Old-time flavors on the menu at Chester Springs Creamery
By J. Chambless
Customers line up at the Milky Way Creamery. (Photo by Natalie Smith)
By Natalie Smith
What could be more natural for a dairy
farm then to serve its own ice cream?
In 2001, Milky Way Farm opened Chester Springs Creamery, an extremely popular destination for area customers of all ages.
“About 10 percent of our milk goes to the creamery,” said Carolyn Matthews Eaglehouse, whose family operates the farm. “We take our milk off-site to Longacres Modern Dairy in Barto, north of Boyertown. They then craft a mix for us, special to our specifications, so there’s no whey in it -- it’s a natural product, but more of a filler. We prefer for it not to be in our product, so it’s very creamy and very authentic. And then we bring the ice cream back here, and make the flavors onsite.”
Eaglehouse, among her other responsibilities, is president of the creamery. She and her husband, Lou, manage the business. She said they offer more than 50 flavors, although some are seasonal and not offered all the time. The flavors sport names like Molly’s Mint Chocolate Chip, Trixie’s Toffee Crunch and Robin’s Cinnamon Ribbon. “The ice cream flavors are named after cows. The sort of ‘revered’ cows. There are some I would never name a flavor after,” Eaglehouse said, laughing.
Crafting the flavors is one of the best parts of the job, she said. Ideas come from many sources, including creamery employees and customers themselves. Jingle's Peppermint Stick was made at the request of a woman who wanted all four generations of her family to have the experience of good peppermint ice cream.
“She was 95,” Eaglehouse said. “She used to come in faithfully every week. So I got some mint ingredients and they worked to craft just the right flavoring.
“Some flavors are created by mistake. We can be out of a certain ingredient. ‘OK, now what do we do? Something in the machine? What can we add to it? Oh, look at that!’ And Trixie’s Toffee Crunch was born.”
There was only one flavor customers mostly gave a thumbs-down. “We had a stint where we did sweet corn, Sadie's Sweet Corn Surprise. But it was a savory flavor and customers were expecting a sweet flavor. I happened to like it,” Eaglehouse said. “What was most interesting is that our staff had never had anybody say, ‘Oh, that tastes awful.’ They were so used to people saying they loved the ice cream. You either loved it or you didn't.”
But the rare miss hasn’t stopped Eaglehouse and her staff from trying out new flavors.
“We’re always experimenting. We’re running out of space in our freezer, although we don't make everything all the time,” she said. “But I have people who say, ‘Pumpkin flavor doesn't have to be seasonal. Why do you do that?’ We try to rotate flavors in and out, just to keep the variety there. But there are some classics that need to be there all the time.”
Eaglehouse also has her favorites: Joy's Peanut Butter Fudge, which is a peanut butter base with a fudge swirl; Robbin's Cinnamon Ribbon, a cinnamon base with a cream cheese swirl; and Lily's Lemon Sorbet.
They always try to have sugar-free and sorbet options available.
As someone with food allergies herself, Eaglehouse has ensured that almost everyone can have an ice cream treat, which is a big hit at the birthday parties hosted by the creamery. “We have allergy charts of what you should not have if you have an allergy to gluten, to egg or to peanut, or to whatever; these are flavors you avoid,” she said.
Employees also can follow a special procedure when serving the ice cream. “Whatever your allergy is, we can provide a fresh scoop, or out of a fresh box, in a fresh cup. You can enjoy the experience. It's not a big deal,” Eaglehouse said.
She related the story of an 8-year-old boy with allergies who had his first ice cream at the creamery. “His mother was crying. I was crying. He had never had the experience. We [accommodate] people all the time. Never be embarrassed to ask.”
Ice cream seems to touch a chord with many customers, as Eaglehouse gave another example of a woman from India who was overjoyed and crying when she found out they were serving an orange-pineapple flavor, which she hadn’t been able to get in the United States.
Eaglehouse acknowledged with a laugh that being able to enjoy the sweet treat sometimes stirs up emotions for her customers.
“People are very vested in this ice cream,” she said. “I always say I wouldn't want to have a steak business, because people are always unhappy with their steak. Not too many people are unhappy with ice cream.”
She also believes enjoying the ice cream in such a welcoming and delightful atmosphere as Milky Way Farm adds to the pleasure. “People can walk around, see the animals outside, and kind of experience, feel the essence, of the farm. It truly is magical,” Eaglehouse said. She wrote a children’s book called “The Magic of Milky Way Farm,” now in its second printing. “I feel it is very magical,” she said. “You can feel and experience some very nice things.”