Thursday, September 1, 2016

Ice Cream Dreams

Velvet Ice Cream

Recently my nephew, a self-proclaimed expert in the field of ice cream, accompanied me on a trip to historic Ye Olde Mill and the Velvet Ice Cream facility in Utica, Ohio. A short drive northeast of Columbus lands you at this 26 acre property where you can not only view your favorite ice cream flavors being made right before your very eyes, but after you work up an appetite touring the scenic grounds and learning the deep rooted history of the company, you can visit the full service restaurant and adjacent ice cream parlor where you are encouraged to eat your dessert first.

My visit began by meeting with a member of the Velvet marketing team, whose job comes with the most delicious of perks - free ice cream! As the story behind one of the oldest family owned and operated ice cream companies in the country was shared, my mind began to fill with thoughts of towering scoops of Raspberry Fudge Cordial, Buckeye Classic, Mint Chocolate Chip, and Cookie Dough Extreme. In 1903 founder Joseph Dager emigrated through Ellis Island from Lebanon in search of the American dream. As other family members went to work in the Cleveland steel mills, Dager realized the city life wasn’t exactly what he had in mind, instead meeting up with a relative who was making chocolates in the rural city of Utica. Dager decided to focus his future on something much sweeter 1914 Velvet Ice Cream began offering the first of what would grow to be a myriad of flavors - Original Vanilla. With a company name derived from the velvety texture of their product, Dager soon expanded Velvet’s flavors to include chocolate and strawberry, as well as producing their own ice to combat a lack of refrigeration. As the years passed, the 2nd and 3rd generation of Dagers grew the business beyond the state of Ohio. In the 1960s, the family purchased the current property including the original grist and lumber mill which date back to 1817! Two centuries ago, the old mill used the power of the Licking River to turn its massive wheel in order to grind wheat into flour and later cut lumber. Although the mill is no longer operational its photogenic appeal adds to the charm of the property.

With my history lesson complete, I was taken to the viewing gallery where I was able to watch a handful of loyal workers mix up the latest flavor of Velvet Ice Cream. Each year thousands of students take the same tour and learn exactly where their food comes. As they peer through the plate glass wall, following the process from start to finish, it is explained how many ice cream companies purchase their ice cream mix or base from external suppliers, but at Velvet they not only make their own vanilla or chocolate mix from scratch, but they create the mix used by many well-known brands. The two main ingredients, cream and milk, are sourced from Ohio dairy cows, and the remainder of their ingredients are, whenever possible, are from US based partners. After the mix is made and the desired flavor or mix-ins are added, the finished product, which is between 10-12% butterfat, is more of a soft-serve consistency. It is then dispensed into its container and makes its way to the negative 100 degree freezer. Thanks to the minimal amount of time it takes for the ice cream to reach its ideal freezing temperature (negative 10 degrees), the freshness is locked in, further separating Velvet brand ice creams apart from the rest.

Joseph Dager launched Velvet Ice Cream by making a mere 5 gallons of product a day. Today, the 4th generation of Dagers are pumping out nearly 2,500 gallons an hour or over 6 million gallons each year! This family owned business stays busy by constantly developing new flavors while still producing old classics for you to enjoy year round. Typically rotating between three and five seasonal flavors, the lineup for summer included Summertime Peach, Campfire S’mores, Blueberry Cheesecake, Elephant Ear, and the official ice cream flavor of the Ohio State Fair, Banana Cream Pie. Velvet Ice Creams is currently producing 60-70 flavors within their Premium, All Natural, Churned, No Sugar Added, and newest addition Gelato lines of ice cream. Although you can find their ice creams in many retail locations around Central Ohio, I encourage you to make the trip Utica and take your time soaking in the beautiful landscape, viewing the process, and definitely eating the obscene amount of ice cream that you dreamed about as a child.

Ice Cream

The Velvet Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream (pictured left) traveled 41 miles to Columbus, while the ice cream (pictured right) traveled over 540 miles to Columbus.

Strawberry Shortbread Ice Cream Sandwiches

Click on the recipe cards to print your copy:

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