another busy day. Following yesterday’s pasteurisation the mix was left to mature overnight; allowing the ingredients to mingle & create a more subtle, sophisticated & stable gelato than one literally made ‘in the raw’. Granted, if we had our own Gelateria (our ultimate aspiration) we would craft the batches for immediate, fresh sale; however at the moment we’re tied to pots, so in order to create the perfect artisan ice cream we need to treat it with a little more TLC than necessary for freshly-scooped sales.
And I must admit, you cannot beat freshly-prepared gelato. Tony had missed his many months’ absence from the silky-smooth texture & sublime taste of the ‘real thing’; & from the first spoonful his delighted ‘Cheshire Cat’ grin said it all.
After crafting some serious batches to repelenish our exhausted stock I must admit that I too, was starting to feel pretty jaded. I’m not sure people realise just what sheer hard work this business involves: every pot lid & label has to be applied by hand; & whilst in our temporary accommodation at Food Centre Wales I have to affix a tiny label over every single Carmarthenshire UK Approvals Number (the little oval symbol consisting a series of letters & numbers which is a unique designator for every individual producer working within a local authority’s area of jurisdiction).
Then I have to erase ‘Gluten Free’ from each pot; because whilst all our products (with the exception of the seasonal speciality, Christmas Pudding) are assuredly gluten free, as we’re currently working in a multi-producer environment we cannot genuinely offer that guarantee unless for every single batch we make, we carry out some extremely expensive tests. Once we’re set up on-farm however, one of first acts will be to seek gluten-free accreditation for all but the Xmas Pud (& we’re working on that one…!).
Next comes the craft itself. If we’re concentrating on a fruit flavour I personally prepare all the fruit by hand, myself; having first selected the finest fruits in terms of quality, ripeness & variety (all of which are seasonally dependent & can radically affect the flavour of every batch of gelato) in the local area. Citrus fruits have to be zested, squeezed & the juice painstakingly sifted for even the tiniest pips; poudre cacao carefully measured, mixed & melted into the milk; & just the right amount of honey drizzled, & tiny cinder toffee chips scattered, into the gelato to create the perfect pollen-scented subtlety for our ‘Honeycomb’ variety.
And once the gelato is ready to be potted, the fiddly-but-physical work begins. Every pot – from the substantial 500mls to the individual 120mls – is filled entirely by hand: mine. We dispense gelato into a metal Napoli pan & from there I take a ‘Mark One’ dessert spoon & scooping the gelato onto the back of the spoon, carefully fill the pots with it. It’s hard, time-consuming labour & by the end of the day I inevitably have desperately sore feet, an aching back, & a big black bruise on the heel of my hand where the handle of the spoon constantly digs in.
And filling several hundred pots in this way in rapid succession (believe me I’m extremely swift) means that by the time we’ve finished making & potting each batch (both of which are done simultaneously) my hand & wrist ache so much I can scarce move them.
Thankfully whilst Tony’s at home we can get more done; plus I get the occasional break as he fills the Napoli pans we use for restaurants & our own market/festival sales whilst I clean, weigh, lid, metal-detect & date-label each pot.
However as we can only use Food Centre Wales’ premises for two days per week – & as we’re only permitted to pasteurise during the afternoon, cutting our actual practical time to only one-&-a-half days, we’re pretty stretched & things get extremely intense when we’re actually freezing & potting the gelato. Phew!
Funny, isn’t it, how your priorties in life change: once upon a time for us, the latest-technology mobile ‘phone would be the received gift of choice; nowadays I yearn for some comfortable food-grade wellies & a rubber-handled small specialist spatchelor to make potting-up even quicker & easier.
And as for the goats…? Well, as ever, what they want is their supper – so I must fly (again). As they’re so cheeky & naughty I cannot understand how it is that they always get a good night’s peaceful sleep when it’s no rest for Yours Truly, who has neither the time nor the energy these days, to slip her halo….! 😉