MONROE, Maine — Everyone knows that one of the best ways to make a hot summer day even better is a nice cone or dish of homemade ice cream.
And one of the more popular makers of small-batch ice cream in the midcoast region is Stone Fox Farm Creamery on Bartlett Hill Road in Monroe. Now in their third year of creating all-natural ice cream in a wide variety of flavors, Stone Fox Farm Creamery owners Bruce and Kathy Chamberlain have seen their product being gobbled up at local farmers markets, festivals and stores throughout the region. The couple have found themselves making ice cream around the clock to keep up with the growing demand.
“We’re basically making ice cream day and night, five-six days a week,” Kathy Chamberlain said. “Our biggest problem right now is time and storage. We never seem to have enough time, or enough freezers.”
Stone Fox Farm Creamery products are made from cream and milk from Maine farms and pure cane sugar. The flavors are locally sourced and are not made from concentrate. Right now the Chamberlain’s have been whipping up some raspberry ice cream from berries picked from a farm down the road. The same with blueberries. Fruits get mixed into ice cream only when in season.
“People kept asking for peach ice cream but we had to wait until the peaches were ripe before we could make some,” she said. Of the nonfruit flavors, the farm’s favorites by far are Ginger and Salted Caramel, Chamberlain added.
The Chamberlains had been making ice cream for their family for years. Bruce’s dad worked for Sealtest and was always bringing home ice cream for his kids. The Chamberlains got into the retail business five years ago operating a lunch cart at horse shows across the state. When they added ice cream, it quickly became their most popular item. It didn’t take them long to decide to drop the food and concentrate on the sweet stuff.
“Ice cream is basically milk, cream and sugar. It’s flavoring where we part company with most ice cream makers. They use artificial flavors; we don’t,” she said.
To increase their production, the couple first looked for used equipment. After looking at some older stuff, they decided to take a leap of faith and purchase an Italian-made Caprigiani ice cream maker, which can whip up 2.5 gallons in 10 minutes.
“It’s a pretty specialized piece of equipment. It’s computerized, and once you put the product in, it goes through the steps it’s supposed to,” she said. “We then put the finished product into a blast freezer for hardening at 15-20 degrees below zero.”
The instructions for the Caprigiani were translated from the original Italian, and the Chamberlains found some parts must have been lost in translation. To improve their knowledge of the machine, Bruce Chamberlain decided to take a course from a master ice cream maker in New Jersey. Because the course took place in July when most makers are out selling ice cream, he ended up getting a one-on-one tutorial that proved to be invaluable. “He really learned a lot,” Kathy Chamberlain said.
The products’ popularity spread by word of mouth and the Chamberlains now provide pints for sale in local grocery stores as well as from their ice cream wagon at the Augusta, Rockland, Camden and Gardiner farmers markets and at many local festivals. Next up is the Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors show in Rockland later this month. The family is on the road from May through October and makes seasonal ice cream for retail sale over the holidays.
“People seem to really like it,” Chamberlain said. “We make our own mix, which means we don’t buy a pre-made mix. We make our own from local milk, cream and cane sugar. It’s all natural flavors, and all fruit and maple syrup are sourced locally. We’ve been really busy and right now we are making it day and night. We’re trying to control our growth in a slow way, but at this time of year it’s hard to do that.”
The ice cream can be purchased at The Good Kettle, Stockton Springs; Nasons, Dixmont; Belfast Coop, Belfast; Swan Lake Grocery, Swanville; The Cool Spot, Belfast; The Good Tern, Rockland; and Sweets & Meats, Rockland.
For more information, visit http://www.stonefoxcreamery.com/.