On Wednesday I went to Hampshire to visit an ice cream factory. Conveniently this visit was arranged on a day a group of bloggers and I had already christened #icecreamwednesday on the account of parties arranged to experiment with ice cream flavours. Sadly, this was not a day for our experimentation, but to appreciate the experimentation of others. In particular, we were going to get a sneak preview of Jude’s Ice cream’s upcoming Christmas special: the Valrhona chocolate sorbet.
In the interest of full disclosure, Theo, who set up the business, and Judith, his wife whom the business is named after, are the god parents of my old flatmate. I learnt about them pretty quickly upon moving in, it was part of the accompanying explanation as to why there was such a large tub of prune and Armagnac ice cream taking over the freezer. Given I was allowed to tuck in as I wished, there were no complaints. It was the nicest ice cream I’d ever tried, apart from my mum’s homemade, of course!
I’d been desperate to visit the factory but on the one occasion Clare had been whilst I was living with her, I’d been unable to take the day off work. Hooray for no longer having a full time job which meant I could accept this invitation to see for myself how such deliciousness is created.
We were greeted at the farm by an incredibly adorable puppy, Pom, and her mum, Tinker, and sat in the beautiful garden to hear from Theo how Jude’s had come about. After years in the banking industry that had taken Theo and Judith and their four children to all corners of the world, in 2001 it was time for a change. Ever practical, Theo asked the authorities what businesses he would be permitted to start on their property. Upon hearing that it must be connected to the previous business – a dairy – Theo took himself to the local business library to research his options. It was a simple decision to try ice cream; it was much “sexier” than the alternatives and Theo felt that England was a long way behind the premium offerings available in the US and on the continent and it was only a matter of time before we followed suit.
In 2002 the business kicked off, first selling in the local pub and then in more pubs and restaurants in Hampshire. Theo’s best friend from university tried to dissuade him from starting the business altogether, he is thoroughly won over now and sits on the board. The family brainstormed a list of names for the business together and, as Theo says, “they were all promptly disregarded” and he went with Jude’s which is the name he has always referred to his wife by.
Jude’s new home (the ice cream, not the lady) is a specially kitted out industrial unit with state of the art machinery to ensure smooth mouth feel and efficient and hygienic procedures able to cope with the scale that might allow them to meet their goal of being the top of mind, premium ice cream choice in supermarkets across the country. I’m especially jealous that one of their neighbours is Caracoli, a small chain of bakeries and delicatessens in Hampshire. Maybe they’ll join forces and produce a Bakewell Tart Ice cream. (Please?)
The team spend a lot of their time tasting. Whether it’s competitors’ products, shelf-life trials or new recipes, there’s always ice cream to be had. No one seems to be sick of it yet. And lucky for us. Where possible all the ingredients, like the milk and cream from the cows we visited, is sourced as locally as possible (all the more reason for a Caracoli Bakewell Tart Ice Cream, I think!). To add to their already excellent Double Choc ice cream (with tiny chocolate pieces embedded in creamy chocolate ice cream) they are launching a rich chocolate sorbet in October. Made from a combination of Valrhona cocoa powder and chocolate, it’s dairy free and a completely different flavour profile to chocolate than the ice cream. One to watch out for. In the meantime their Salted Caramel is in Waitrose and running out of the freezer, their Roasted Peanut just won two gold stars in the Great Taste Awards and their Seasonal Special of Summer Berries is absolutely delicious… and waiting for me in my freezer.