Food & Drink

The South’s Other Sno-Balls

Baltimore’s sweet summer tradition goes back more than a century

photo: Courtesy of Koldkiss


As far back as the mid-1800s, the lore goes, Baltimore youngsters begged for frozen shavings from ice blocks held in wagons that hauled goods from New York to the South. Back home, mothers whipped up homemade flavorings for the cold chips, making Charm City snowballs—not New Orleans sno-balls, nor Hawaiian shave ice—the oldest such treat in the country.

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Called “penny sundaes” during the Depression, nowadays the Baltimore version, noted for its marshmallow cream topping, can be found on street corners, in dedicated stands, at confectioners, and in home kitchens across the city, as integral to summers there as steamed crabs. Local retailer and manufacturing company Koldkiss supplies everything businesses and residents need to make snowballs, from the ice shavers to the flavoring syrups (of which it has more than one hundred; egg custard is the most popular and the signature flavor in Baltimore).

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Richard Weiss, who took over the nearly fifty-year-old Koldkiss some two decades ago, has watched generations of snowball purveyors come in and out of his shop. “Their father did it, their grandfather did it, now their kids are involved—it’s a very sweet thing,” he says. “No pun intended.”