Ice Cream Definitions
The following federal definitions and standards of identity specify the minimum levels of milkfat and solids-not-fat for the various milk products in the form of ice cream shipped in interstate commerce:
Frozen Custard or French Ice Cream
Sorbet and Water Ices
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Ice Cream Facts
The most important ingredient in ice cream comes from milk. Federal regulations require that ice cream must have at least 10 percent milkfat, the single most critical ingredient. The use of varying percentages of milkfat affects the palatability, smoothness, color, texture, and food value of the finished product. Gourmet or superpremium ice creams contain at least 12 percent milkfat, usually more.
Ice cream contains nonfat solids - the non-fat, protein part of the milk - which contribute nutritional value in the form of protein, calcium, minerals, and vitamins. Nonfat dry milk, skim milk, and whole milk are the usual sources of nonfat solids.
Sweeteners used in ice cream varies from cane or beet sugar to corn sweeteners or honey. Stabilizers, such as plant derivatives, are normally used in small amounts to prevent the formation of large ice crystals and to make a smoother ice cream. Emulsifiers, such as lecithin and mono- and diglycerides, are also used in small amounts. They create uniform whipping qualities to the ice cream during freezing, as well as a smoother and drier body and texture in the frozen form.
These basic ingredients are agitated and blended in a mixing tank. The mixture is then pumped into a pasteurizer, where it's heated and held at a predetermined temperature. The hot mixture is then "shot" though a homogenizer, where pressure of 2,000 to 2,500 pounds per square inch breaks the milkfat down into smaller particles, allowing the mixture to stay smooth and creamy. The mix is then quick-cooled to about 40 degrees F and frozen via the "continuous freezer" method that uses a steady flow of mix that freezes a set quantity of ice cream one batch at a time.
During freezing, the mix is aerated by "dashers," revolving blades in the freezer. The small air cells that are incorporated by this whipping action prevent ice cream from becoming a solid mass of frozen ingredients. The amount of aeration is called "overrun," and is limited by the federal standard that requires the finished product must not weigh less than 4.5 pounds per gallon.
The next step is the addition of bulky flavorings, such as fruits, nuts and chocolate chips. The ingredients are either "dropped" or "shot" into the semi-solid ice cream after it leaves the freezer.
After the flavorings are added, the ice cream is packaged, then quickly moved to a "hardening room" where sub-zero temperatures freeze the product into its final state for storage and distribution.
Ice Cream History