You may well argue that Maryland is the nation’s premier ice cream state. Undeniably, Maryland is both first and foremost in American ice cream. First, because in 1744, Maryland’s proprietary governor, Thomas Bladen, reportedly served the first ice cream in the New World. Foremost, because one of the world’s largest ice cream plants is located in Laurel, just north of Washington, D.C.
“Our ice cream plant in Laurel, Md., made 114,904 million liters of ice cream in 2015,” said Liz Caselli-Mechael, of Nestlé Corporate Affairs. “We presently produce 141 products made up of Haagen-Dazs pints and bars, Skinny Cow bars and sandwiches, Nestlé DIBs, Nestlé Drumstick, and Nestlé Outshine water ice bars.”
To showcase Maryland’s ice cream heritage, the state has inaugurated the “Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail.” Now in its fifth year, the trail links nine Maryland dairies that produce and sell their ice cream directly to consumers.
The trail stretches from Ocean City west to the mountains of Washington County, and “Trail Blazers” can get a copy of the Ice Cream Trail Passport from at marylandsbest.net, or at any of the participating creameries. Use the passport to keep track of progress along the trail, to answer a specific dairy question at each creamery, and to collect a stamp at each stop on the trail.
Maryland’s Ice Cream Trail focuses on creameries producing small-batch, craft-made ice cream. Often, the creameries use milk from their own cows or locally produced milk and local fruits.
“It’s a great program,” said Kate Dallam, owner of Broom’s Bloom Dairy, a popular creamery and restaurant near Bel Air. “We have seen a lot of interest in the trail and see about three dozen Passports each week.”
Broom’s Bloom has been scooping artisan ice cream for 13 years, with 12 to 18 flavors that vary daily. “We even made sweet corn ice cream, using local corn,” said Dallam. “We produce premium ice cream, with 17 percent butter fat and low overrun.”
As a general guide, fat content and total solids define four different grades of ice cream:
Economy — legal minimum fat and total solids of 10 percent and 36 percent, respectively
Standard — fat, 10 to 12 percent; total solids, 36 to 38 percent
Premium — fat, 12 to 15 percent; total solids, 38 to 40 percent
Super premium — fat, 15 to 18 percent; total solids, greater than 40 percent
Butter fat (or milk fat) increases the richness of ice cream’s flavor and produces the characteristic smooth texture by lubricating the palate. Fat also gives body to the ice cream, but drives up both the cost and calories. A variety of milk products can be used in ice cream, including whole milk, condensed milk, table cream (18 percent fat), and whipping cream (32 to 35 percent fat).
“Overrun” is air added during the mixing process to literally pump up the ice cream’s volume. Soft serve ice cream has 100 to 120 percent overrun, while gelato only has 30 to 40 percent overrun, giving it that smooth, dense flavor.
Other popular trail stops
Kilby Cream, in Rising Sun, another popular Ice Cream Trail creamery, started making ice cream in 2005 and offers such flavors as Holstein Cream, Udderly Chocolate, and Mink Mookie.
The Kilbys take pride in their careful and conscientious farming practices that produce ice cream “from cow to cone in two days.” The ice cream shop offers 23 flavors, available in cup or cone, pints, ice cream cakes, pies, and bonbons. A playground and farm petting zoo make Kilby’s a “destination dairy.”
At South Mountain Creamery, near Middletown, the cows are milked just 50 yards from the creamery, and the milk is made into ice cream within 12 hours. The new “farm-to-table” ice cream pairs fresh dairy products with “local ingredients across the board,” producing the freshest ice cream possible and supporting nearly 200 regional farming partners.
Visit all nine participating Maryland creameries, then send your completed Passport to the Maryland Department of Agriculture to enter a drawing to be crowned the 2017 Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail Blazer. The grand prize package includes a $50 gift certificate to the winner’s favorite creamery, and other ice cream-related gifts.
The program runs until Sept. 25. The posted hours of some of the creameries may vary. To be sure that they are open, call before you go.
Kitchen Guy Vanilla Ice Cream Base
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup table cream
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
Using a whisk, beat the eggs. Beat in the sugar. Mix the milk and table cream in a sauce pan and bring almost to a boil.
Beat the heated milk-cream mix into the egg mix. Cool the mix and add the whipping cream and vanilla.
This mix is excellent for ice cream machines.
Vanilla ice cream forms the basis for most of the flavors I make. To make blueberry, I add whole berries and blueberry syrup for the last five minute of the mixing time. For mint chocolate chip, mint flavoring and chocolate bits go into the mix, along with a dash of green food coloring as a crowd pleaser.
Reed Hellman is a professional writer living in Alberton, Md (reedhellmanwordsmith.com, email@example.com)