It was the first day of the School holidays and when Jon said he was going to pick up some more ice cream from Tennacott Dairy, the kids (and me) jumped at the chance to tag along, meet the cows and visit a real ‘ice-cream factory’. Although Tennacott Farm could never be described as a factory. Its a working dairy farm with 150 happy cows and from there, our friend, Sam hand-makes the most amazing ice cream. We use her Madagascan Vanilla Ice Cream in our award winning ‘Top Gun’ dessert. (‘Top Gun’ consists of vanilla ice cream, hot roasted sweet cashew cracking nuts and salted caramel sauce.) But she also has lots of other yummy flavours including ‘Strawberries & Cream’, Mango Twist (my favourite) and Honeycomb, and lots more.
Sam lives on the farm with her family and they are all involved in the farm. Her Dad and brother takes care of the general running of the farm and her mum looks after the cows and Sam makes the ice-cream!
The farm is located in the beautiful countryside just outside Bideford, with panoramic views over the countryside and down towards the estuary. We arrived at the Farm and knew we were at the right place as her lovely old fashioned style ice cream van was parked outside, just back from a day’s work at Instow.
The Ice Cream Parlour
Sam took us to see the ice cream parlour first. Everything was clean and bright and she showed us her two machines that were busy whirring away. She explained that the machines were pasteurising the creamy milk and the ingredients at 65°c, so that they would be ready to add the flavours and whip later that evening. She let us have a taste of it at this early stage, and it tasted lovely, creamy and sweet.
The Milking Shed
After the ice cream parlour we went outside and round the corner to the dairy. She showed us where the cows wait before they enter the milking shed. She then led us into the milking shed and we learned that they milk the cows twice a day, around 6am and 4pm, and they can milk the whole herd in around 2 hours.
Sam showed us where the cows stand and how they fix the teats onto the udders, where the milk is collected and then how it goes through a filter and into a huge tank. Sam opened the top of the tank, and we took turns to stand on the step and look down into the big tank and see the milk. The milk is stored in this milk tanker and is collected daily to be taken to a local cheese making farm. Before the tanker arrives Sam has to remember to collect enough milk for her ice-cream and a few pints for her family to use in the farm. All the family drink the milk directly from the tank before its pasteurised, so its fresh, delicious and creamy. But we didn’t try the milk at this stage as, if you are not used to it, it can make you feel a bit sick.
The distance from the milking sheds to the ice-cream parlour couldn’t be more than 10 yards, so Sams ice cream is just about as fresh as you can get.
After the milking shed we went to look for the cows. She led us to a few fields they like to go in. We went down the hill, but there were no cows just more beautiful views. But Oliver are Evelyn had already found them, they were actually very close to the house, right next to the ice cream parlour and dairy. We went through the gate into the field and talked to the cows. There are 150 cows, all numbered so Sam’s parents know what stage of their cycle they are on. They breed their own cows and look after them so they are not often bought and sold.
The Ice Cream Van
When we had said goodbye to the cows we were nearly at the end of our tour. There was one last treat. Sam asked if we wanted an ice cream? ‘Yes Please!’ we shouted. Oliver and Evelyn were allowed into Sam’s ice cream van and served our ice creams. We had to choose off the menu. Mummy had honeycomb, Daddy had strawberries and cream and Oliver and Evelyn had chocolate.
It was a lovely afternoon. We learnt a lot of new interesting things and can’t wait to go back again in September to see the cows being milked and maybe feed some calf’s too.
For more information on Sam’s Ice Cream, please visit: www.tennacottdairy.co.uk