add liqueur and extract, and cook for another minute or two. Remove from heat, cool and store in an airtight container for up to one week.
— For additional frosty treat recipes e-mail email@example.com.