Icecream is a favourite summer dessert in France, but even so, the French can't compete with the consumption levels of some other countries. More icecream is consumed in northern Europe than around the Mediterranean (with the exception of Italy). The biggest consumers in Europe are the Finns, at 13.3 litres per person per year. The biggest consumers in the world are the Americans, getting through an average of 0.5 litres per week per person. France comes in at 6 litres per person per year. France's very moderate performance in the icecream consumption stakes must be because two modestly sized scoops are considered a serving here, and icecream is a summer treat. Anyone seen eating icecream in the winter in France is clearly a tourist.
As well as the industrially produced icecream available in the supermarkets, there are many small companies and individuals making glaces artisanales. The main difference between an industrial product and an artisan product comes with the quality of the raw materials. An artisanal icecream is made from fresh whole milk, organic eggs and local fruit picked at optimal maturity. Another difference is in the way they are made, especially in the amount of air incorporated into the mix. Industrial icecreams have a lot of air in order to add volume.
- Glace – contains water, milk proteins and fats.
- Sorbet – a mixture of water, sugar and at least 25% fruit.
- Crème glacée – made from milk, crème fraîche (cultured fresh cream) and sugar.
The most famous glacier - sorbetière in France is Berthillon, based on the Ile de Saint Louis in Paris, but there are many other excellent artisan producers. David Lebovitz has a useful list of the Paris based ones here.
*Photograph taken at l'Image in Preuilly. Les glaces are the one thing on the menu that is not made in house here, which is perhaps a measure of how specialised a skill it is seen to be. Note that it is not seen as necessary to bulk the dish up with disgusting squirty cream or cheap syrupy topping.