It's July, it's hot, and so it's time to indulge in some creamy, locally made ice cream.
Throughout the central San Joaquin Valley, ice cream makers are producing some interesting flavors from peach cobbler to cinnamon bun. And it isn't just ice cream shops that are dishing out the icy goodness. One of the newest local ice cream makers is scooping it out of a food truck.
Among the fastest growing producers is Rosa Brothers Milk Co. in Tulare. When the family-run dairy began selling its own milk and ice cream in 2012 it had only three flavors: chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. Now, as consumer demand grows, they are producing 10 flavors, including banana, cookies 'n' cream, nut 'n' honey and coconut 'n' chocolate.
"Our customers say the coconut 'n' chocolate tastes just like an Almond Joy bar," says Nicole Schott, sales and marketing representative for Rosa Brothers. "People have really become interested in locally made premium ice cream."
Schott says the dairy's ice cream, sold in pint containers, can be found at Save Mart stores, the Meat Market in Clovis and Peeve's Public House on the Fulton Mall.
Local ice cream makers say it's the high butter fat content that gives their ice cream its smooth and rich flavor. Most have about 14% butter fat and the most ultra premium ice cream — like Haagen-Dazs — has about 16%.
"We are after a creamy, dense ice cream that you almost have to bite into," said Daniel Avila, manager of the Fresno State's dairy processing plant.
Avila oversees the production of Fresno State's premium ice cream. The campus has become one of the leading ice cream makers, producing more than 50 flavors. The ice cream is sold at the Fresno State-run Gibson Farm Market on north Chestnut Avenue. You can also buy it at several local stores, including The Market at Herndon and West, Bella Frutta on the southeast corner of Willow and Shepherd avenues and Scoops, Soups & More in Old Town Clovis at Pollasky and Fifth streets.
At the Sunnyside Delicatessen, 5691 E. Kings Canyon Road, Greg Riley started making ice cream for fun, and now it has become a staple at the southeast Fresno eatery.
Riley recently whipped up rocky road, maple peanut butter and caramel bacon. He's also made maple peanut butter and peach cobbler. His handcrafted creations are made in small batches and he doesn't always make it again."I try not to repeat flavors, so when it's gone, it's gone," Riley says. "People sometimes get a little upset about that, but that just keeps people interested in the next flavor I come up with."
There's also Producer's Dairy in Fresno, which has been making ice cream for years. Consumers can find it at Walmart, R-N Market and Food 4 Less.
For those who don't mind a short drive, there is the always tried and true Superior Dairy at 325 N. Douty in Hanford. A well-known ice cream shop, Superior sells whopping portions of their own ice cream. In the foothills, there is Reimer's Candies & Gifts at 41969 Highway 41 in Oakhurst.
Also, if you are anywhere near Kingsburg, there is Jeb's Swedish Creamery, 382 Sierra St. The small ice cream store and restaurant has been gaining a loyal following among those who prize their creamy, rich-tasting ice cream.
"They use the best ingredients and you can taste it," said customer Nancy Fry.
Store manager Kim Lamborn says Jeb's owner and resident ice cream maker, Chic Brooks, is a stickler for fresh, natural and premium ingredients like Ghirardelli chocolate, farm fresh fruit and local cream.
"Everything we do here is done the old-fashioned way," Lamborn says. "The result is a smooth, rich and creamy taste."
Among the customer favorites are peach ice cream made with chunks of fresh peaches, creamy strawberry and banana.
One of the newest ice cream makers is Janel Nunes of Jay's Specialty Ice Cream in Fresno. You may have seen her bright blue truck around town at different events. Nunes also likes to make ice cream in small batches with premium ingredients.
"It is thick and rich," Nunes says.
This ice cream entrepreneur enjoys experimenting with textures and flavors. Among her favorites are Oreo delight, pistachio almond and cinnamon bun that has chunks of cinnamon roll in the ice cream.
She's also mixed zinfandel wine, champagne and vodka into some of her ice cream.
"It can make the flavor of the ice cream richer and tastier," Nunes says. "And people really seem to like it."