Ice Cream of the Crop
The farm is a unique place. I mean, I don't know many places that combine a pumpkin patch and corn maze, weddings and events, donut fundraising, giant pumpkin growing, and berry patches all in one business.
And now we're adding one more thing.
For years, Kyle has had an idea of a food goods line in the back of his mind. For awhile, it was a jams and jellies, a common food product produced by places like ours. Then it was wine and craft beers. Then he entertained the idea of pies. Then cookies and cakes and the list goes on and on. But then one conversation changed his whole trajectory.
During a random chat one night, Kyle's neighbor and friend told him that he should think about a line of ice cream products. The more Kyle thought about it, the more he liked it. It seemed to fit. It was different. It sounded like a fun challenge.
But he wasn't sure where to start, so the same friend, who stays in close contact with the UW-Madison dairy science program, suggested Kyle look into Ice Cream School, and exclusive course taught once a year there.
What happened after that, well, was a lot of waiting. I mean, waiting, yes, but also a lot of work. We got distracted. Kyle finished building the barn, we grew a weddings and events business, and we started our fall season in the new space. We got busy, and so the food good lines took a backseat. Also, Kyle could not get into this class!
He tried to sign up once, it was full. And so the next time the course opened, he signed up immediately. But he still had to wait for another 8 months before the class began in January 2019. And it was when he walked in that he realized how exclusive and important this class was. He was one of 12 people in a 3-day course that ran from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. And even though Kyle drove 90 minutes to attend, he was in the minority because people had come from all over the country to attend: the Twin Cities; Virginia; Washington state; Manitoba, Canada; and Kentucky. To put it simply: this class is a really big deal.
The class, which is taught by UW professors but also by ice cream shop owners and industry manufacturers and experts, gave Kyle the opportunity to get the scoop on the ice cream that he wouldn't have gotten otherwise. He learned things at the class that he would have taken a long time to learn otherwise.
On the first day, Kyle and the gang had a crash course in the basics of ice cream and in ice cream food science. They learned then learned about the different machines and proper sanitation and cleanliness. That afternoon, they spent the entire time talking about vanilla and chocolate.
It was here that Kyle learned about all the different types of vanillas - they are made in all different parts of the world, such as Tahiti and Madagascar. They got to try them out, learned how the varieties make subtle differences in taste and texture, and experiment with these vanilla flavors. Not only did Kyle realize just how complex the seemingly simple vanilla flavor can be, but "imitation vanilla is forever ruined for me," he says.
The next two days were focused on using fruits and adding other ingredients to ice cream. They were asked a lot of questions that Kyle had never thought about. Like: What is the correct amount of ripple for an ice cream (the correct amount of butterscotch or chocolate sauce)? What is an inclusion (a horrible word for brownie bits and chocolate chips)? How does adding these things change flavor and texture?
Kyle left the class with a good sense of how he wanted to start his own ice cream business, and he was super excited to begin. Unfortunately, after the class, there was a whole other bout of waiting that needed to take place, which we'll cover in our next blog. We can't wait to share how we chose our ingredients, let you in on our experimentation and development (believe me, as a seven-month pregnant woman, I have had A LOT of fun with our experimentation process), and give you the details on our flavors and where you can find us during the month of June.
We hope you have as much fun as we are having with our new addition to our crazy world: small-batch, super premium ice cream!
In the early years, operating the kettle corn machine came with very specific instructions:
Don't use too much oil. Stir frequently. And when it catches on fire, shut off the gas and go find Kyle.
Back in that day, the $5,000 price tag on a new kettle corn machine was a little out of Kyle's budget, so he rounded up some family members and they put their "sure, I can make that" farmer attitude to work. The very first kettle corn machine was a product of a conversation with a knowledgeable carnival worker, quite a bit of YouTube research, some spare parts in the barn, and a little welding, It was what Kyle calls "a little quirky," but it did the job...that is, until it caught on fire. (And, yes, the answer to your question is, it did catch on fire...twice.)
Today, Kyle has a less Frankenstein monster-esque kettle corn machine, one that our employees can operate without needing a fire extinguisher at arm's reach. And these delicious kernels are a fall season staple!
The origins of our apple cider donuts also started under unusual circumstance. The summer Kyle decided to add the Snack Shack onto the old white barn, donuts were high on the list for food offerings, but the machine to make them was difficult to find. At that time, he was working pretty closely with the Grant County Fair board and had gotten to know the carnival operator very well. Kyle mentioned he was looking to add donuts to the fall season during a chat with him one day...and wouldn't you know - the guy had an old donut machine lying around in a trailer that he was going to toss out.
So the old donut machine came to call Vesperman Farms home. It didn't make great-looking donuts - they were misshapen and uneven - but the staff couldn't keep up with the orders. And Kyle knew that they were on to something with these donuts.
Although maybe not as dangerous as that first kettle corn machine, a lot of problem solving when into that first donut machine. Twice in that first fall season Kyle had to overnight parts when the motor burned up. And because the thing was old, there wasn't even a motor that fit it, so he spent nights reworking the motor to fit the machine.
Since that forgotten donut machine, Kyle has since upgraded to two newer models that are much more efficient and precise. Now we make 75-100,000 donuts every fall season!
Later one of those same motors ended up in the kettle corn machine, running the first auto-stir function that saved Kyle and his staff from some serious burns from hot, popping sugar. (Kyle used to dress basically like a beekeeper to keep himself from getting burned while stirring the popcorn.)
Donut making then....
...and donut making now!
Both the donuts and kettle corn have found their niche at the farm, and oftentimes are the favorite part of fall season for many of our guests. It's been fun for Kyle to see both foods evolve and take their own special place in many people's fall season experience. These fall treats are available soon - fall season starts September 22!
Can I just wax poetic about loaded baked potatoes for a minute?
Okay, you said no, but I'm going to do it anyway. Sorry.
There's no food that says sweet summer nights to me more than a loaded baked potato in a cardboard boat. Grab it from a food truck and then dish up your toppings at the condiment station. Eat it with a spork (or eventually your fingers because the spork would always break) while walking through the lights and the noise and the carnival color. Just pure deliciousness in the simplest of forms.
Now, baked potatoes are saying sweet fall days because they are making their debut at the farm this season. And I am so excited because I didn't think fall could get better...but it did. Good hearty potatoes with good hearty toppings. I'll be first in line to get mine!
New Fall Food: Brisket Sandwich
This is just your average premium-selected, dry-rubbed-in-a-special-blend-of-herbs-and-spices, and slow-smoked-for-eight-hours brisket sandwich that you can find pretty much everywhere.
That's a lie. This brisket is pretty special, and you can get it here on the farm this fall season. You don't even need the sauces. They're really just for show.
New Fall Food: Chicken Strips
They are locally sourced. They are hand cut, hand breaded, and then hand deep-fried (just kidding...we do that last step with a tongs).
And then they are served up to you new this fall season: chicken strips!
Sure these are for kids. But more importantly, YES, it's socially acceptable to order off the kid's menu here at the farm.
Recipe: Strawberry Shortcake
This is a delicious snack that (shh...) I've even eaten for breakfast because it's almost like a scone and I'm a grown-up and can do what I want. :)
For the shortcake
2 Egg Yolks (hard boiled)
1⅓ c Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1¼ c Kosher Salt
3 Tbs Granulated Sugar
6 Tbs Butter (chilled)
⅔ c Heavy Cream
2 Tbs Sanding Sugar or Granulated Sugar (for sprinkling)
For the filling
1½ lbs Fresh Strawberries
¼ c Granulated Sugar
1 tsp Lemon Zest
1 pinch Kosher Salt
2 tsp Lemon Juice (divided)
1 c Heavy Cream
2 Tbs Powdered Sugar
For the shortcake
Preheat the oven to 300° (on low).
Combine the egg yolks, flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in food processor and pulse until combined. Pulse in small chunks of the chilled butter until butter pieces are about pea-sized and incorporated throughout.
Add the cream and pulse 2 or 3 times to incorporate.
Remove dough from food processor and gently fold dough together to combine and mix in any dry spots. Do not over knead.
Using a ¼ scoop make 6 balls and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Don't flatten the dough.
Chill in the fridge until cold (about 20-25 minutes).
Take shortcakes out of fridge and brush with cream. Sprinkle sugar on top.
Bake about 20-28 minutes until golden and sides are firm to the touch. Cool before serving.
For the filling
Toss strawberries, sugar, lemon zest, and salt together in a medium bowl.
Put half of strawberries in sauce pan and add 1 tablespoon of water. Simmer over low heat until berries start to break down and become jammy and liquid is syrupy (about 12-18 minutes).
Cool. Once mixture is cool, add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to the berries still left in the bowl.
Combine heavy cream, powdered sugar, and pinch of salt in blender. Beat cream until soft peaks form.
Cut shortcakes in half. Add cooked strawberries, then raw strawberries, then the whipped cream to the bottom layer of cake. Top off with top layer of cake.
Recipe: Strawberry Pie
This sweet and simple pie is great for a dinner dessert, a family picnic, or (and we promise we won't tell) a delicious snack just 'cause.
For the crust
1 ½ c Flour
½ tsp Salt
2 Tbs Sugar
½ c Oil
2 Tbs Milk
For the filling
1 lb Fresh Strawberries (sliced)
1 c Sugar
3 Tbs Cornstarch
1 c Water
3 Tbs Strawberry Jell-O
2 Tbs Corn Syrup
For the crust
Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl. Pat mixture into the bottom of a pie pan to form the crust. Bake at 350° until crust is golden brown. Cool before adding filling.
For the filling
Layer berries in the pie crust until full (about 1 lb).
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and cornstarch into a small saucepan. Stir to combine. Add water and simmer until liquid begins to thicken. Add the Jello-O and corn syrup. Cook for a few minutes more until sauce is fully combined and thickened.
Remove from heat and pour mixture over berries. Cool the pie in fridge until fully chilled and thickened.
AND THE BEST STEP....Enjoy!
Who Needs Cake?
The donut trend is by no means a new one, but here at the farm, we are able to put our own special twist on what is always a popular alternative to traditional wedding cake. Couples can either cater them in from other vendors, or can choose to go through us for our delicious apple cider donuts. Usually a treat reserved for fall season, these donuts are fast becoming a popular choice for our couples. If you are on the Good Ship Donut, here are a few things you need to know about donuts at weddings in general, and some specific items to consider for our venue in particular!
These donuts are from the heavenly Greenbush Bakery, a preferred vendor here at the farm. They are located in Madison and have some seriously delicious donuts.
THE DEETs on the DONUTs
People have loved donuts for years, but the donut wall hit the trends a couple years ago and people haven't looked back.
Presentation style varies, from the stacking to the hanging to the ever-creative donut pegboard. With donuts, couples and bakers can get really creative with their presentation, offering a unique design, flavor, and statement to their wedding desserts.
Here at the farm, we offer a variety of options for flavors: go "traditional" with our tried-and-true apple cider donuts or branch out to chocolate, vanilla, and caramel frosted donuts (decorated with your wedding color scheme in mind).
We usually stack these delicious treats a mile high, but we work with all brides to help determine the best presentation for the donut of choice and for the unique style and flavor of each wedding decor.
It's always a good idea to think about the accessories, too—do you want hot or cold apple cider to be served or even hot chocolate and all the fixings (especially for those gorgeous winter weddings). We're strong believers that every donut experience should be transcendent, and we'll work hard to make sure your dessert stands out. While the presentation of these beautiful snacks might come in and out of favor, we're pretty sure these donuts are here to stay.
Taste of Lancaster
Kyle, Callie, and I had a lot of fun last night getting out of the barn to join other vendors at the Taste of Lancaster to benefit the Grant Regional Health Center. We met (and caught up with) a lot of great people, ate some delicious food, and, as a bonus, sat by the Spurgeon Vineyard table! :)
We made a variety of appetizers for people to taste, from delicious finger sandwiches to BBQ meatballs, bacon cheddar tots, and buffalo chicken dip. And, of course, we had our apple cider donuts!
Kyle also showed off some pretty impressive carpentry skills creating this snowman and pallet Christmas memory tree to represent our farm. The snowman was auctioned off at the silent auction to a very happy bidder. We kept the tree, though—it had too many memories!
Thanks for inviting us to participate. We look forward to next year!
Another New Face!
Fun on the farm...in blog form!