For the record: Jake Hunt prefers chocolate. But he thought his fellow New Jerseyans might like a taste of home in their cones, so he's making ice cream from Taylor Ham, a.k.a. pork roll--a processed sandwich meat mysteriously beloved in the Garden State. "It's a roll of pork. There's no pretty way of saying it," says Hunt, a managing partner of his family's Windy Brow Farms in Fredon Township, New Jersey. "It's not pleasant when you think about pork roll alone, but it's pleasant in maple ice cream. Especially with some French toast tossed in there."
Sure. In any event, Hunt's sweet-and-meaty offering will be the centerpiece of five "only in Jersey" flavors available this summer at the farm's creamery. Other varieties: cranberry creamsicle, sweet corn and honey, buttermilk blueberry crisp, and tomato pie (made with ricotta, balsamic vinegar, and basil). The French-toast-infused Taylor Ham flavor has already attracted customers from all around the U.S., and Hunt has also received inquiries from Italy. "I think they think it's prosciutto ice cream," Hunt says, before defaulting to his Jersey pride. "You wouldn't want it if it were prosciutto."
Before Hunt was putting chunks of meat into the popular summer treat, he was on a different career track. The 28-year-old entrepreneur said agriculture was in his blood after growing up on Windy Brow and learning about his family's history in farming. He attended the University of Delaware, where he studied animal science in the hopes of becoming a vet. But an internship at the campus creamery, where he learned how to make ice cream, "sparked the entrepreneurial spirit and gave me that ice cream bug," Hunt says.
After graduating, Hunt managed a creamery in southern Delaware for about a year before approaching his parents back at Windy Brow: He told them he was ready to launch his own creamery on the farm. Within a month, the ice cream shop opened, celebrating its inaugural summer in 2013. Hunt said the creamery is a great asset for the business, but it's not the most prominent draw for visitors: People come to Windy Brow for an outdoor excursion and farm experience.
"I hope the ice cream takes on a life of its own," Hunt says. "And I'm thinking that this can and should be a catalyst to do so."
So far, so good. Windy Brow has seen a 50 to 60 percent increase in sales from this time last summer. Hunt also notes that he has received a few $200 and $300 transactions on pints and quarts of the Taylor Ham flavor from the creamery.
That uptick follows a larger trend in the industry, which currently books about $5 billion in annual sales. The ice cream industry overall is expected to grow 2.9 percent between 2013 and 2018, according to the market research firm IBISWorld.
Keeping Dessert Weird
And the flavors are getting weirder. Take for example the Museum of Ice Cream's The Pint Shop. The pop-up shop sells six standard flavors with one exception: "Churro Churro." The cinnamon ice cream comes packed with bits of, you guessed it, churros (read: a Spanish dessert made from a strip of fried dough and dusted with sugar and cinnamon).
For something that will both cool your mouth and melt your taste buds, head to the Ice Cream Shop in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, for a cone of its ghost pepper ice cream. Customers must sign a waiver before sampling this vanilla-based ice cream made with cinnamon, a ribbon of strawberry, four hot sauces, and a fresh mash of ghost pepper.
Besides Windy Brow's collection of "only in Jersey" flavors--which will run through July, with one of the five flavors getting released every two to four weeks--Hunt is also working on a collection of mocktail ice cream flavors that he hopes to unveil in the beginning of July. He's planning on making a Moscow mule--his go-to drink--a vegan strawberry piña colada, and a juniper and lime (read: gin and tonic) flavor.
Of course, there's a limit to how far consumers will go for variety in their desserts, Hunt notes. He confessed to making a commission flavor that included mushroom, black truffle, chili, and honey--which he called "absolutely awful."
"Why would you ever want mushroom ice cream?" Hunt asks.