Ice Cream + Salt = ???

Ever wonder what goes into the making of the tasty dessert treat? 
Read below to find out how ice cream is made!
Estimated Read Time: 3 minutes 
Bonus Haiku at the end!

  1. Milk
  2. Salt
  3. Sugar

Okay, maybe 1 and 3 are obvious, but 2 is a pretty interesting one. Let’s check it out below!

Salt. It’s a wonderful seasoning. At one point, salt was even worth its weight in gold. It was beneficial for civilizations to be based close to sources of salt, as it was often used for trade. That’s why in Africa, the Trans-Saharan gold trade was developed. Today, we use salt to clear the roads when it snows. We use it as a seasoning in our food. You’re much less likely to find a willing individual who’d trade salt for gold nowadays, but its importance should not be discounted.

[FUN FACT: Heard of the word “salary”? The word is derived from the Latin word for salt!]

Salt works wonders for ice cream. It works wonders on snow covered roads. But why? Salt doesn’t melt snow and ice. It actually lowers their melting points. This means it drops the temperature it needs to keep it solid. Ice cream freezes at a lower temperature than water’s freezing point.

The freezing point for ice cream is way lower than the 32 degrees for ice cream. What adding salt to water does is that it lowers that critical temperature (the effect is dependent on how much salt is added). The fats as well as sugars involved with making ice cream hinder the production of the coveted ice crystals. As a result, you have to lower the temperature of this mixture below the normal freezing point to create a solidified product. After placing ice cream in a salt and ice mixture, you can thus be assured that the mixture will be at the right temperature to solidify. If you were to simply try to make ice cream by using ice exclusively to chill the mixture, the ice would melt much earlier than completion. You’d be left with a cold viscous liquid in a bag. Well, this answers why Crank Ice Cream Makers use rock salt.

[Sidenote: Syllogism – I love ice cream. Salt is used for ice cream. Therefore, I love salt.]

But what about those people that actually put salt on ice cream for taste? What’s the point? I mean, sure, we’ve talked about salt being used to help chill ice cream mixtures, but not as crystals to sprinkle as a topping over your ice cream sundae or store brand affair. While it is true that salt in concentrated amounts overpowers the taste buds, it can also enhance various foods in smaller concentrations (see: seasoning). Salt contributes to the flavor profile of the foods it’s sprinkled on. It can also affect how we perceive aromas, thus making some flavors more intense.

In hindsight, this makes complete sense. What gives restaurant quality food its mouth-watering attributes? Salt. Chefs use salt so liberally they could be accused of being partisan. Balanced with butter, salt might as well be the secret weapon. Although salt in ice cream may not make it taste sweeter, it would, however, make it taste creamier. Interesting indeed.

Although salt is an abundant modern-day resource, it possessed even greater power in the days of old, when civilizations and empires were developed by these sources. A time where salt was worth its weight in gold. It’s not difficult to see why. Its forms and uses vary from rock salt for the road to seasoning for flavor, even in our sweet, sweet, ice cream.

Bonus: A mini haiku dedicated to Salt.

Sodium chloride 
Used to season and to chill 
N-a plus C-l

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