ACME Ice Cream – How It’s Made
Every Independence Day, Grandpa used to host a big picnic gathering for the whole family complete with watermelon seed-spitting contests and three-legged races. Throughout the day, everyone took a turn working the hand-crank wooden ice cream maker. The core was filled with cream, milk, sugar, and probably strawberry puree – his favorite flavor – while the outer section contained chunks of ice and rock salt. No one wanted the earlier shift as it was nearly impossible to smoothly operate the crank until the ice started to melt a bit. As sweet as those ice cream memories are, the actual result was always somewhat disappointing. The ice cream was usually grainy and just this side of soupy – nothing like the rich, creamy smoothness achieved by ACME Ice Cream. So, how do you make ice cream worth writing home about – silky on the tongue, with decadent richness as it slowly melts on the palate?
The ACME Method
“First you make the base,” says Jim Hart, ACME Ice Cream VP of Operations. Fresh Whatcom County milk and cream are delivered in various amounts from five to three hundred gallons at a time. Refrigerated trucks pull up to the factory keeping that luxurious, creamy goodness below forty-five degrees at all times. When it’s time to start the mix, the “mixologist” pours the cream and milk into the mixing cone where a pump creates circulation and sucks the ingredients into a churning vortex. Granulated sugar, a touch of guar gum (for thickening), liquid eggs, and a dusting of milk powder follow the cream, which are blended and then transferred to a pasteurizing vat.
Pasteurization is the process of bringing ingredients to 155 degrees or above and holding at that temperature for at least 30 minutes in order to ensure the destruction of any harmful bacteria that might be present – a requirement of the USDA.
After the base is pasteurized, it goes through the homogenizer. A strong piston pump forces the mix through a small orifice that reduces the particle sizes and creates a smooth texture. (Ah! A key missing element in Grandpa’s ice cream system – hence the graininess in homemade ice cream.) Once creamy smoothness has been achieved, the mixture run through a heat exchanger – that’s a fancy term for pipes with very cold moving water that absorb heat from the mixture as it passes through.
Once the base has cooled from 160 down to 40 degrees, it goes into the flavoring tank. This is where things get tasty. Liquified flavors such as berry purees and very finely ground ingredients like Madagascar vanilla or Moka Joe espresso are blended into the mixture creating one of ACME Ice Cream’s signature flavors. Then, it is pumped into a continuous freezer to draw the temperature even lower to 20 degrees. The texture then thickens into “soft serve” consistency.
It’s at this point that the base is passed into the ingredient feeder where larger particulates like ACME’s homemade chocolate brownies or delectable pecans join the mixture at a metered rate. For the chocolate chip flavor, a ribbon of liquid chocolate feeds into the base where it freezes almost instantly and is chopped into bits by the agitator.
Finally, the ice cream goes to the filler head and is dispensed into cartons of various sizes. To ensure the product’s quality, a security seal tops the carton which is then passed through a metal detector. The cartons are loaded into cases and stored in the freezer at zero to -15 degrees. After that, it’s off to the markets and into the shopping cart of someone who knows how to treat themselves right. A quick ten-minute temper on the counter and cue ACME’s Ultra-Premium Ice Cream bliss.