By TEDDYE SNELL
Chris Nottingham, of Nottingham’s Southside Drive-In, could very well be considered an ice cream guru.
Nottingham is constantly trying out new combinations to serve customers, the latest being a deep-fried brownie fudge sundae.
“I came up with this one in a dream,” said Nottingham. “My dad ordered brownie balls for frying, and I thought, ‘Hey, that would go great with ice cream and hot fudge.’”
For those who love ice cream, the finished product is a thing of beauty. It includes swirls of vanilla soft-serve ice cream, topped with hot fudge, dotted with deep-fried brownies, then finished with whipped cream, Krunch Kote sprinkles and a few cherries, just for good measure.
“We just started making these,” said Nottingham. “I think it will be really popular. I’m always coming up with new things. If people can dream it, I can make it when it comes to ice cream.”
Although temperatures locally have been cooler than normal, July is one of the best times to enjoy frozen treats – including ice cream, gelato and frozen yogurt.
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day. He recognized ice cream as a fun and nutritious food that is enjoyed by a full 90 percent of the nation’s population. In the proclamation, Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.”
The Twig, downtown in the North End Entertainment District, offers ice cream enthusiasts a new twist: gelato.
According to clerk Lauren Hall, gelato is the Italian term for ice cream.
“But it’s made without air, to give it a more dense consistency,” said Hall. “The gelato we serve is made with all-natural ingredients. It’s also made with more milk and less cream, which means fewer calories and less fat.”
Twig Manager Ken Smith said the shop carries about 18 different gelato flavors at any given time.
“Our flavor varieties change fairly regularly, so it’s always good to keep checking back to see what’s new,” said Smith. “A few of the newer flavors include sea salt and caramel, caramel cookie crunch and Sicilian pistachio.”
Smith indicated gelato has a richer flavor than regular ice cream, which may explain why The Twig only serves cones, cups and shakes.
“The gelato has been pretty well-received here in Tahlequah,” said Smith.
Other new gelato flavors include blood orange, Lisbon lemon and tiramisu.
Heather Winn, Cherokee County Extension Service educator in family and consumer sciences, said her family makes ice cream regularly in the summer.
“Butterfinger ice cream is my favorite flavor,” said Winn. “Now my son, Ross, he likes just plain old vanilla, but the rest of us love Butterfinger. It’s a recipe my mom used to make.”
While Winn remembers the hand-crank variety of home ice cream maker, she opts for a more modern version.
“We are electric all the way,” said Winn. “We just plug that baby in and let it go.”
Winn said the Extension service also has an after-school program that teaches kids to make their own ice cream.
“It used to be we’d make it in cans by shaking the ingredients,” said Winn. “But these days, we use plastic zipper bags. The kids toss the bags around and squish them and get ice cream.”
Most recipes for homemade ice cream call for eggs, but Winn said raw eggs pose a health hazard.
“There are recipes for ice cream that call for cooked eggs and a custard-type base, or you can buy pasteurized egg products. There are also recipes that require no eggs at all,” she said. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends using one of these recipes, rather than raw eggs.”
Those who may be counting calories may want to opt for frozen yogurt or frozen juice bars, said Winn.
“Frozen yogurt is a healthier choice,” said Winn. “I don’t make it at home, but when we go to Braum’s or something like that, I generally get frozen yogurt. Sherbets are also lower in calories than regular ice cream. People really have lots of options, including frozen juice bars or frozen yogurt bars.”
Local resident Bryan Shade is a traditionalist, preferring regular, hand-packed pints, quarts and half-gallons of ice cream to other frozen treats.
“Because ‘I scream, you scream, we all scream for gelato,’ just doesn’t cut it,” said Shade. “Every time I eat vanilla ice cream, it reminds me of back when I was a kid. We’d put the rock salt in the ice and wait for the half-and-half to thicken and freeze. It was a must for the Fourth of July.”
According to Marketline, the U.S. ice cream industry generated total revenues of $10 billion in 2010, with take-home ice cream sales representing the largest section of the market, generating revenues of $6.8 billion or 67.7 percent of the market’s overall value.
About 9 percent of all the milk produced by U.S. dairy farmers is used to produce ice cream, contributing significantly to the economic well-being of the nation’s dairy industry.