What a fabulous little reality blip I just sailed through. For anyone out there interested in the business of Ice Cream, and this certainly applies to anyone who might own a dairy, you can’t do any better than the Penn State Ice Cream Short Course held every year at Penn State University in insanely cold central Pennsylvania.
Be forewarned if you’re planning on doing this course! It’s super intensive and they will slam a ton of information (and ice cream,) into you, relentlessly, for 15 hours every day. Considering it’s not that far removed from what I already do, a short hop to gustation from olfaction, it’s different in other ways. There’s no attached trade show with dueling vanilla venders, Belgian chocolate makers, and local/organic/hand milked/cow caressed/grass fed dairies clamoring for your tiny business.
Nope, it’s a big, well known, and widely understood industry, unlike essential oils. Meaning that whereas essential oils are not really known to the general public, at least not in the depth that we know them, everyone knows milk, and cows, and ice cream. So the information reflected this. We learned about mixing ingredients, about freezing, and pasteurizing milk. We did lot of chemistry, micro-biology, and even physics! We ate a lot of ice cream. We did get into vanilla in depth, as a matter of fact, and even made a blend of different origin vanillas to compete in a blind taste test next week. We did quite a bit with chocolate.
What kind of people come to this class? Dairy farmers. Ice Cream makers. Frozen dessert companies. Entrepreneurs. Even though it’s unlikely that all the information will be relevant to you, some of it will be. This is the well known and respected ice cream course and it’s not going to show you how to make ice cream in the sense of do a nice little maceration of fresh peppermint, or give you ideas about new flavors, but it will show you how to make ice cream in the practical sense of percentages of milk fat, serum solids, and this type of unromantic but highly pragmatic information.
Stripped bare like this, ice cream is a little more intimidating yet straightforward than I thought, It’s less happy discussions about mangos and apples and more in the sense of a guy in overalls with a milk stool, a cow and a mop. But it’s better like that, to learn practical information than to trade creative tidbits like matchbox cars. Cause all that creativity is swimming around inside anyway.
Speakers and presentations run the gamut from absolutely fabulous and ultra-engaging to an endurance test. This being Penn State, there is a lot of history thrown about, like the fact that the Berkey Creamery was started in 1865, and they originally made only butter! There was no refrigeration, no pasteurization, ice cream was something that happened in the moment, so you had to actually be there when it was made if you wanted to try it. And they have pictures of all this. It’s fascinating. Today the creamery uses all the milk produced at the diary barns and then brings in about 30% more just to make enough products for the town that feeds off Penn State, and they also make ice cream for the White House. It’s good ice cream and you can’t get more American than Penn State. Even the Naval Academy from Annapolis showed up at the hotel. It’s a full American experience; big and healthy, large cows, athletes, butterfat, comfortable inns glowing in the snowy night, a cozy fire roaring, alpha all the way.
So why did I go?? Well, I had my reasons, and they changed once, twice and three times while I was there. It’s always better to do something, if you can, and I could.
Does this mean we’ll have constant ice cream in the store? Hmmmm. Maybe, maybe not.
It gave me something to think about.
Something else I thought was just great: there is a class for this. I went to an essential oils training course at Purdue University in Indiana in 1996-1997. That course also covered a lot, but it wasn’t really geared towards getting people into any kind of business, except, perhaps, research. In the ensuing years I taught myself a lot of things. All those ice cream formulations? Yes, very difficult and complex but at least we don’t have to figure them out for ourselves! I mean, we have a method to find solutions. We can just have an idea, come up with a few numbers and plug them into some equations. We don’t have to figure out the method of the equations too!
I am so exhausted! I thought I could work on my taxes in the evenings!! That was fanciful! We started at 8 am sharp every day, and had our coffee and breakfast in class. Lunch was in the next room, and the afternoons were either more of the same or labs. Dinner and alcohol was usually taken in the main room again over meetings, questions & answers, homework. I felt I had to have wine every night, in self defense, as I could feel my arteries hardening, and my heart racing as we plowed through dozens and dozens of ice cream tastings. Every night I could barely wash my face before falling into bed and corpse-like sleep, waking with difficulty and rising from a deep hole the next morning, to stagger downstairs and sit blinking though the mornings classes, sipping coffee and trying to focus. It was grand.
Met a lot of nice people, a variety, not the kind of people I usually meet. Dairy farmers, mostly. Doesn’t do to limit oneself, dear.
So what now? We’ll see. Maybe not what you think.
Penn State Creamery