One often-repeated but hard-to-verify factoid states that New Englanders consume more ice cream per capita than folks anywhere else in the country, but if you need proof, just visit a New England cone shop in winter. There’s nothing like the sight of red-cheeked Yankees with a sugar cones clenched firmly in gloved hands to confirm that our love for this frozen treat knows no seasonal limits.
In the days before electric refrigeration, large blocks of pond or lake ice were cut in winter and stored throughout summer for use in making it. This home court advantage guaranteed that a steady supply of affordable ice cream stocked New England drugstores and soda fountains during the early 20th century, dispensing sweet sundaes and frappes as fast as they could be scooped and blended. Before long, brands such as Hood and Brigham’s were local mainstays. And later, restaurants such as the Friendly’s and Howard Johnson chains gained popularity beyond their New England origins.
Even so-called “gourmet” ice cream has its roots in New England, most notably in the form of childhood friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who took a $12,000 investment in 1978 and opened their first parlor in Burlington, Vermont. The result (Ben & Jerry’s, of course) has since grown into one of the most popular premium brands in the world, lauded for its creamy texture and toothsome chunks.
New Englanders love ice cream of most any variety, but our corner of the country is also known for several distinct New England flavors. Coffee, maple walnut, black raspberry, and Grapenut—which features nutty, soft bits of Grape-Nuts cereal. Whether you like your scoops plain, in a sundae, or topped with chocolate jimmies, the New England tradition is both long and sweet.
And if you prefer a main course before you get to the dessert, check out our FREE guide, Best of New England Seafood Recipes: How to Cook Scallops, How to Make Clam Chowder, Cooking Lobster Tails, Cod Fillet Recipes, Haddock Recipes and More!