Gelato – An Italian Tradition
Eating gelato, like drinking espresso, is a favorite Italian pastime that requires no special occasion. Enjoying gelato is an opportunity to linger for people watching and conversation, and a way to cool down from summer’s unrelenting heat. In Southern Italy, gelato is even eaten for breakfast, served in a fresh brioche with a steaming cup of rich, black espresso!
History of Gelato
Most historians agree that the island of Sicily was the birthplace of gelato. It is said that the earliest mention of Gelato was during the Roman Empire. The nobles would send their fastest runners to the mountains to fetch some snow, bring it back, mix it with fruits and syrups and take it up for their consumption. As popularity of gelato among the general public grew, the product was carried on handcarts by craftsman wandering through Italy and later the Austro-Hungarian and German towns. Later gelato was stored in copper pots, which were placed inside special wooden tubs containing crushed ice and salt and could be maintained all day long.
Gelato versus Ice Cream
The basic difference between gelato and ice cream is the “overrun” (or aeration) of the product. Gelato is made with a lot less air infused in the ingredients than ice cream. This results in a dense,rich texture. Another main difference is that it is not as solidly frozen as ice cream giving it a smoother, creamier feel. Gelato has much less fat than ice cream as it is usually made with milk, or water, depending on the flavor – 2%-8% fat vs. the 20% or more for ice cream. The end result of having less air, and a lower fat content gives gelato a much more intense flavor – the flavorings are the real star, not the fat laden cream that can cover delicate and subtle flavors.