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June 17, 2007

Blue Moon Ice Cream — Invented in Milwaukee around 1950 but I never heard of it when I was growing up there


I guess my childhood was even more deprived than I thought.

How else am I to make sense of what I learned in M. L. Johnson's May 30, 2007 Associated Press story about Blue Moon (above) and other unusual ice cream flavors peculiar to various regions of the U.S.?

Here's the article.

    Grape-Nuts, Dates, "Blue Moon" Make for Regional Ice Cream Faves

    Grape-Nuts in New England. Blue Moon in Wisconsin. Red bean in Hawaii. Date in Palm Springs.

    Vanilla and chocolate may rule America's collective palate when it comes to ice cream, but regional - some would say unusual - variations nevertheless thrive throughout the country.

    These are ice creams loved as much for their familiarity as for their exotic taste. It's a comfort food thing. Breakfast cereals and beans may seem odd additions, but for the right people they provide ties to regional or ethnic flavors from childhood.

    Which is why when Roger Gifford and his brother, John, began making ice cream at their family's Skowhegan, Maine, dairy in 1980, they turned to decades-old recipes saved from their grandparents' ice cream business in Connecticut.

    One of their original flavors, Grape-Nuts, ranks behind only vanilla and chocolate in supermarket sales for the company, says Mike Brandt, sales and marketing director for Gifford's Ice Cream.

    "Grape-Nuts is a phenomenon," he says.

    Many people combine it with another New England staple, drizzling warm maple syrup over ice cream.

    "It is a northern New England traditional flavor," Brandt says. "You won't see that outside of northern New England."

    Blue Moon ice cream is popular in Wisconsin and Michigan, where it is made by several small dairies. The bright blue ice cream with a taste reminiscent of Froot Loops breakfast cereal was created in Milwaukee around 1950, says Andrew Plennert, owner of Chicago's Edgar A. Weber & Co., which now owns the formula.

    Many adults who grew up with it still love it, making it a top seller not only in the region, but also on Internet ice cream dealer IceCreamSource.com.

    "It's a very Midwestern flavor, and why it's so popular with us is that you can't find it anywhere else," says Steve Sauter, founder of IceCreamSource.com.

    His company's top seller is black licorice, a popular flavor from the 1930s and 1940s. Many orders come from senior citizens who remember it from their younger days, Sauter says.

    Lappert's Ice Cream, of Richmond, Calif., makes red bean ice cream with the azuki beans used in Asian cuisine. It sells well in Hawaii, where Asian influence is strong, "but you can't give it away on the mainland," says sales manager Bob Marker.

    Ray Ford, who owns Christina's Homemade Ice Cream in Cambridge, Mass., has had success with Asian flavors such as green tea, ginger and red bean, as well as Hispanic-influenced varieties, such as ancho chili (it's a mild heat).

    Specialty flavors often develop from food already found in a particular area.

    Mike Lappert, who owns Richmond, Calif.-based Lappert's Ice Cream, says he hadn't considered making date ice cream until he opened a new shop this year in Palm Springs, Calif.

    "I had never heard a request for date ice cream, but all the sudden, we were getting requests for date milkshakes," he says, "so we started making them and throwing some dates in."

    Now his company makes date ice cream that it sells only in Palm Springs.

    Many Northwest berries, such as loganberry and boysenberry, have a similar limited appeal, Lappert says. When he goes to Seattle, he finds a number of desserts made with huckleberry, but he wouldn't try to make that into an ice cream.

    "Nobody would even buy it, nobody would even know what it is," he says.

June 17, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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We were enjoying Blue Moon icecream in Batavia Illinois in the thirties so I don't think it was invented in the fifties. Tompkins Ice Cream shop on Batavia Avenue dished it up. It was indeed smurf blue, I can't recall the taste after seventy years but I remember it was good. I had no idea it still existed...

Posted by: heymaw | Nov 1, 2008 1:12:19 PM

I grew up enjoying blue moon each summer as we visited our family's cottage in Ludington, MI. My favorite memories are of visiting the House of Flavors and getting my two scoops of blue moon. Once I even managed to finish the 13 scoop pig's dinner and I proudly wore my "I was a pig at the House of Flavors" pin. Blue Moon is one of a kind and my absolute favorite!

Posted by: Melissa | May 27, 2008 6:26:21 PM

I like azuki bean ice cream, but it cannot compare with the REAL asian azuki shaved ice dessert (with sugared whole red beans and condensed milk poured over a bed of shaved ice). :DROOL:

Posted by: Jane Chin | Jun 18, 2007 6:53:58 PM

This time last year, I snapped a picture at the House of Flavors in Ludington, MI which seemed to settle the "what does Blue Moon taste like" debate:

Posted by: Mike | Jun 18, 2007 2:43:23 PM

Blue Moon Ice Cream!
Odd how things coincide. I only recently heard of it while reading a post from Neil Gaiman's journal that he revisited recently.


Posted by: weremonkey | Jun 18, 2007 1:26:53 PM

In the late seventies, growing up in Michigan, on weekends I'd often travel upstate from Flint to a small town up North with my grandfather. Somewhere near Standish, a place called "Mooney's" I think, we'd always stop for ice cream. I'd always get a scoop of Blue Moon or Superman (a red,yellow, blue concotion whose taste I can't recall) but most often Blue Moon. My memory of Blue Moon, to the extent it exists, is glued directly those long weekend drives up North with my Grandpa more than anything, tied in with a bit of boredom, fiddling with the power window switch, and car games, like 20 questions and such. As I sit here and taste it in my mind, those are the things that come with it.

I'd sort of forgotten that til I read this. If I gave it any thought as a kid, I would've assumed it was a national flavor - that kids in CA were stuffing their faces with as well.

Fruit loops, though? Strange, but I guess that's about right. Never would have occured to me on my own.

Posted by: Ray Midge | Jun 17, 2007 5:58:49 PM

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