Farm-fresh ice cream — the Eatwell Icebox
By ANN M. EVANS and GEORGEANNE BRENNAN
From the Ground Up
Nigel Walker, the brain behind Dixon-based Eatwell Farm, is continually thinking of ways to increase the consumption of healthy, organic foods. He has hundreds of Community Supported Agriculture members from San Francisco to Sacramento, and he offers days at the farm, where his CSA members can not only pick organic tomatoes or strawberries but also transform them into sauce or jam on the spot at one of the farm’s many outdoor stoves.
In the last few years, CSA members have also been able to sample Nigel’s latest: farm fresh ice cream and floats made and served up from an old-fashioned, semi-renovated ice cream truck that he kept at the farm and cranked up on farm visit days.
Now, the truck is fully renovated and has a powerful new generator that powers four soft-serve machines.
“We can put out an ice cream cone or float every 6 seconds on each of our machines, says Nigel.” And, if you have ever waited in line for a soft serve ice cream, you know that’s fast. “We even make our own waffle cones, either the day before the truck goes out or right there on site. We use organic eggs, organic butter and milk, and organic flour.”
The ice cream is made using Strauss Organic Creamery soft-serve ice cream base and then farm fresh flavors are added.
”We experimented a lot on friends and farm members to see what flavors people liked,” says Nigel. “And we know where everything comes from. That’s important. I got avocados from a fellow vendor at Ferry Plaza, I got my apricots from Bill Crepps in Winters, from his farm Everything Under the Sun, and Twin Girls plums, and fresh corn from a local grower.” Other flavors include Sweet Potato, Butternut squash, melon, and Blue Bottle coffee.
One of the top favorites during the experimentation process was the sweet corn ice cream.
”People loved it!”
While Nigel may be the creative brain behind the project, it is also Roma Grey, 50-50 partner, who runs Eatwell Icebox. Not only does she head the staff of four to six who run the program, she also created the waffle cone recipe and has taught the staff to make them. Roma, a long-time Eatwell Farm CSA member, proposed to Nigel that they go into business together and she would handle the operations end of the venture.
The Eatwell Icebox went operational a few months ago, and can now be found at Ferry Plaza market in San Francisco every Saturday.
“We are planning to go to events too,” said Nigel. We hope people will book us for weddings, community parties — we’re open to any ideas. We’ve been invited to follow along with the Rolli-Roti Rotisserie truck to be the ‘dessert’ truck. Last month, in March, we started going to various off- the- grid events in San Francisco. We post on our website, iceboxsf.com, where to find us at different locations.”
Right now, Nigel is growing seven and a half acres of heirloom wheat that he will mill to be used for making the waffle cones, adding one more item to the Icebox product that is farm-grown at Eatwell.
The sweetener for the ice cream? Organic cane sugar.
“We don’t use much sugar because the fresh fruit is so naturally sweet.”
The drinks used to make the ice cream floats are farm fresh from Eatwell Farm also. Drinkwell Softers are a beverage product developed by Nigel’s wife, Lorraine Ottens. They are lacto-fermented and flavored with rose geranium, lemon verbena, and lavender, all grown on the farm. The Softers are available at a number of grocery stores, including the Davis Food Co-op.
It will be interesting to watch the flavors of the Eatwell Icebox ice creams over the coming months. Already we can imagine Honey Quince, Damson Plum, and combinations like Raspberry Goat Cheese Swirl. Once you start thinking of ice cream as farm fresh, the possibilities seem endless. And yet, ice cream has long been a farm product. Cows were milked, hand-turned ice-cream freezers were cranked up, and fresh fruits were added. The Eatwell Icebox takes that time-honored concept to today’s city streets.
Green Almond Ice Cream
This is one of Georgeanne’s favorite ice cream recipes, from her James Beard award-winning book, “The Food and Flavors of Haute Provence.” She makes it with green almonds from her trees on her small farm. Right now, early April, the fuzzy green developing shell of the almonds can be cracked open to reveal the immature nut inside.
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
½ cup sugar
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon pure almond extract
½ cup shelled green almonds, coarsely chopped, about 3 pounds unshelled
Putting it together
Combine the cream, milk, and sugar in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to just below a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low.
Put the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk them until blended. Slowly pour about one cup of the hot cream mixture into the bowl, whisking continuously. When well blended and smooth, pour the yolk-cream mixture into the saucepan, whisking continuously. Continue to whisk over low heat until the mixture thickens and becomes custardy enough to coat the back of a spoon without dropping off, about 10 minutes. Add the almond extract and let the mixture stand until cooled to room temperature.
Pour the custard into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Shortly before the ice cream is solid — when it is a frozen slush — stir in the chopped green almonds and then continue to freeze a little longer until almost solid. Serve immediately. Makes about 1 pint.
For more information, visit www.iceboxsf.com or www.eatwellfarm.com.