Get ready for National Ice Cream Day with Thomas Jefferson’s recipe!

Lynchburg & Central Virginia News

POPLAR FOREST, Va. (WFXR) — July is National Ice Cream Month! In 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation urging people to celebrate this delicious dessert the entire month of July or at the very least the third Sunday of July, with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

Ice cream is one of the many dairy products consumed around the world. According to the International Dairy Food Association, Americans eat around 23 pounds of ice cream a year.

The sweet treat has been around for a long time, and there’s a big debate about who introduced ice cream to the United States. While no one really knows who brought the dairy delight across the pond, there’s one person who made it popular: Thomas Jefferson.

There’s an ice cream recipe written by Jefferson that can be found in the Library of Congress, and it’s the oldest recorded recipe of ice cream in America.

Recipe for ice cream in Thomas Jefferson’s handwriting. (Photo: Courtesy Library of Congress)

Historians say he was introduced to ice cream when he spent time in France. The recipe that Jefferson is credited for likely came from his French butler Adrien Petit.

“Andre I believe that was his name was probably the one that introduced ice cream to Thomas Jefferson,” said Director of Programs and Education, Mary Massie at Poplar Forest. “His daughter copied the recipe later in her life and wrote the name Petit beside it which is why we think that the recipe probably came directly from the valet.”

While there isn’t any documentation of ice cream being served at Jefferson’s vacation home in Poplar Forest, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t. There are plenty of accounts of ice cream being served at Monticello to entertain and impress his guests, and he would have done the same in Poplar Forest.

Thomas Jefferson’s Vanilla Ice Cream Ingredients

  • Two bottles of good cream
  • Six egg yolks
  • Half a pound of sugar


  • Mix the yolks and sugar.
  • Put the cream on a fire in a casserole, first putting in a stick of vanilla.
  • When it is near boiling, take it off and pour it gently into the mixture of eggs and sugar.
  • Stir it well.
  • Put it on the fire again, stirring it thoroughly with a spoon to prevent it from sticking to the casserole.
  • When near boiling, take it off and strain it through a towel.
  • Put it in the Sabottiere (ice cream maker).
  • Set it in ice an hour before it is to be served. Also, put a handful of salt into the ice.
  • Put salt on the lid of the Sabottiere and cover the whole thing with ice.
  • Leave it still half a quarter of an hour.
  • Turn the Sabottiere in the ice for 10 minutes
  • Open it to loosen the ice from the inner sides of the Sabottiere with a spatula.
  • Shut it and replace it in the ice
  • Open it from time to time to detach the ice from the sides
  • When “well taken (prise)” stir it well with the spatula.
  • Put it in molds, “justling it well down on the knee.”
  • Put the mold into the same bucket of ice.
  • Leave it there until you serve it.
  • To withdraw it, immerse the mold in warm water, “turning it well till it will come out & turn it into a plate.”

Fun fact: The ice cream that Jefferson served wasn’t served in a cone, but in a crust or pastry.

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