As any grade schooler can tell you America celebrates July 4 as Independence Day when on July 4, 1776, members of the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, adopted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence. Following its adoption, the Declaration was read to the public in various American cities. Whenever they heard it, patriots erupted in cheers and celebrations.
Yet it wasn’t really until the war ended in 1783, that July 4 became a holiday in some places. In Boston for example it replaced the date of the Boston Massacre, March 5, as the major patriotic holiday. Speeches, military events, parades, and fireworks marked the day and surprisingly enough to me, it wasn’t until 1941, that Congress declared July 4 a federal holiday.
While hamburgers and hot dogs are relatively recent additions to the holiday’s culinary cornucopia it is argued by many that one of, if not the first dish to earn its Fourth of July stripes was a soup that most modern Americans no longer eat on any day of the year. But in the early 1800s, that Independence Day was celebrated with turtle soup.
Although history shows that turtle soup appeared to have been a more urban treat, rural Americans shared their city folks taste for ice cream, which was served in conjunction with the July Fourth festivities some say as early as 1798.
Ice cream was, of course, a luxury in the pre-electric age yet even as it became a more pedestrian treat, it remained the go-to July Fourth snack.
Chilled watermelon, which annually made its first appearance in northern markets right before the holiday, was and still is another popular July Fourth treat.
Nowadays its all the rage to be frequenting your local farmers market and purchasing seasonal local foodstuffs but back then, it wasn’t an option. Independence Day menus were largely dictated by availability. Not surprisingly, regionalism reigned, with Southerners feasting on traditional barbecue and meaty brunswick stews, Midwesterners enjoying crispy fried chicken and creamy potato salad with New Englanders devouring copious amounts of fresh caught salmon.
Over time, various other summertime activities also came to be associated with the Fourth of July, including historical pageants, baseball games, watermelon-eating and hotdog-eating contests.
Here with my family at our culinary compound in central Michigan we opt for one of my favorites, traditional american barbecue. Cooked low and slow over hardwoods picked from the property I like to pair it with side dishes like a classic potato salad filled with hard boiled eggs, celery and onions spiked with sharp cheddar cheese, tart pickles, dijon mustard and flavored with just a hint of pickle juice. Collard greens stewed until fork tender in a simple broth of water and smoked pork shanks served with vinegar and a local hot sauce on the side. Spoon bread with nuggets of jalapenos slathered with butter and clover honey and to top it all off, freshly churned ice cream. I took the liberty of offering you all one of my regional favorite ice cream recipes, flavored with one of Michigan’s star fruits, blueberries not once but twice! Let us know how you celebrate our country’s birthday in food, beverage or style!
Happy Birthday America!
Double Blueberry Lime Ice Cream
©2000 eric villegas
Serving Size: 8
- 1 cup blueberries, fresh, preferably from Michigan
- 1 cup beet sugar, preferably from Michigan
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups half-n-half
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, pure
- 2 tablespoons blueberry concentrate, preferably from Michigan
- 9 egg yolks
- 2 whole limes, juiced
- 1 tablespoon lime zest, freshly grated
In a non-reactive saucepan, heat the blueberries and 1/4 cup of the beet sugar over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the berries pop and begin to cook down, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool, then refrigerate until ready to use.
In a medium sized non reactive saucepan, heat the cream, half-n-half, blueberry concentrate and vanilla extract over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the mixture does not burn or scorch on the bottom. When it reaches a simmer (do not let it boil), turn off the heat and set aside to infuse 10 to 15 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining 3/4 cup beet sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the still-hot cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture (this technique is called tempering the eggs).
Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heat proof rubber spatula. When the custard reaches 180 degrees F, it should be thick and creamy, quickly remove it from the heat.
If you have time this could be done the day before to properly chill if you don’t have the time fill a large bowl halfway with ice water. Strain the mixture into a smaller bowl and whisk in the lime juice and lime zest. Rest the smaller bowl in the ice water and let the mixture cool, stirring often, then continue according to the directions of your ice cream maker.
When the ice cream base is finished, transfer to a large mixing bowl and using sing a sturdy rubber spatula, fold in the blueberry mixture until swirled. Freeze for at least 4 hours to harden and cure.