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How Ice Cream is Made in a Dairy

Eating ice cream is a favorite pastime, especially in the summer. Long walks to the local Dairy Queen or Baskin Robins are a summer tradition in many neighborhoods. Gourmet ice cream is readily available in grocery stores and even at corner gas stations. It seems that ice cream is everywhere, and it is here to stay.

But all of this ice cream that is annually consumed does not magically appear in ice cream parlors or on the store shelves. There is a long process that goes on behind the scenes. Ice Cream must be blended, pasteurized, homogenized, aged, frozen, packaged, and hardened all before it reaches the ice cream cone.

Individual dairies have unique ways of blending their mixtures, but there are common procedures all dairies must go through. The ingredients especially are unique to each ice cream maker. They are measured and blended with precision by high-powered equipment in large batches to save labor and to run more efficiently in general.

Because there are many ways that people can become sick from diary products, dairies choose to pasteurize their mixture. Any harmful bacterium that might have been present in the mixture is killed during this time. This is accomplished by applying heat to the ingredients.

After pasteurization the ingredients are homogenized using equipment that puts a lot of pressure on the mixture and pushes it through a small orifice. The turbulence and cavitation caused by this process greatly reduces the size of the fat globules in the dairy product1. This effectively prevents the cream from separating from the rest of the ingredients. The mixture is then cooled.

The next step is aging the mixture in order to let the fat globules agglomerate. This provides air cell strength and contributes to the development of a semi-continuous structure2. This will allow the dairy to whip the ice cream more easily. During the aging process the mixture is kept cold, but not so cold that the mixture freezes. It is usually aged from 4 to 12 hours.

When the mixture has properly aged, it is ready to be flavored. This is the fun part. Part of what people love so much about ice cream is that there is a flavor available to suit everyone. Different dairies add different flavorings based on what their customers prefer. Fruits, spices (especially vanilla) and nuts are common ingredients.

The ice cream is then packaged and ready to be shipped to retail locations where it can be purchased for the enjoyment of customers.

Next page: Ice Cream Machines

1. Homogenization of Milk and Milk Products
2. Tharp and Young on Ice Cream

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