The History of Italian Water Ice

By: Carmen Esposito
Thursday, May 3, 2018

The History of Italian Water Ice in America

At the turn of the century, many Italians migrated to America, bringing with them a unique method of making money - selling Italian Water Ice. Back in the old country, they formulated this unique and delicious product that served as a substitute for an air conditioner on a hot summer's day. The Italian Water Ice would quench your thirst and coat your pallet with its sweet flavor. 

Each family had their own recipe and stockpile of water ice.  Several tools were required to create this product, typically consisting of a large wooden barrel (kind of like a beer barrel), a 10 or 20 quart stainless steel tube to insert in the barrel, a paddle with a stainless steel end, rock salt, ice and a burlap bag. The rock salt would bring the temperature of the ice down, and the burlap bag would serve as the refrigerator.

Once you got your equipment together it was time to make the water ice. First, you would add your ingredients -water, sugar, and lemons- into the stainless steel tube, and then drop it in the barrel to start the freezing process. From there you would begin mixing the contents of the stainless steel barrel until your ingredients become a slush. This process usually took around an hour to make 20 quarts. For extra flavor, some would add juice from an orange to give it their own signature taste.

Nowadays, due to technological advancement and high-level engineering, this process is much less labor intensive. Instead of the wooden barrels, stainless steel tubes, and burlap bags, we have batch freezers. These machines yield a great product that tastes the same each time. So, not only are you being more efficient, but you are also guaranteeing your customers a delicious and consistent product all year round.

If you are interested in starting your own Italian Water Ice business, or need help turning your current shop around, give us a call today at 215-550-9963! We've helped dozens of people start their water ice business from the ground up, as well as help those who currently run an Italian ice shop.

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