Making good ice cream in the traditional way was really quite tricky. The final product must have a smooth creamy consistency when frozen and must not separate into water and solids as it melts. Prior to WW2, the best Italian ice cream was entirely a natural product made using full cream milk, butter, cream and sugar. The ingredients had to be heated to a high temperature and then frozen in a vertical metal container, rotating blades scraped the freezing liquid away from the sides of the container ensuring the ice cream was evenly frozen and at the same time whipping some air into the mix making a lighter (and more profitable) product.
WW2 was a catastrophe for the trade. Virtually all the ingredients used in pre-war ice cream were banned - no dairy products or skim milk were allowed and even those permitted ingredients were in short supply or restricted. Even if some traders used their 'ingenuity' to obtain supplies, it would not be on a regular basis.
In 1942, The Ice Cream Association published a booklet of recipes of two types, for traders who were able to get an allocation of fat and those who could not. Sugar was a problem, it was difficult to get but the alternatives - saccharin or malt extract were not satisfactory.
Here are two wartime mix ingredients:-
a) Soya Flour, Sugar, Corn flour and Water
b) Soya Flour, Sugar, Malt extract, Wheatmeal Flour, Cornflower, Water
In b) much of the cornflower has been substituted by 'national' wheatmeal flour - this was described at the time as a strange beige/grey colour prone to mould. It was actually made of soft wholemeal wheat mixed with a proportion of oats and barley. The wholemeal 'bits' made got stuck in the machinery and could make the ice cream taste gritty.
It was not until 1948 that skin milk powder was allowed to be used in ice cream.
Post war (post 1948) ice cream had to comply with new food regulations and the increased cost of pre-war ingredients. A milk/butter/skim milk powder 'dairy' mix priced by Giacinto De Marco for his York Place shop was 66% more expensive than a mix using non-dairy fat and skim milk powder only.
production was also time consuming. Giacinto used an Avrom Junior to prepare the mix (pictured left). This machine had an electric heater and a high power electric pump and would emulsify and pasteurise the mix. Time and temperature had to be carefully controlled during the process, it was recorded on a rotary graph, so the machine required constant attention. At the proper time the mix was pumped over a cooling device through which cold water flowed then into previously sterilised large steel buckets which were placed in the cold room until needed. On conclusion, everything had to be scrupulously cleaned and the floor washed down.
The ice cream was actually made in one of the two vertical freezers in the shop window and then placed in one of the chilled serving containers behind the long counter. Giacinto's ice cream was popular but apart from the time and cost of manufacture, it had to be sold quickly as repeated exposure to air caused the ice cream to go hard and unsaleable. As time went by, Giacinto faced increasing competition from the large manufacturers who were producing an inferior but low cost product with a very high air content which maintained its consistency when frozen. Soon every small local shop seemed to have a freezer, provided free, full of this ertzatz product. Then came the introduction of the soft ice machine still in use today. Anyone could operate one, just pour in the mix at the top, it made the ice cream, you just pulled the handle to serve. The ice cream had a high air content, good for profits, and the texture was similar to traditional ice cream. You could even buy the mix ready made. Giacinto finally accepted the inevitable and bought one for his shop.