Herefordshire's Ice Cream
PUBLISHED: 13:53 29 July 2009 | UPDATED: 16:09 20 February 2013
Martin Griffiths meets Herefordshire's artisan ice cream makers and creates classic summer puddings, which make the most of the season's produce
Super-cool ice cream producers are packing the best local and seasonal flavours into Herefordshire ice cream. Look out for their products at farm shops, country fairs and specialist shops. After all, the more we eat, the more they'll produce.
Rachel Hicks has been making her luxurious fruit packed Just Rachel ice creams since 1988 and in that time has scooped many awards including a Diamond award at this year's HEART of ENGLAND fine foods awards for her delicious gooseberry and elderflower ice cream. With the sharpness of the gooseberry being balanced by the sweet floral elderflower this ice cream is typical of Rachel's approach to combining seasonal produce with rich cream from Herefordshire's Bartonsham dairies. Although the taste is light, rich and luxurious there's no pumped air in these ice creams. What you get is a fruit-packed treat. As Rachel says: "When you taste our ice cream you can really taste the fruit." With more than 30 per cent fruit content it's easy to see why. There are no preservatives, freezing keeps it fresh and the colour of the ice cream can change with the seasons. Strawberry ice cream in early season can be subtly different to late summer production while one of her other favourites, the delightful damson and sloe gin flavour is reliant on a successful damson crop. As she uses around 3,000 lbs of damsons a year this can be a problem.
Part of Rachel's inspiration came from her travels in New Zealand and on her return she spent time at the British Library researching recipes and methods of production. She now employs six local people at Just Rachel Quality Desserts at The Old Dairy, Eggs Tump, Bromsberrow, and sells throughout the area. She is part of the Herefordshire Walking Festival, does talks and demonstrations and also produces the most amazing ice cream wedding cakes. You can find her ice cream in Waitrose as part of their local producers' scheme, Budgens in Newent and at Hadley organics in nearby Ledbury.
One of the coolest places to hang out in Ledbury would have to be the Ice Bytes Café where you can indulge in your passion for ice cream while surfing the net on the bank of computers or looking up Ledbury's most recent news on the Ledbury portal website. Shoko and John Eager positively encourage a family friendly environment and supply space for children to play, read and relax. This really is a chilled out place and on the last Tuesday of every month they stay open late for the Homend Poets' group. They sell Beacon Hill ice cream, which comes from just, down the road at Bosbury and is produced by John Baron. He is similar to many farmers who have turned to ice cream production as a way of diversifying.
Throughout the county there are many farmers who have diversified to survive. Ice cream production gives them a valuable return on the milk their herds produce and encourages the use of local ingredients. Out at Rowlestone Court, near Ewyas Harold, Mark Williams and his family now produce a range of ice cream which uses milk from their own cows and which is made and sold on the premises. You can also walk around the farm and visit their wet meadows and woods as part of their participation in the countryside stewardship and environmental awareness schemes. The family has run the farm since the 1930s and Mark has recently returned to using the short horn breed of cattle, as they are good for beef and milk production.
Ice cream production is deliberately small scale as this allows for regular changes of flavour depending on what is in season. One of the secrets of their success is the speed of their freezing process and the high fruit content. Their strawberry sorbet is more than 50 per cent fruit
Just up the road from here in the picturesque hills above Peterchurch, Martin and Juliet Orbach produce the distinctly different and remarkably low in fat Shepherd's ice cream. They have been operating from the late 1980s and one of the secrets of their success is combining sheep's milk with flavours from the region. They can be found at most of the areas major food festivals and have outlets in the centre of Hereford and Hay-on-Wye. For delicious hand-made ice cream made from the extraordinarily pretty Guernsey cows which sometimes graze out on Garway Common look out for Kelsmor Dairy Ice cream run by Susan and Mark Jones. The unique rich flavours of their Guernsey milk enable them to make Kelsmor gold, a traditional creamy ice cream with no added flavours. They also produce a range of dinner party ice creams, which includes apricot and Amaretti while at the Three Counties Show I tried their simple blackcurrant flavour. Rich, smooth and packed full of flavour! They take their ice cream to a variety of food shows and also have a Victorian barrow for smaller events such as fetes, sporting events or even an ice cream lovers' wedding.
September Organic is based at Whitehill Park, Weobley and the ingredients in its ice cream are all organic. The business follows the Soil Association's premise that "healthy soil produces healthy crops" and highlights the importance of bio- diversity, animal welfare, human health, and well-being and environmental protection. The choice of flavours is eclectic and ranges from blackberry and apple crumble to brown bread and more traditional summer fruits. My personal favourite has to be the honey and ginger, silky smooth with a sweet twist. Delicious diversity, which can be delivered to your door, through their mail order scheme.
Just Rachel: 01531 650639
Ice Bytes: 01531 634700
Rowlestone Court: 01981 240322
Shepherd's: 01497 821898
Kelsmor Dairy: 01600 750685
September Organic Dairy: 01544 312910
Cool summer puddings
Of course, great ice cream doesn't need too much fiddling with as it goes so well with just a simple bowl of strawberries or with some deeply luscious blackcurrant and raspberry juice poured over it. (Simply blend a mixture of fruits with sugar to taste and sieve out the bits and pips). However, you could serve your ice cream alongside these classic summer recipes
Summer Fruit Clafoutis
A fruit in batter pudding served hot or cold
• 500 g assorted fresh fruit
• 125 g plain flour
• 50 g caster sugar
• 300ml milk
• Good splash of blackcurrant liqueur from Pixley Berries of Ledbury
• 2 eggs beaten
• Touch of salt
1. Put fruit into a bowl with liqueur and stand for an hour (mix shot of remaining liqueur with soda water and ice to help keep the cook cool and enthusiastic)
2. Whisk together the milk eggs and flour, transfer to a jug and leave to stand for an hour
3. Line a 9-inch oven proof dish with baking parchment and spoon in the liqueur-soaked fruits and juices
4. Re-whisk the batter and pour over the fruits
5. Bake in a preheated oven, 200c for 50 mins until firm, risen and golden brown
6. Serve warm with spoonfuls of ice cream (simple vanilla goes very well)
Grandma Richmond's Blackcurrant Sponge Pudding
• 450 g blackcurrants
• 125g sugar
For the sponge
• 55g caster sugar
• 55g margarine
• 55g self raising flour
• 1 egg
1. Wash fruit and stew gently with sugar for 10 mins
2. Cream butter and sugar
3. Beat in egg
4. Fold in flour
5. Put fruit into base of 7-inch casserole dish
6. Spoon off excess juice (reserve for serving)
7. Spoon sponge mixture on top of fruit
8. Bake at 180c for 30 mins until brown and firm to the touch
The sharpness of the blackcurrants is off-set by the sponge topping and eats beautifully with any of the Herefordshire ice creams
Old-fashioned Gooseberry Fool
• 450 g gooseberries
• 2 tablespoons of sugar
• 150 mls double cream
1. Gently cook gooseberries in teaspoon of water until soft
2. Mash sieve and cool pureed gooseberries
3. Lightly whip cream, add cold gooseberry puree and carefully fold together
4. Keep chilled and serve with delicious Herefordshire ice cream (Just Rachel's gooseberry and elderflower is the obvious one here but you can always experiment a little)
Ice cream was served in a pastry case by Thomas Jefferson at the White House and the idea may have links in a meeting between French and Chinese cooks in the middle of the 19th century. The dish was popular in the 1970s and is starting to make a comeback. It makes a spectacular dinner party dish. Simply whip up four egg whites with four tablespoons of sugar and pipe this mixture over a generous tablespoon of ice cream sitting on a sponge base. Pop this into a hot oven for 2-4 mins or burn with a chef's blowtorch until meringue starts to brown and serve immediately. The meringue should be cooked but still slightly soft and the ice cream cold. Pop some fresh fruit on the side of the dish when serving. Chef Gino D'Acampo did a daring version of this recently on television when he coated a ball of ice cream with finely chopped nuts and breadcrumbs and deep-fried them for 20 seconds! Gino is appearing at the flavours of Herefordshire food festival 24-25th October.
Homemade Ice Cream (without an ice cream maker)
• 300ml full cream milk
• 300 ml double cream
• 4 egg yolks
• 75g caster sugar
• 75g crushed fruit (blackcurrants, raspberries or strawberries)
1. Heat milk on low heat
2. Whisk egg and sugar together
3. Add a touch of the warm milk (just off boiling) to the egg mixture and mix well
4. Carefully add in the rest of the milk before returning to the pan and heating gently. (Do not boil otherwise you get lots of scrambled egg)
5. When the mixture covers and sticks to the back of a spoon remove from the heat, pour into a jug and leave to cool
6. Pour in cream and fruit to the cooled custard and mix thoroughly
7. Put into a freezer proof container and freeze for two hours before removing and breaking up the ice crystals with a fork. Repeat this process twice more
This process is easier with a small ice cream maker and you can experiment with flavours of your own. My friend Shaun Naen is Head Chef at the Renaissance restaurant at Gloucestershire College and he made me some amazing tasting beer ice cream using beer from the Wye Valley Brewery. Its flavour was an extraordinary blend of caramel and toast and went perfectly with rich chocolate tart. So it's worth trying new flavours your self. Otherwise, just look out for some ice cream produced by Herefordshire's artisan ice cream makers and enjoy their delicious diversity.