Bob and Jeanette Kappers are proud to offer at least four flavors of farm-made ice cream at their farm dairy, “The Big Red Barn.”
Bob and Jeanette Kappers are proud to offer at least four flavors of farm-made ice cream at their farm dairy, “The Big Red Barn.”
Bob and Jeanette Kappers of Chatfield want to pass a pint.

They're not baskin' robins - they've had lots of work to do.

But the verdict? It's all been a blast.

"You never know what flavor you'll find here," said Big Red Barn co-proprietor Bob, who, along with his wife, is pleased to announce that the farm-based dairy is officially selling ice cream in just about any flavor they can conjure and concoct.

"We've made M&M, chocolate Heath toffee, candy cane, Captain Crunch berry flavor, we're trying Andes' mint, and we plan on having plain chocolate and maybe even eggnog,"

The Big Red Barn's ice cream may not be as nationally known, but the Kapperses are working to eventually make or rival Baskin Robbins' flavors - making their own pints available on a regular basis or as often as they can scoop out time to make ice cream.

The couple's venture into freezing the cream produced by their Holstein herd began as an idea that Bob had to explore, then became a possibility when they decided to offer a temporary community-supported agriculture (CSA) sale of shares into their business this past spring. Then they rounded up funding to buy a new ice cream machine and blast freezer in which to freeze the brew at 20 degrees below zero, and start churning out chilled vanilla for taste testers to vote on.

Bob stated, "We got way more response on the CSA than we thought we would, and it was nice to actually make ice cream, because it took a lot longer than we thought it would. We're lucky people were so patient because we didn't know that it would be such a long process. We were ready to make ice cream in June, but we had to get a lot of paperwork done."

The taste testers gave their vote to the samples that Jeanette pointed out were the ones that she and her husband originally chose as winners.

"We had a lot of good taste testers. They gave good, honest opinions, and almost everyone picked the same batch," she added.

Bob, who's glad to have been able to purchase the new ice cream machine to replace the old one that broke down regularly, related their ice cream contains no corn syrup, a benefit for both the dairy owners and their customers since it simplifies the mixing process and assures customers of quality ingredients.

"It's a little difficult and different to make ice cream this way because ours doesn't use corn syrup. It's a little limited on ingredients because we have to have it mixed just right," he explained.

Jeanette added, "There are five ingredients...actually six on the label because they make us list the milk and cream separately, but there's not a lot of weird things in our ice cream. People say that it tastes like old fashioned homemade ice cream because it doesn't have the crystals that rise to the top, too."

Jeanette also explained they have been experimenting with a lot of different flavors and are enjoying that process and the results!

The Kappers family has continued its quest to produce velvety vanilla ice cream, but they've got a few "oops" pints stored in the blast freezer for family consumption, including the first Cap'n Crunch batch, which came out with gummy cereal bits. They ground the cereal up for the second batch and discovered that by doing so, the crunch remains and the cereal also brings a nice bright pink glow to the ice cream.

So far, Bob has chosen coffee as his favorite flavor even though he's not a coffee fan, and Jeanette, well, so far, has concluded, "It would be hard to pick. I like the mini M&Ms because it tastes like a Dairy Queen Blizzard, almost. Candy cane is pretty fun because it turns the ice cream bright pink, too."

They're considering how to blend other candies and cereals into their ice cream, which guarantees that they'll have reason to taste even more even though they both say that they're trying not to eat too much because of the temptations that stand in their frozen storage.

However, they've got to determine what flavors are popular enough to take to market in Rochester and also to offer to their customers, and whether to offer them as ice cream novelties.

Jeanette said, "We've been experimenting with ice cream cookie sandwiches, and there's a bakery, Omar's Kitchen, that sells cookies at the market, and they'd supply us with the cookies we need. We tried M&M and chocolate chip cookies, and both were really good. We have to experiment with how fast to freeze the cookie and whether we have to freeze the cookie or the ice cream first."

Ice cream class takes place after all milk orders have been bottled and filled, of course, so Jeanette and Bob spend their evenings or weekends in the dairy doing what they call "fun."

Jeanette admitted sometimes, after a 12-hour day in the dairy, she's ready to call it a day, but once they begin blending a batch, she's in, spoon, bowl and Cap'n Crunch, even if the Cap'n doesn't crunch.

"Each batch makes 12 pints. If we're mixing something and we decide to try something new, it's fun. And the worst that happens is that we have to eat a batch or feed it to the dogs. One thing we like about making ice cream is that it's a product with a longer shelf life than milk and cream, because it's tricky to try to find time to make it," Jeanette added. "We've been training help to learn to run the machine, but it's fairly easy to run."

That doesn't mean that the Kapperses can take off on a vacation to Cancun anytime soon, though. Bob elaborated, "We've sold three years of pints through our CSA, and that will keep us busy filling those orders. We're really grateful for the supporters who bought into the CSA. We wouldn't have this machine or the ice cream without that."

Jeanette invited the public to stop out and purchase a pint or two and give advice on what might be the next flavor to try, as she and Bob are always open to suggestions.

"Come and see what we have. The ice cream is available to everyone, not just the people who bought CSA shares. We're open every day, even Christmas, because it's self-serve, so come out and see, taste our ice cream," she urged. "It's been really fun learning to make it."

For more information, call Kappers' Big Red Barn at (507) 867-3556 or log onto www.kappersbigredbarn.com.