Last Taste of Summer

Ice cream with tayberry sauce I have written about Sweetbank Farm several times, the fruit farm in Wicklow. Well, their bushes and trees are long since plucked, but we did freeze some of their tayberries earlier in the season, and I pulled out the last trays of them to make a big vat of sauce. (If you also froze some berries and want a recipe, I gave one here for blackberry coulis)

In any case, we’re serving it up warm with ice cream in the shops, and it goes especially well with Irish cream liqueur ice cream. My brother Sean has been playing around with serving it with a piece of plain sponge, whipped cream, and ice cream, and customers have been loving this ready-made dessert…

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Pink Champagne Sorbet

Pink Champagne Some time ago, I stopped into Bubble Brothers asking for Marsala wine, which was ridiculously hard to find in this country (it’s a great dessert wine used for tiramisu, zabaglione, etc.). They told me loads of chefs had been asking for it, but they didn’t stock it.


This week, I found myself in the English Market in Cork, so I chanced stopping by again. I was most delighted that they had brought it in and now stock it. Thanks, guys! (By the way, they also have an interesting blog).

Since I was surrounded by lots of wine and wanted to make the most of it, I perused the champagne section for a rose, which I had wanted to try in sorbet for a while and had promised as a birthday present for Lady K.

They were all sold out except one brand –  Fleury. This champagne is made from 100% pinot noir grapes, and since it was a brut, I was hoping it wouldn’t be sickly sweet in the sorbet.

Pink Champagne Ice Cream

Today we opened the two bottles I brought back, and the champagne has wonderful flavour – it wasn’t too sweet at all. It has the added value of being not only organic, but biodynamic, although it doesn’t trumpet the fact on the front of the bottle. Apparently it was the first champagne certified by Demeter.

I finished making the pink champagne sorbet this evening (no, we didn’t drink it all!). If you want to try it, use the recipe I gave here and substitute pink champagne for the Dom Perignon. Just make sure the pink champagne you choose is not too sweet!

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The Ice Cream Man Goes Milking

Kerry Cow Chewing I know I might get boring writing about the Kerry cow but we’ve been having a great time experimenting with making ice cream with the milk of this rare and indigenous species. Apparently, there were only 409 births of Kerry calves in 2005, so you have an idea of how few of them there are left in this world.

Kerry Cow in YardStill, they are making a bit of a come-back, and we’re delighted to be doing our small part supporting the breed. Yesterday, I visited the local farmer who has an interest in such things and a few of them registered for milking, and I was allowed to help milk them.

That might sound boring for some, especially those raised in rural parts, but for a city boy, it was quite a thrill. Even though I’ve lived in the wilds of Kerry for years now, there is little for someone born and bred in New York that seems as interesting or as exotic as a farm.

Milking Kerry CowI can’t say I really got the hang of it, and I needed quite a bit of assistance, but the farmer was quite polite and said it’s all about the practise.

As bumbling as my hands might have been, it was a lovely experience to have my head leaning into the side of a Kerry cow and attaching the milking machine, surrounded by the sounds of the breathing of the animals and the milk pumping away.

Kerry Cows WalkingAfterwards, we walked the cows back to pasture. The evening was so glorious, with the mountains behind us and the whole countryside bathed in golden light.

At times like these, all problems seem to disappear, and there’s nowhere I’d rather find myself than Dingle. I’m as happy as can be.

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Stuck on Sugar

Sugar Sachets In my last issue of the New Yorker (not THE last issue, since they get to me in Ireland about a month late), there as an article about sugar and sugar substitutes. I’ve written briefly here and here about our difficulties of trying to find a way to make a natural ice cream without sugar.

The writer of the article in the New Yorker pointed out some interesting facts:

1. That sugar is remarkably hard to substitute – its properties in adding bulk, behaving consistently at different temperatures, and just the good taste of it has befuddled scientists for a hundred years. It even seems that scientists will not be looking for the next generation of sweetener like Aspartame or Sucralose but rather will be looking for ways of finding additives that will increase the effect of sugar to enable people to use less.

2. That even with the huge increase of artificial sweeteners, the per capita intake of sugar has increase markedly over the last decades. People are eating artificial sweeteners by the ton AND eating more sugar.

We have looked at all sorts of options to try to make a product suitable for diabetics, including stevia, fructose, tapioca and other natural thickeners, and still we haven’t found anything that tastes good enough for us to consider.

In addition, the various diabetic associations including Diabetes Ireland seem to be against the idea of diabetic products and are much more interested in a balanced, low-fat diet. I can see why – in Dublin I came across a “Diabetic” chocolate bar that neglected to list the ingredients. I can understand how such products could lull people into a false sense of security.

This still leaves us coming up blank. I suppose one way would be to try to find a recipe for a gelato, which is naturally low in fat, and one that has reduced sugar as well. However, what do you add instead? Fruits contain sugar, chocolate adds bulk but contains fat, nuts do the same, and soon we are back at square one!

If anyone has any ideas…

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Up on the Farm

I just brought a load of ice cream to Sweetbank Farm in Wicklow, and it’s great to see them about to open up the farm shop for their second season (June 1st is the first day they open).

Sweetbank farmFor anyone who hasn’t been, a visit is highly recommended. David and Debbie know their fruit, and their little shop is lovely. The old farm buildings are built around a courtyard, and the stalls hold a variety of animals that are great entertainment for kids. They also have fresh meats, a scooping cabinet with the efforts of yours truly, and an array of other goodies.

Devouring a bowl of fresh fruit with cream and a coffee in their picturesque courtyard on a nice sunny day is about as good as it gets! Their efforts are a lesson in agritourism!

We will be taking delivery of some of their fruit for our ice cream within the next few weeks, and anyone who has had our Wicklow raspberry, strawberry or tayberry ice cream will know what a treat their fruit is. This year they have also promised us cherries. Mmmmm!

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Milk pouring We’re making good progress using the Kerry Cow milk here in ice cream land. Today we made our second batch, and it’s a big improvement from the last one.

Milk straight from the farm is such a different proposition from milk bought in the shop, and it’s wonderful to have it in its pure form, with the thick cream rising to the top of the churn and the farm-fresh smell of it. Technically, though, it’s a bit of a challenge. It’s amazing how a single ingredient can change the whole taste and feel of a batch.

It will take us a little while to get it right, but I’m sure the ice cream will be greatly improved. It’s no harm as well to be able to support a local farmer, even in our own small way, and I hope that small food producers such as ourselves will be able to make a difference with keeping Irish farmers on the land.

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Chocolate Tart and Kerry Cows

Chocolate Tart 

Today, with the rain pouring down and the murky half-light of West Kerry taking away any sense of summer, I decided to cheer myself up by baking. I did two chocolate tarts (shown above) for the shops as well as a pair of lemon tarts.

milk churnI was quite pleased with the results. The chocolate tart is based on the Payard book I’ve been talking about, although I made a few changes – another egg yolk, a slightly different pastry, and a combination of bitter and dark chocolate.

Mind you, there was more to be cheerful about, since we took our first delivery of Kerry Cow milk from a local farmer, and we made a batch of ice cream.

It’s amazing how much changing a single ingredient changes the entire ice cream. The Kerry Cow milk is much creamier, and it will take a bit of playing to get it right. Still, for a first run, we were quite pleased with it.

One of the flavours JP made from it was Stewed Apple and Galliano. It’s a great combination, and I must commend him!

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Chai Latte and Brown Bread Ice Cream

As part of our preparation for the Great Taste Awards written about in an earlier post, we made flavours. Chai latte, which was actually a request from Ard Bia in Galway, came out quite nicely, and if you want to try it, simply add a couple of espresso shots to the Honey Chai recipe I gave earlier and drop the honey.

Brown Bread

The brown bread ice cream took most of our attention, however, since it’s a bit hard to get right. In Ireland, people think of brown bread ice cream as a very Irish invention, but there are Britain historical references from 1894 in that mention it. Mind you, they could have brought the idea back from the emerald isle!

It’s a nice flavour – the bread should be crunchy in a base of vanilla ice cream with a dark, molasses-like flavour. To make it you need some dark brown bread (a bit stale helps) that you crush into small bread crumbs. You then sprinkle dark brown sugar sugar over it and place under the grill until it melts. Stir it, place it back under the grill, and repeat.

Brown Bread Ice Cream

We tried regular brown bread, brown bread with Baileys, and brown bread with whiskey, all of which we sell in the shop from time to time. Perhaps I’ll pass on a full recipe later, when we decide which we liked best!

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