The 100-plus Holstein dairy cows at the University of Delaware’s Newark Farm perform a very important function – they provide hands-on experiences and research opportunities for undergrad and grad students. Research options run the gamut, as the dairy nutrition research program is closely linked with studies on silage and forage production.
But some would argue that these Holsteins serve an even greater good – supplying the first and most important ingredient in UDairy Creamery ice cream.
Established in 2008, the UDairy Creamery produces premium ice cream in flavors such as “All Nighter” (coffee ice cream with cookie dough chunks, crushed chocolate sandwich cookies and a fudge swirl) and “Blue Hen Tracks” (vanilla ice cream with peanut butter cups, chocolate swirls and sprinkles).
“UD’s dairy cows provide the milk needed for 3,000 gallons of ice cream base each month,” says creamery manager Melinda Litvinas.
The process of getting that milk starts at 4:30 a.m. each morning, when first milking begins. It takes three hours to milk the cows and pump the milk into a cooling tank chilled to 38 degrees. Second milking starts at 3:30 p.m. and runs until 6:30 p.m. By the end of each day, the UD Dairy has produced 8,000 pounds of milk, according to dairy manager Richard Morris.
The portion of milk that’s earmarked for the creamery is delivered to Cumberland Dairy, in Bridgeton, N.J., where it’s homogenized and pasteurized, then made into ice cream base. The rest of the milk is picked up every two days by Hy-Point Dairy, which homogenizes and pasteurizes it for use in UD dining halls, as well as some New Castle County public school cafeterias. The remaining milk is sold to a dairy cooperative.
Although Cumberland makes the creamery’s ice cream base, the actual ice cream is made on site at UD by student employees, one small batch at a time. All those small batches add up. During peak season, the creamery produces almost eight tons of ice cream each week.
On a recent morning, Liz Abraham, an employee who just graduated from UD, was saying her teary-eyed goodbyes to Litvinas as rising sophomore Jason Morris made up a batch of “Delaware River Mud Pie.”
Morris has been working at the creamery since high school but he’s been around UD’s dairy cows all his life – he’s Richard Morris’ son. “When I was little, I lived on a house on the UD Farm,” he says. “I’m majoring in agribusiness now, and I’m learning a lot at the creamery.”
As he deftly mixes crushed cookies and fudge into vanilla ice cream, without so much as a splotch of chocolate splattering his apron, it’s clear that Morris has picked up the ins and outs of ice cream making.
“When I first started working here, I would be covered in fudge or caramel or marshmallow fluff after making a batch,” he says.
But he and the other student employees are learning more than just how to stay neat while working with humongous vats of fudge. Litvinas hires three interns each academic year to work as student managers. Together these managers and their 30 student employees develop and implement the creamery’s business plans.
They arrange for the sale of UDairy ice cream in bulk and at campus events. They order chocolate sandwich cookies and all the other mix-in ingredients, oversee special events, think up contests and other promotions. And best of all, experiment to come up with new ice cream flavors.
“The students have a lot of freedom to craft new ice cream flavors and test them out,” says Litvinas.
Currently, the most popular flavor is “Delaware River Mud Pie,” which features vanilla and chocolate cookie ice cream with fudge swirls. The No. 2 flavor is “1923,” a special flavor commemorating UD’s 90 years of study abroad. “1923” starts with French vanilla (France was the first destination for UD study abroad), complemented by bittersweet chocolate chunks and salted caramel swirls.
Creamery ice cream is sold by the scoop or carton at the storefront location on South College Avenue, as well as by the pint at the UD Barnes and Noble Bookstore and the Marriott Courtyard hotel on campus. And now it is available from an ice cream truck that will periodically visit UD’s Lewes and Georgetown campuses, as well as special events, including the Delaware State Fair.
Or, you could get your ice cream fix by going back to school. A rotating selection of creamery flavors is available in UD’s dining halls. Each week during the school year, students on the meal plan gobble up more than 1,000 pounds of ice cream.
The UDairy Creamery is located on the campus of UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, 535 S. College Ave. in Newark. Summer hours are 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. on weekends. For more information, see the website.
Article by Margo McDonough
Photo by Danielle Quigley