Ice-cream is a year round business on the Pollock family farm, writes Aine McAuley.
Just like their dairy herd, it keeps going regardless of the season and there is an appetite for ice-cream all year round.
When I catch up with the couple at their home outside Castlerock, Ruth is busy sorting Christmas flavours. Candy cane, mulled wine sorbet and cinnamon are among the festive options alongside the more traditional offerings of vanilla and honeycomb.
“We’ve been in operation now for nearly 12 years. It is tough juggling the ice-cream operation with the farm but we have put everything into it, and in that time we have built up a really good customer base,” said Ruth.
The farm-produced ice-cream is very much a joint operation. Ruth has a background in food technology, while Ian is a third-generation dairy farmer. Using milk produced by their own herd, and drawing on Ruth’s technical expertise, Braemar Farm Ice-Cream is now a thriving enterprise. Their cow-pat flavour, using chocolate brownies and chocolate sauce, is a nod to the two aspects of life on their farm.
Visitors to Castlerock have likely enjoyed an ice-cream from their trailer which can be found on the Promenade. It’s open every weekend from February, and on a full-time basis during the summer season – regardless of the weather!
“We live in hope of a good summer,” said Ruth. It’s true that in recent years high temperatures and sunny days have been in short supply but this doesn’t stop the appetite for ice-cream. “People still sit in their car and eat it regardless of the weather,” she added.
Ruth makes her artisan ice-cream in a unit on the farm, pasteurising the milk before adding cream, sugar, egg yolks and her added ingredients for flavour. She uses local fruit and cream as much as possible, and the finished product lives up to its description as fresh, natural and udderly scrumptious.
The Pollock’s cows play an important role in the finished product, and their nutrition is carefully monitored to ensure a consistent milk quality.
The product has an Italian-edge as well, with all production equipment and packaging coming from Italy – a country with a long ice-cream heritage.
Ruth added: “Initially I used Italian recipes, but these tend to be very sweet and I have refined them over time to suit our tastes.”
When the business was in its infancy, Ruth continued to work part-time for her previous employer, WD Meats in Coleraine. This allowed her to develop her product before making it a full-time commitment.
“I put everything in to it, from production to delivery and I’m about the farm more now to help Ian. We’re really thriving, and it works for both of us,” she said.
The couple’s products can be found in local shops, and on the menus of near-by restaurants and hotels.
They also offer a wedding service, providing guests with a unique sweet treat straight from their ice-cream van.
This is especially popular during the summer, and Ian recalls having to leave the silage cutting to attend a wedding in County Tyrone.
“At times like this, it can feel like you’re running two farms,” he laughs.
Ruth is still taking orders for Christmas – to find out more go to the Braemar Farm Ice-Cream Facebook page where you will find further information and contact details.
Braemar Farm Ice Cream is a member of the Causeway Coast and Glens Food Network. It aims to transform the reputation of food from the area, by acting as a gateway to support and market knowledge.