Mr. Jefferson’s Vanilla Ice Cream

Kitchen Tested
  • Yield 20 servings
  • Prep 10 mins
  • Cook 10 mins

Here is a historical recipe for a very rich and homemade vanilla ice cream.

Vanilla Ice Cream
Mark Boughton/styling by: Teresa Blackburn

Ice creams today are a lot sweeter and a lot less rich than they were in Jefferson's day. To work this indulgence into today's healthier eating style, pile berries on this super-rich dessert. For a lighter version, replace the cream with half-and-half.


2 quarts heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds removed
6 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar


  1. Bring cream and vanilla bean (seeds and bean) to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Whisk egg yolks in a bowl until smooth and whisk in sugar. It will be quite thick.
  2. Slowly beat about 1 cup hot cream into yolks and then gradually stir this mixture back into the rest of cream. Cook, stirring constantly, until it thickly coats the back of the spoon, about 5 minutes. Strain through a double layer of cheesecloth or a fine strainer and remove vanilla bean; cool. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour or overnight.
  3. Freeze custard in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions until set but still a little soft.

Recipe adapted from Dining at Monticello: In Good Taste and Abundance, edited by Damon Lee Fowler and published by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc., 2005. Distributed by the University of North Carolina Press.