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Real Ice Cream: Accept No Substitutes

05/17/2013 12:35 EDT | Updated 07/17/2013 05:12 EDT
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scoop of fresh strawberry ice cream on a scooper

Ice cream is my ultimate dessert. On a hot summer night, there is nothing better than digging into a bowl of real ice cream; drizzled with maple syrup and sprinkled with fresh blueberries, it has few equals among post-dinner treats.

There are many excellent brands of ice cream, but my personal preference is from Coaticook, a Quebec dairy that uses 100% Canadian cream and milk. It has a maple sugar flavour with crunchy bite of sweetness in every smooth and creamy mouthful. It's pure delight!

My own test for quality ice cream is to leave two scoops of ice cream at room temperature. If the shape of the two scoops is gone after an hour or so, I'll enjoy that ice cream -- another two scoops at least! Who wants "ice cream" that doesn't melt? Not me!

Not all products are created equal. If you are looking for the real thing, beware of imitations that are marketed as frozen desserts. These treats are called frozen desserts for a reason. Because they contain little or no dairy.

Looking at the ingredients list is also useful -- the fewer ingredients on the list, the better the end product. I like to see cream, milk and the flavour as the primary ingredients. There is, of course, a need for stabilizers in maintaining a more uniform smoothness in ice cream, but sometimes too much is being used (carob gum, dextrose, cellulose, guar gum, carraghenine, polysorbate, etc.).

I personally avoid frozen desserts -- they are often made from milk protein concentrates instead of fresh milk or cream, they have loads of stabilizers and/or chemical products, and often the natural cream is replaced by palm oil, a cheap and tasteless substitute. Don't be fooled by products that hide their lack of taste or lower quality by using strong flavours.

Another comment on ice cream: ice cream is a solid, yet it is sold in "litres," which usually measures volume. The ice cream mix is whipped and the amount of air whipped in it will vary, changing the weight of the product. In the dairy industry, this air is called "overrun", which is the percentage increase of volume resulting from the addition of air (and that can range from 50% to 150%).

While there is no need for measurement of the air to be indicated on the label, in my opinion, less is best, just like for the ingredients list.

I always tell my friends to look for the 100% Canadian Milk symbol on their ice cream. Many Canadian ice cream and frozen yogurt manufacturers feature the 100% Canadian milk symbol. Pick up your favourite flavour, and enjoy!