The lure is again cast.
Our passion has been stirred; we have not had a chance to create our Gelato in almost a month, & today we have been offered an unexpected opportunity to flex our creative muscles again, thanks to our friends at Carpigiani. With the urgency of the season’s close whetting our appetite to experiment whilst still being effectively hamstringed by the incomplete works in the milking parlour, we really needed to get out & refocus ourselves on what we’re doing & where we’re going.
So as dawn broke Tony tended to the animals whilst I gathered our ingredients together; after which we set off for Hereford, following the turbulent rains which had wracked the skies over the Ffarm during the previous night’s impenetrable darkness.
I’d endured a fretful night, awake; listening to the soft, snake-like hiss of rushing water as it streamed off our sturdy slate rooftiles & sent water sputtering along guttering….sluicing down drainpipes & hurrying in a head of foaming spume into (& unseasonably, out of) water butts, water barrels, buildings, byres & the bedspaces of indignant animals; uncomfortable at the tempestuously angry skies during a month ironically dubbed ‘August’ (benign).
Normally the occasional sharp summer storm might leave us cowering in grateful, mild terror; shivering beneath our own scant & starchily-inhospitable bedding. A simple shift of the wind, a change of the restless weather; & alternatively we find ourselves forced to discard said equally-tantalising cool, crisp linen in favour of the gentle brush of the blessed breeze, suffusing honeysuckle scents through wide-welcoming bedroom windows as we are suffocated by plump pillows & the softly-cloying embrace of the tangling duvet.
A watery sunshine tentatively greeted our departure this morning & we headed off to Hereford in anxious anticipation. On arrival we gratefully slurped down a much-needed cuppa before proverbially rolling up our sleeves & getting on with pasteurising our first batch of ‘wet’ gelato – a fundamental ‘yellow base’ of milk, sugar, cream & egg yolk. The pasteuriser we used today was mercifully simple to use, & also highly efficient; not to mention quicker & cleaner than that which we are currently used to. The first batch was ready in no time at all & we immediately set to work, freeze-churning a batch of ‘Simplicity’ (essentially what most people know as ‘Dairy’ although it’s not classed as dairy, as it’s goats’ & not cows’ milk – confused? We certainly were…!). It was lovely, light & creamy; nor was it too sweet, which did seem to be a problem with earlier attempts.
Next we ‘played’ with two versions of vanilla; & oddly enough despite faithfully attempting to replicate the ingredients quantities, this particular vanilla just somehow wasn’t quite right. Was it the milk’s season, or the delicacy of the vanilla? So as a ‘starter for ten’ we increased the vanilla’s strength….& it was truly delicious.
This was followed by our tantalisingly delicate Honeycomb. As we were using a vertical & not a horizontal freezer we had to carefully scatter the cinder toffee pieces by hand into the finished gelato as it churned from the machine, rather than adding it directly to the freezer barrel as we’ve done in the past. Tony was rather overenthusiastic so I do hope whoever consumes said gelato, loves their honeycomb…! Mind you the subsequent flavour revealed rich, floral honey notes whilst not cloyingly overpowering.
Next came the strawberry gelato into which we piled loads of fresh, ripe fruit – a smattering of Albion ‘Everbearer’ (i.e. long-season) strawberries from Shropshire whose long, dark, conical fruits possess a lovely fresh ‘green’ flavour; along with tasty, plump Jubilee stawberries from Herefordshire: ideal for ‘Lovespoon’ as these sweetly heart-shaped fruits have a naturally succulent flesh, mouthwatering flavour & distinctively rich aroma.
The evening before we craft the gelato, the hand-quartered fruits are carefully steeped in natural sugar & freshly-squeezed lemon juice (which creates a real depth of flavour in the berries) after which they are gently pulped & blended into their requisite quantity of our rich crème anglaise base. Today, the colour of these carefully-married cultivars, was incredible: a deep, rich, rose pink with an enticingly aromatic ripe strawberry scent – after all this is made with fruit, the whole fruit & nothing but the fruit….rather than with a synthetic paste or gel which to our tastebuds, just doesn’t seem the same.
And after a few minutes’ deft freeze-churning our tidy little batch lived up to all expectations, filled with fresh & flavourful fruit, bursting with beautiful aromas & painted with a palette of delicate, coral-pink colours. The strikingly punchy ‘green’ flavour was enhanced by the youthfulness of the zesty, fresh-picked fruit which emphasises the refreshingly natural taste.
Following exhaustion of the ‘Yellow Base’ we set to creating our ‘Cacao Base’ mix – a little different, but extremely special! Rather than adding a chocolate-flavoured paste to a ‘white base’ mix (white base is typically made with a pre-prepared powder containing sugars, skimmed milk & preservatives) we prefer a more artisanal art; & subtly alter our traditional ‘Yellow Base’ by carefully balancing it with pure natural glucose & deliciously dark poudre cacao which we gently cook into the mix, adding optimum body & sublime chocolate infusion, to our gelato. And today we really played with it….!
First flavour to tread the Cacao boards, was ‘Rich Chocolate’; which passed mouthwatering muster after a rigorous tasting (OK, any excuse…!). Next came the turn of ‘Port in a Storm’: which is essentially deepest, darkest chocolate Gelato laced with a seriously good slug (weeell….admittedly….75cl bottle per three-litre batch) of finest vintage Ruby Port; we love this decadently indulgent flavour which is worth doing very, very well. Of course the alcohol has to be ‘cooked’ off as otherwise the gelato wouldn’t freeze; but you still have all the taste.
But what can beat the sublimely delicious Pure Orange, whose rich chocolate is infused with finest oil of orange…& for those who demand even more, with finest shards of hand-cracked pure Dark Orange Straciatella? – which for true afficianados, is surely, sheer Chocolate Heaven.
Thereafter we played happily with our last few luscious litres; tickling tastebuds with types & degrees of chillies including the gently plump & mildly inoffensive Ancho variety interspersed with the deliciously fiery smoke of Chipoltes – a superbly spicy combination. Personally I’m averse to unappetisingly hot food; but the tantalising tang of fire & ice created by this combination is surprisingly ‘more-ish’.
Phew! So after all that we hugged our goodbyes & hurried home back through grey skies & sullen storms, just in time to welcome our indignant goats from their fresh green pasture & into their cosy, well-fed bedrooms; which after a few more hours’ exhausting work we collapsed ourselves; too tired to talk; too tired to eat; & too tired, indeed, to sleep………..ohh, pleease……gelato…..?
I dream of Heaven.