It’s getting hot out there, very hot, and as the mercury soars, so inevitably do sales of ice cream. There are only a handful of local ice cream makers on Vancouver Island, and I introduced my listeners to one of them on this week’s edition of Food Matters on All Points West.
Earlier this week I paid a visit to the home of the main raw ingredient in Legato Gelato. Legato Gelato is made from goat’s milk from Snap Dragon Dairy in Fanny Bay, not too far south of Courtenay. Jaki Ayton and Karen Fouracre own the farm and make the gelato from their herd of goats…and I have to tell you the goats are VERY cute, especially the little ones that were just born this year. But the goat’s milk came before the gelato, and I asked Karen why:
“Well, quite a while ago I developed a lactose intolerance. When we decided to start a farm we thought why not have goats, they are easier to handle than cows and I can drink the milk. So then we started playing around with the milk, making yogurt, soft cheese, some hard cheeses that didn’t work out so well.”
As their herd increased in size they were able to sell some of their milk to David Wood of Salt Spring Island Cheese, since he didn’t want to have to get all of his goat milk from farms in the Lower Mainland. But then his business plan kind of changed, and they decided to take the processing of their product in their own hands. They decided on gelato after some research, certainly no one else was doing it. They bought a small gelato making machine, tested recipes until they thought they were ready. That meant they needed to have some sort of licensed pasteurizing facility. “Lo and behold,” said Karen, “there was a company setting up just such a plant not 20 minutes down the road in Royston. They wanted to work with us, and although it took over a year to get it going, that’s where we get our milk and eggs for the gelato pasteurized and where the gelato is frozen and packaged as well.”
Last year I told the story of all the hoops that the Tree Island Gourmet Yogurt people went through to build their processing plant, and one of their dreams was to be able to help other people who wanted to process milk products. So that plan has worked out well for all involved. Jaki and Karen make their fruit or other flavouring mixtures at another processing facility, then bring that to Tree Island where the milk and eggs have been pasteurized and put it into their BIG gelato freezer, and then into their packaging. And Karen just happened to give me a few samples to try. My favourites so far are the lemon and the strawberry, made from Ironwood Farm strawberries which are picked just down the highway from the goat farm.
If you’re ever had a strong goat cheese, you know it can be a little, well, goaty. But Karen says fresh goat milk should never smell or taste strongly of goat. I had some of the milk in my tea while I was there and certainly didn’t notice any strong flavour to it. The milk needs to be stored at 2 to 4 degrees C, colder than cow’s milk, and should be used within 3 or 4 days from milking, just like they do when they make gelato. That’s not to say you won’t notice the difference with their gelato, but that’s just it; it’s supposed to taste different.
Their products are becoming more and more popular. At first they were just selling at the Comox Valley Farmers Market, but now they are being carried by more and more shops in the Comox Valley but I think you will see some retailers pick them up here soon, they are coming down to get people turned on to their product next Wednesday at the Hudson Farmers Market. So when you put together good flavour, local ingredients, the bonus that goat milk is more suitable for people who have a lactose intolerance, it all adds up.