You can easily find grape-flavored soft drinks, candy or even ice pops, but you would be hard-pressed to pick up a gallon of grape ice cream at your local grocery store. Have you ever wondered why?
Surprisingly, there are several opinions and ideas about this. Some people think grape ice cream wouldn’t be tasty or popular enough for shops or restaurants to sell. Others believe that it is not an option because it has been banned in the U.S.
However, the real reason is actually more technical.
Does Anyone Sell Grape Ice Cream?
While some recipes for homemade grape ice cream exist on the internet, you won’t likely find any that are produced commercially on a large scale. The reason for this is twofold. First, grapes have a higher water content than many fruits. If you have ever eaten frozen grapes, you know they can be used as a flavorful substitute for ice cubes.
The icy texture that grapes attain when you freeze them prevents them from being incorporated neatly into smooth, rich ice cream.
In addition, grapes contain a compound called anthocyanin that makes them purple and makes for another barrier to making a natural grape ice cream.
“This compound, while a powerful antioxidant, can change how the grape puree freezes,” Jim Mumford, a food professional and chemical engineer, told Reader’s Digest in 2021. “The compound actually breaks down, which affects the color and the flavor to an extent. This is why most grape-flavored desserts have food dyes.”
According to Mumford, grape skins contribute to the flavor of the fruit. Using peeled grapes to make ice cream would alter the taste, but leaving them on would change the consistency of the product. Finally, the acidity level of grapes mixed with dairy products can cause an unpleasant, adverse reaction.
Can You Make Ice Cream With Grapes In It?
You might wonder about ice cream made with chunks of other fruit in it, such as cherries and strawberries. It is true that grapes, cherries and strawberries all have a very high water content, making them more challenging to use in ice cream than mix-ins like chocolate chips. However, the most significant difference is that grape ice cream simply isn’t highly desired.
“Grapes are a difficult fruit, because of the water content — but it’s also not a very mainstream flavor for ice cream,” Sean Greenwood, Ben & Jerry’s PR lead, told Thrillist in 2016. “Most people don’t even associate grape with ice cream. People grew up on cherry and vanilla — so now, they love cherry-based ice cream. Grape has not broken through the creme-de-glace ceiling, if you will.”
Is Grape Ice Cream Poisonous?
There are intriguing rumors that float around the internet from time to time about the dangers of grape ice cream. The most prevalent is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of grape ice cream in the United States after Ben Cohen, from the famed ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s, whipped up a batch of grape ice cream to impress a girl. In the story, the girl then fed the ice cream to her dog, who died immediately.
While grapes are not considered safe for dogs to eat, the story is no more than an urban legend. Greenwood calls it “a little bit of ice cream lore.”
The myth debunkers at Snopes say that the story of Cohen’s misadventure with grape ice cream originated with a fictional article published in 2015 that was intended to be humorous but took on a life of its own.
“I talked with Jerry [Greenfield] yesterday,” Greenwood told Thrillist in the same interview. “He said that he knew we did a Grape-Nuts ice cream back in the day, and there was the plum, but he never remembered us getting too far down the road with a grape flavor.”
Making Grape Ice Cream at Home
If you can’t get past a craving to try grape ice cream, you may not be entirely out of options. You could potentially find some at a small, local parlor specializing in creating unique flavors. Although, you might be more likely to find a shop that offers grape sorbet or gelato.
Another option would be to try your hand at making grape ice cream at home, which may require a special technique compared to making other homemade flavors.
“If I want to blend the grapes in the ice cream, I make the base with more cream than I would with other flavors, and there ya go,” Ja-ne de Abreu, author of Sassy Food, told Reader’s Digest of her method for whipping up grape ice cream.
Greenwood, of Ben & Jerry’s, agrees that homemade ice cream made with grapes is a good option.
“Making ice cream at home, you can get fruit like grapes pretty close to a puree,” Greenwood told Thrillist, “but when you are using fruit as a base on a large scale, that’s when you run into problems.”
If you want to try your hand at making some, Five Boys Baker has a simple recipe that calls for frozen grape juice concentrate, sugar, lemon juice, whipping cream, evaporated milk and whole milk. The author says the recipe has been beloved in her family for years.