JULY IS NATIONAL ICE CREAM MONTH. WE MINNESOTANS SUFFER THROUGH MONTHS OF COLD AND SNOW SO THAT WE CAN EARN THE PLEASURES OF GLORIOUS HOT SUMMER DAYS WITH CREAMY ICE CREAM DRIPPING DOWN OUR CHINS.
HANDMADE ICE CREAM
Rochester is lucky to have not one, but two Flapdoodles locations for true, homemade ice cream. Owners Vicki and Matt Tierney, along with their daughters, Paige and Abby, opened the doors of the first store in 2011. Matt grew up in Alaska, and Flapdoodles was the name of his dad’s sailboat there. The funny word means “foolish talk,” and the stores are a blend of sailing and silliness. The north store located near Target north, and the south store on South Broadway, are, according to Matt, “a place to enjoy homemade ice cream, but also a place for people to come and hang out.” One of their most popular ice cream flavors is strawberry, a simple blend of strawberries, vanilla, cream and sugar. Another popular flavor is cheesecake with berries. They also make all-natural sorbet flavors such as banana, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry and lemonade.
At Chocolaterie Stam located in the Shops at University Square, you’ll find refreshing and non-dairy sorbetto. Owner Travis Yager says that jellies, jams and preserves are used to keep the flavors consistent throughout. He adds, “Each batch has about four pounds of berries.” They use many ingredients that are imported from Italy, and the sorbetto is made on-site. Yager says that they have all the equipment, education and experience to make authentic sorbetto, which they’ve been doing for a decade. “People think it’s funny when I say everything’s Italian except the chef,” he shares.
KEMPS SINCE 1914
Rochester is home to Kemps, one of the largest ice cream making plants in the United States as measured by the amount of ice cream made per year, according to spokesperson Rachel Kyllo. The plant on Broadway makes well over 500 different ice creams and frozen desserts.
According to Kyllo, the plant receives fresh dairy ingredients, like cream and milk, from local farms and then uses that to make their ice cream mix, which is a combination of sugar, cream and dairy products. Then they add specific flavors and “inclusions” like cookie dough or brownies. The plant also makes pelletized ice cream called IttiBitz, made by pouring ice cream into a liquid nitrogen bath, where it immediately freezes into pellets.
The research and development labs are located in the same building as the plant, so “all of the creative (process of) coming up with new products is done right here in Rochester,” Kyllo adds. She says that although people love all the flavors, 30 percent of ice cream sales are vanilla. The plant in Rochester makes at least five different types of vanilla, and according to Kyllo, “They all taste different.”
ARONIA BERRY GROWN LOCALLY
Whatever type of vanilla ice cream you love, they all taste delicious topped with fresh berries. Mid – to late summer is a great time to enjoy a variety of locally grown berries, which add a delicious and nutritious
burst of flavor to ice cream.
One still relatively unfamiliar berry is the aronia berry. This small, round, smooth berry is being heralded as a superfood, containing the “highest antioxidant values of any berry in North America,” according to Paul Wotzka, who grows them with his wife, Pat Bailey, near Whitewater. They add that if the berries are grown organically, there will be no pesticide residue.
Bailey says that although the “majority of people don’t care to eat it fresh like a raspberry” because of its astringency, it is great when combined with other things. Aronia berries can be cooked with sugar to make syrup, sauces and jellies and are delicious in quick breads, pancakes and muffins. They can be added to wine and to make shrubs, a vinegar-based syrup. Blending aronia with raspberries makes a particularly delicious juice that can be drunk straight or made into jellies and sauces.
Wotzka and Bailey have noticed a big uptick in their sales over the last three years. They believe that as people become more aware of the health benefits of the berry, its popularity will rise. The couple sell the berries, as well as their homemade jellies, jams, juices and shrubs through the Southeast Minnesota Food Network as well as by word of mouth.
A CONSPICUOUS ABSENCE
Unfortunately, one of the Midwest’s favorite berries, raspberries, may be in short supply this year because of a pest called spotted wing drosophila, which lays its eggs in the bottom of the berry and emerges as a little worm. Growers who do not use pesticides will not have much production this year. Home gardeners will likely be able to pick their raspberries before the bugs have a chance to infest their canes, but larger growers may have difficulty picking the berries in time. Some have even already proactively cut back their canes so as not to allow the pest to infiltrate their crop.
Tonya Sanner, who owns and operates Firefly Berries with her husband, Dean, and their four sons, laments the probable lack of a full raspberry season because of the spotted wing drosophila. Whatever small amount they are able to harvest will be sold at their booth at the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market.
BLACK AND BLUEBERRIES
For those who love blueberries, you can get them at People’s Food Coop. They come from Barky’s Blueberries, which is located less than 60 miles from Rochester in Galesville, Wisconsin.
At Firefly Berries, which is located northeast of Rochester, you can find blackberries in season from the middle of August until the first hard freeze. They will also have their homemade jams and jellies in flavors such as raspberry/rhubarb, apricot, crabapple and elderberry. They also sell grape juice, raw honey and naturally dyed yarn. Firefly is open for picking your own strawberries in mid to late June and possibly early July, and they offer pick your own grapes in mid to late September through mid-October.
Emily Watkins is a local personal trainer.