Fresh Ice Cream at the Farm

A friend and I hopped on the train for a Swiss adventure in the canton of Jura, about two hours northwest from Zürich, to track down the region’s famous Toétché (also known as Gâteau à la Crème Jurassien) and Gâteau du Cloître (tête de moine cheese tart with chives).   Sitting overlooking the Doubs River in the medieval town of St. Ursanne, gazing quizzically at the bridge beside us (that happened to be the inspiration for the illustrator of the Lord of the Rings book), eating trout from the water below us, we paged through brochures and maps to determine our afternoon (foodie) destination.

“I got it !”  A farm specializing in ice cream… with 450 flavors ?!  I dropped my fork and called them immediately.  On a Monday afternoon in July, they weren’t exactly in high production mode – or at all.  Nor were there crowds of people requesting a visit – or any at all.  Blaise Barth couldn’t possibly understand why I wanted to come, “It’s just a farm. It’s not very interesting.” Fast forward to 5 hours later when he was driving us back into town after a laughter-filled afternoon spent together, and me assuring him… “See, told ya it was super interesting !”

Glace de la Ferme, Jura, SwitzerlandGlace de la Ferme, Jura, SwitzerlandGlace de la Ferme, Jura, SwitzerlandGlace de la Ferme, Jura, Switzerland

After a train to Delémont (home to Switzerland’s largest labyrinthe), a Postbus to Corban, then a walk through the countryside, we spotted a farm up a long road, far off in the distance. “That must be it, no ?!” First greeted by jumping St. Bernards and cute baby kittens, Blandine Barth welcomed us like old friends she hadn’t seen in years. Before we knew it, we were sitting at a picnic table in a small open room, looking out over her family’s 24 hectares and at their neighbors’ cows, who supply the milk for Blandine’s homemade ice cream, of which she makes 200 liters per week.

Beaming with pride, she first had us taste her award-winning Damassine sorbet with a splash of another neighbor’s Damassine liqueur (Damson plums, now in season). It was outstanding, like simply eating the fruit in frozen form, and the liqueur not overpowering or nearly as strong as schnapps. Blandine’s father, a true joker, joined us for our tasting, which then included strawberry sorbet and strawberry ice cream, the former extremely creamy despite its only ingredients being local strawberries and sugar; the latter made with the addition of egg yolks – from her own chickens of course. What happens to all the egg whites then, you wonder ? They go to yet another neighbor, who makes perfect little meringues for Blandine’s vacherins and assorted cakes.

Glace de la Ferme, Jura, SwitzerlandGlace de la Ferme, Jura, SwitzerlandGlace de la Ferme, Jura, SwitzerlandGlace de la Ferme, Jura, Switzerland

At this point, my friend Amy Eber, Food Scout for World Radio Switzerland, realized she had a program in the making. The Barth’s warm welcome and generosity were entirely genuine; they hadn’t known we would be reporting on their ice cream on air and online.  Simultaneously translating from French to English for Amy, asking Blandine 101 questions, joking around with her father, eating every scoop of ice cream placed before me and taking photos as well – was quite an adventure in itself.  A seriously delicious one at that.  Neither of us had tasted sorbet so flavorful and especially creamy, without additional ingredients to give it that extra unctuous texture.  There was a fragrant Cavaillon melon sorbet that wowed us as well (so did the vanilla ice cream, anything but plain), and like every flavor, made without any artificial aromas or color.

Turns out, the Barth family works with Glace de la Ferme, a large company from Holland with artisanal producers in 13 European countries, including 200 throughout Switzerland.  Their key message is local sourcing of ingredients. They simply supply their own sugar and recipes (there are 450 !) as a starting point, and then each individual ice cream maker puts his or her own personal touch on it.  Hence Blandine’s bronze medal in 2009 at the Concours Suisse des Produits du Terroir for her Damassine sorbet.

Glace de la Ferme, Jura, SwitzerlandGlace de la Ferme, Jura, SwitzerlandGlace de la Ferme, Jura, SwitzerlandGlace de la Ferme, Jura, Switzerland

What flavor was my favorite ?  Coffee.  Definitely coffee.  Coffee is always my favorite flavor of ice cream, and the Barth’s was smooth, not too strong in coffee flavor and neither bitter nor overly sweet.  Grandpa’s favorite was caramel, he told me with a large grin.  I tasted that one too, and I certainly see why.  What was Amy’s favorite ? Listen to her posdcast to find out !

Glace de la Ferme, Jura, SwitzerlandGlace de la Ferme, Jura, SwitzerlandGlace de la Ferme, Jura, SwitzerlandGlace de la Ferme, Jura, Switzerland

Last but not least, a visit to any farm wouldn’t be complete without watching some of the 500 chickens lay an egg right before your eyes.  Amy and I each bought a carton and enjoyed them in omelets that evening. It doesn’t get any fresher than that.

You can call the Barths in advance to visit the farm, to pick up fresh eggs and sublime ice cream, or taste it in various restaurants in the area.  I know Amy will be heading back that way for a bottle of Damassine liqueur.  I suppose I could join her again… and bring a portable freezer with dry ice !

Glace de la Campagne (part of Glace de la Ferme)
Blandine et Blaise Barth
Ferme Les Esserts
2826 Corban
Switzerland
+41.32.438.87.58
http://www.glacedelacampagne.ch/ (the Barth’s site)
http://www.glacedelaferme.com/ (the Dutch company’s site)

19 Responses to “Fresh Ice Cream at the Farm”

  1. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    What a wonderful day trip. Any place that has 450 flavours of ice cream is a must visit destination, no? What a challenge it would be to sample each and every flavour. That’d have to happen over several visits, no?

    I had a chuckle when I read how they give all the egg whites to their neighbour. Now that I don’t make macarons so often, I struggle with having egg whites left over. I wish I had a neighbour to give them to as well! :)

  2. Sarah says:

    Absolutely gorgeous post! I love ice-cream, and can only imagine how lovely that would have been!

    xox Sarah

  3. Tracy via the traveling cupcake says:

    This sounds like an amazing trip, what a find! Do they only sell their ice cream in the local area or is there any chance I could find some in London?

  4. Kerrin says:

    Julia, to taste all 450 ice cream recipes, you’d need a bit more than just a few visits ! ;) That’s the absolute maximum number of varieties possible, but certainly not what they would have on any one day. They’d need a freezer the size of their entire farm ! As for your egg whites, the solution is… to make macarons more often again ! haha !

    Sarah, thanks – to a fellow ice cream lover ! ;)

    Tracy, the Barth family’s ice cream is only available in restaurants in that region. But the company, Glace de la Ferme, has producers in the UK too: http://glacedelaferme.com/html/country_select.html – Unfortunately their site doesn’t just show a list of producers and places you can buy it. But I’d say, keep your eye out for their logo above (one of the top pics here). On your side of the channel, it will say “Farmhouse Ice Cream” instead. Good luck – and let me know if you find it !

  5. wandering educators says:

    oh my GOSH! this must be one of the best places in the world. 450 flavors!!! i think i’d plan a trip to europe around visiting them! thank you!

  6. Meister @ The Nervous Cook says:

    The Barths sound so utterly charming and delightful — what a lovely profile of them! You capture their love of life and food so well… and now, of course, I’m just dying for some farm-fresh iced cream.

  7. Emma says:

    What a dreamy spot and a spectacular find! 450 recipes, ouah! It sounds too good to be true. Did you get to try the choco-noisette-truffe flavor? I would definitely nab that one quickly. Or how about the Vodka Red Bull sorbet? I would, in turn, steer clear of that one.

    What a jovial family! I’m sure living in that type of location can do wonders for your health and well being – - it’s time for me to move to the country, I think:)

  8. Amanda says:

    Kerrin!! This is hands down one of my favorite posts! I felt like I visited the farm with you. While I was in your neck of the woods, I only wished I had the language skills to call up local farmers and have my own taste tests — jealous! Now living in a big city, I think it’s admirable that Blandine and her neighbors locally source all their ingredients among one another, but what’s fantastic is that for the Swiss that is just a standard way of doing things, no? :)

  9. Amanda says:

    …one last thing… ice cream from Swiss cows and greetings from St. Bernards — how utterly Swiss!!

  10. Kerrin says:

    wandering educators, haha – I guess you do love your ice cream ! 450 flavors – that’s just crazy really !

    Meister, thanks so much ! The Barths will certainly be pleased to read your comment — I’ll translate it for them ;)

    Emma, we tried the more basic flavors. I don’t think Blandine wanted to scare me away – the Vodka Red Bull sorbet certainly would have done that ! I’ll have to study the most up-to-date flavor list before my next visit… and be ready with special requests. So, when are you moving ?? =)

    Amanda, oh wow, thank you ! So glad you came along with us ! :) And you are so so right, this is not at all outrageous or out of the ordinary for the Swiss. Eggs from their chickens, milk from their neighbor’s cows, fruit from their friends… I love everything that’s so utterly Swiss ! When are you coming back to visit ??

  11. Emma says:

    I will be finishing up with my obligations here in central Maine by December. Where I will go after that…. is the big question! Stay tuned – hopefully wherever I land will have at least one nice bakery, or restaurant, or chocolate bar… within a 50-mile radius!

  12. Valentina says:

    Kerrin, how fab this visit might have been. First for the location: in the depths of the country side;t hen the fact that you are visiting an ice cream farm. Local to you. Great stuff. The family seems just great too. I guess it cant get much better than that.

  13. Katrin says:

    “Simultaneously translating from French to English for Amy, asking Blandine 101 questions, joking around with her father, eating every scoop of ice cream placed before me and taking photos as well”

    Multitasking, Kerrin style!

  14. Kerrin says:

    Emma, how exciting ! A new adventure begins in 2012… I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you that you land in the very heart of tons of charming bakeries, chocolate shops and more ! You need to move to *this* side of the ocean though ! Lots of good luck for the next 5 months !

    Valentina, you are so right, it was definitely an amazing visit that we didn’t plan at all, so that just made it even more exciting. An ice cream farm – gotta love it !

    Katrin, haha !! LOVE it ! =) And thank you for sharing the link for the interview with John Howe that I shared above. A very cool fun fact for sure.

  15. mom says:

    This was the perfect day for you!!! Tasting fresh, made on the spot ice cream!!! The photographs are just popping out of the computer. I want to taste my favorite ice cream….coffee. Too bad that you can’t take home some samples….I truly love the photo of the chicken and the little egg that was just hatched! You certainly don’t get this kind of visual in NY!! Ice cream…ice cream we all scream for ice cream!!!

  16. Alan says:

    Sounds wonderful. Wish they could ship it to America, but by the time it got here, it would be milkshakes.

    Happy birthday!

  17. Kelly Holman says:

    Kerrin, I first found you when I was looking for a Kugelhopf mould online. I’ve been following you ever since. After reading about your ice cream adventure, guess what, I want to go and make ice cream. We have damsons close to ripeness in the garden so I’m going to try some sorbet too. Thanks for lots of sweet inspiration.

  18. Kerrin says:

    Mom, like mother like daughter – you and me both, we do love our coffee ice cream ! And yes, so cool to have watched those chickens laying their eggs right in front of us !! They weren’t easy to photograph though – running so fast all over the place, haha !

    Alan, I think you’re on to something… a milkshake sure sounds good to me. ;) And thank you so much for the birthday wishes !!

    Kelly, I’m so glad you stumbled on my blog, thank you so much for your wonderful comment. I hope you enjoy your homemade ice cream and sorbet (wish I could taste them !) – and baking your kugelhopf too ! :)

  19. Laura says:

    Kerrin, this looks like an amazing place! I’ve just eaten dinner and now I want a melon sorbet…

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