Monday, March 13, 2006

Flying fortresses and freezers.

Today, March 13th …

There was an article in the New York Times on this day in 1943, describing a novel way of making ice-cream. The geniuses were American airmen serving in England, flying Boeing B-17’s – better known as “The Flying Fortresses”. They probably considered it their patriotic duty to find a way to prepare their rations since the Secretary of War in the USA had declared ice-cream an “essential foodstuff”, presumably along with peanut butter and jelly.

The article said:

United States airmen based on British stations have discovered a handy way of making ice cream. They place prepared ice-cream mixture in a large can and anchor it to the rear-gunner’s compartment of a Flying Fortress. It is well shaken up and nicely frozen by flying over enemy territory at high altitudes. Care must be taken to drop bombs and not ice-cream on enemy targets, and to avoid Nazi fighters and anti-aircraft fire. That is all there is too it.

The ice-cream mix may have been simply some powdered flavouring added to milk or cream, or it may have been a complete mix, prepared by spray drying. Not to get too technical here, there are technological problems with spray drying because “dehydration of sugar-rich foods is often difficult because of caking and stickiness problems”. No doubt this difficulty was behind NASA’s development of Freeze-Dried Ice-Cream (amazing phrase, that) for the use of its astronauts in space. What is it about men who fly, and ice-cream?

A recipe for a war-time ice-cream had appeared in the New York Times the previous year.

Vanilla Ice-Cream.
2-3 cup condensed milk
½ cup water
1 ½ teas vanilla
1 cup whipping cream or condensed milk, whipped
Mix the condensed milk, water, and vanilla, and chill. Whip the cream, or condensed milk to a custard-like consistency , and fold into the first mixture. Freeze in the freezing unit of the refrigerator, with the temperature at the coldest possible point, until about half frozen. Then scrape from the freezing tray and beat until smooth, but not melted. Replace in the freezing unit until frozen.

The article went on to describe how to ring the changes on this basic recipe by using additives such as lemon extract or maple flavouring, but quite frankly, the basic mix sounds awful enough, without these ‘improvements’.

If the military version was anything like this, it would have served very well as a weapon of war.

Tomorrow: The First Domestic Goddess.

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