Vermont Specialty Is a Sweet Spot
on the Ice Cream Spectrum
Photos by Kristy Dooley
When the mercury begins to rise, usually above the 50° F. mark, Vermonters begin to flock outside, soaking in the warm sunshine after a long winter. At the first signs of warmer weather, you can see signs of summer everywhere: Bikes come out, the scenery is greener and your local creemee stand opens up.
For many Vermonters, the first taste of ice cream— whether it is from Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day or the local snack bar—is the symbolic first taste of summer. As a state that is known for its amazing dairy products it is no surprise that Vermont has some of the best selections of ice cream around. Whether you prefer a cup, a cone or a full-on sundae, there is something for everyone.
Being what may be considered an ice cream “specialist,” I spend a lot of time with ice cream—making it, tasting it, talking about it, thinking about it and traveling for it. While some people may argue that “ice cream is just ice cream,” to me it is much more complex. Ice cream is the perfect mix of science and taste. It is not just a culinary wonder but a great exhibit of scientific principles.
In technical terms, all ice cream is a solution made up of four phases: water, air, fat and an aqueous solution that contains the remaining sugars and solids from milk, sweeteners and flavorings. It is the interaction among these four phases that make up the different types of ice cream we all enjoy. By tweaking the fat content, sugar content, overrun (or air) content and the method of freezing you can create a myriad of different frozen treats, from creemees to sorbet and gelato to sherbet and everything in between.
Native Vermonters live for their creemees and visitors to Vermont are always curious as to what makes a creemee different than soft serve or any other ice cream they can find. At the heart of the matter, creemees are technically quite similar to soft serve but some creemee mixes may have a higher butterfat content than run-ofthe- mill soft serve you might find at national ice cream or frozen yogurt chains. However, creemees often have lower butterfat content, with about 6%, than premium packaged ice cream, with 10% to 14%.
The novel texture of creemees comes from the facts that the ice cream is served at a warmer temperature than packaged ice cream and often contains more air, giving it a light and creamy feel.
Creemees are ubiquitous around Vermont in the summer, often found in vanilla, chocolate or twist, but a true perennial favorite of many Vermonters is the maple creemee. The best maple creemees are made with real Vermont maple syrup added right to the mix before freezing. Some of the best maple creemees in Central Vermont can be found at the Vermont Maple Outlet on Route 15 in Cambridge, Morse Farm in Montpelier and Dakin Farms in Burlington and Ferrisburgh and the Creemee Stand in Wilmington.
If you prefer classic ice cream or a well-crafted sundae you might seek out traditional hard ice cream. Premium or super premium ice creams that you find at local scoop shops or in the freezer aisle of your grocery store begin with a similar process to that of soft serve but rather than being consumed right from the ice cream machine it is packed into tubs and sent through a deep-freeze process where it hardens. The hardening process solidifies and stabilizes the ice cream so the ice cream maintains its quality from the freezer to your dish.
The most renowned Vermont ice cream is, of course, Ben & Jerry’s, known for its fully loaded pints, but there are several smaller ice cream companies around Vermont that are turning out great ice cream, made with local ingredients. The oldest ice cream maker in the state, Wilcox Dairy located in Manchester, has been churning out ice cream with Vermont dairy since 1928.
Island Ice Cream based out of the Champlain Islands makes high-quality ice cream with local ingredients. You can find Wilcox Dairy’s and Island’s ice creams in your local grocery stores as well as many restaurants served side by side with many great desserts. Stowe Ice Cream also has delicious ice cream and ice cream sandwiches made in Stowe. Their ice cream can be found at I. C. Scoops in Stowe Village and in several restaurants in the Waterbury-Stowe area. For a complete cow-to-cone experience, where dairy from the family farm is churned into simple flavors such as chocolate and vanilla, give Kingdom Creamery in East Hardwick a try.
While the science of ice cream is expansive and complex, it can be incredibly easy to create your favorite treats on your own at home. With a small-batch ice cream maker, the flavor possibilities are endless. Top-quality Vermont dairy combined with the fresh fruits of summer or local honey makes perfect summer desserts.