Tuesday, June 5, 2012
I Scream, You Scream...We All Scream for Ice Cream
QUESTION: I have an old pewter or white metal cylinder form which stands about 8 inches tall and has three parts: a decorative molded top in the shape of a bunch of fruit, a long tube center that’s ribbed on the inside, and a screw-on base that supposedly belonged to my great-grandmother. Can you tell me what it is?
ANSWER: What you have is what’s known as a banquet ice cream mold, topped by a sculpted bunch of fruit with leaves. This type of mold, made of pewter, dates from the early 1900's and would have been used for parties or holiday gatherings.
Ice cream is a frozen dessert usually made from dairy products, such as milk and cream, often combined with fruits or other flavors. It’s origins can be traced back to at least the 4th century B.C.E. when people living in the Persia (in today’s Iraq and Iran) would place snow in a bowl and pour grape juice concentrate over it, inventing what has come to be known as the snow cone.
During the first century A.D. , Roman Emperor Nero had ice brought from the mountains and topped it with fruit. But it wasn’t until the reign of China's King Tang in the 7th century that the idea of icy milk concoctions became popular, a idea that would ultimately become fashionable in European royal courts.
Arabs were perhaps the first to use milk as a major ingredient in the production of ice cream. They sweetened it with sugar rather than fruit juices, and came up with ways to produce it commercially. By the 10th century, ice cream had spread to Baghdad, Cairo, and Damascus. Makers used milk or cream, plus some yogurt, and flavored it with dried fruits and nuts.
Charles I of England so loved his "frozen snow" that he offered his ice cream maker a lifetime pension in return for keeping the formula secret. But it was the Quaker colonists who first introduced ice cream to America in 1772. During colonial times, confectioners sold ice cream at their shops in New York and other cities and some of the founding fathers, including George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson regularly ate and served ice cream. First Lady Dolley Madison served it at her husband's Inaugural Ball in 1813.
In 1843, the U.S. Government granted Nancy Johnson of Philadelphia a patent for a small-scale hand-cranked ice cream freezer. Eventually, the creation of the ice cream soda by Robert Green in 1874 added ice cream's popularity.
Decorative molds, enhancing ice cream's presentation at the table, appeared at fancy parties in the late 19th century, a tradition borrowed from British molded puddings. The most notable of the American mold firms were Eppelsheimer & Co., Krauss Co. and Schall & Co. However, the first ones came from European makers. Makers used pewter, white metal or tin to create a variety of forms ranging from animal, human and bird figures to floral, architectural, and holiday-oriented themes that came in various sizes.
Joseph Micelli, Sr., one of the country’s premier mold makers, sculpted them with remarkable details of animals, people, flowers, fruit and even vegetables for the Eppelsheimer & Co. of New York. Their molds have E & Co NY and the mold’s catalog number stamped on the bottom.
The molds produced by Krauss Company, also of New York, are distinguishable by their integrated mold hinges rather than soldered hinges.
Ice cream molds are now highly collectible. The barrel banquet mold in question above sells for around $250, but smaller ones in the shape of individual bananas, pears, peaches, and other fruit and flowers sell for $30 to $70. From the outside, these molds often look plain, but inside they include minute details. While the barrel mold was meant to be unscrewed and lifted off, most ice cream molds, as with their chocolate counterparts, have hinges that allow them to be broken open to release the creamy confection.