Although invented in the fourth or fifth century B.C.E., ice cream has existed in something close to its current form since the 1500s or 1600s in France, with recipes appearing in England in the 1700s. It was then that Thomas Jefferson first tried (and adored) it during a visit to Europe, and he is generally credited for its immense popularity in America. Although Jefferson is not believed to have actually introduced ice cream to the states, his cooks famously prepared it for him on a regular basis using this very recipe, which was written in a note by the president himself.
This recipe comes courtesy of Monticello.org.
Please note that the language in the recipe is President Jefferson's own (minus the brackets), hence the use of old terminology.
Mix the yolks and sugar put the cream on a fire in a casserole, first putting in a stick of vanilla.
When near boiling, take it off and pour it gently into the mixture of eggs and sugar. Stir it well.
Put it on the fire again, stirring it thoroughly with a spoon to prevent it from sticking to the casserole.
When near boiling, take it off and strain it through a towel.
Put it in the Sabottiere [the inner canister in an ice bucket], then set it in ice an hour before it is to be served.
Put into the ice a handful of salt, put salt on the coverlid of the Sabotiere, and cover the whole [thing] with ice.
Leave it still half a quarter of an hour. Then turn the Sabottiere in the ice [for] 10 minutes.
Open it ... with a spatula [and remove] the ice from the inner sides of the Sabotiere.
Shut it and replace it in the ice. Open it from time to time to detach the ice from the sides.
When well taken, stir it well with the spatula.
Put it in moulds, justling it well down on the knee. Then put the mould into the same bucket of ice. Leave it there to the moment of serving it.
To withdraw it, immerse the mould in warm water, turning it well [until] it will come out and turn it into a plate.