Strawberry ice cream.
Big deal, right?
Well, if you’re talking Jeni’s Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk ice cream, you’re talking big-deal strawberry ice cream.
Not to be precious or anything, but there’s nothing ordinary about this perennial flavor. From the ingredients in it, to the process we use to make it, Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk is unusually delicious and it’s as labor-intensive as Juniper & Lemon Curd, Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, Yazoo Sue with Rosemary Bar Nuts, or any of the other unconventional flavors on our menu.
And while Roasted Strawberry buttermilk is always a popular perennial flavor, we’ve never made a better version of it than we’re making right now.
Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk ice cream begins with pounds and pounds of in-season berries, which are delivered in May and June from three sources in this order: Don and Katie Henry’s farm near Nashville, Hirsch Fruit Farm an hour south of Columbus, and Polter’s Berry Farm in northeast Ohio near Fremont.
The berries each farm produces are little red jewels that are field-ripened, picked at peak freshness, and delivered as soon as possible to our kitchen in Columbus.
During a strawberry harvesting session one morning in May, Mike Hirsch walked the 2.5-acre field, talking about this year’s great yield (1 quart of berries per foot) and the varieties of berries in the field (several to stretch the growing season). All the while he carefully watched the high school-aged pickers’ techniques. Mike, who stands about 6’2″ and sports the toned and tanned frame of someone fresh from boot camp, commanded the crew’s attention with little more than his presence.
“Quit kickin’ it,” Mike said to a young man who used his foot to move the berry basket rather than the preferred mode: bending to pick up the basket to move it.
“Remember the vibrations bruise the berries, and don’t just drop them in the basket. Put them in there gently or they’ll bruise. There you go.”
The precious berries grown and picked in season at Hirsch’s farm (and Don Henry’s and Polter’s) are not bred to travel like off-season strawberries the size of tennis balls that you find at the store in February. These are bred to pick and eat almost immediately, and they look and taste nothing like the strawberries only in name that are shipped coast to coast in the off-season.
Hirsch’s strawberries are picked and treated like fragile little babies. As soon as they’re in the back of the pick-up, they’re trucked to Hirsch’s freezer to stop the ripening, or to “drain the heat out of them,” as Mike said. Then, as soon as possible, Mike drives the berries to our kitchen in Columbus, where he takes pride in watching Jeni’s kitchen team sample the goods.
“Anything we grow is based on flavor,” Mike said. “How it tastes is all I care about. I love to see people take a bite of one of these and say, ‘Now, that’s a strawberry.’ “
And now, here’s how we go from berries in the field to berries in the ice cream:
Hirsch Fruit Farm’s 2.5 acre field of strawberries near Chillicothe, Ohio:
Mike Hirsch, owner of Hirsch Fruit Farm:
Ruby red, intensely flavorful strawberries from the field of Hirsch Fruit Farm:
Mike Hirsch, with strawberries resting in the freezer to “drain” the heat from them, or to stop them from ripening further:
Berries delivered to Jeni’s kitchen in Columbus, with the happy crew inspecting the precious goods:
In the kitchen, our team preps the strawberries. First, the wash:
Then, the capping, or removal of stems:
Beautiful capped/stemmed berries:
Next, the roasting to concentrate the berries’ flavor:
Berries out of the oven and ready to be blended with buttermilk and grass-grazed cream:
Blending roasted berries mixed with buttermilk and grass-grazed cream before they’re added to the ice cream machine to become Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk ice cream:
Super-creamy, incredibly flavorful Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk ice cream:
Unlike run-of-the-mill, “old-timey” strawberry ice cream, there are no icy chunks of tasteless berries to bite into. Our Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk is creamy through and through, with creamed, in-season strawberries in each bite.