Guernsey cows are famed around the world for producing beautifully rich, golden milk and butter, and islanders are rightfully proud of our dairy farmers.
The Guernsey cow was first recorded as a separate breed in the 18th Century, and is descended from two French breeds that were imported to the island from Normandy and Brittany (Issigny and Froment du Léon cattle). You won’t see any other breed of cattle on Guernsey, as the import and introduction of other breeds was forbidden in order to maintain the purity of the Guernsey breed and to protect the island from disease, however Guernsey cows were exported and herds exist in the UK and USA. The milk has a high butterfat and protein content, and its yellow colour comes from increased levels of beta-carotene which is a source of vitamin A.
Julian and Katherine Ogier farm a herd of around 80 Guernsey milking cows and 50 heifers at Le Hechet Farm in Castel. In 2006 Julian was looking to diversify and add something extra to the farm. He considered producing peat, before spotting a commercial ice cream maker for sale in the classified ads section of Farmer’s Weekly. Katherine had a background in catering, as did her sister-in-law Rachel who had previously run a tea room and her husband Steve, and they decided to look into it further. Following a visit to the Isle of Wight to look at how a working farm there had expanded into making ice cream, they purchased a machine and started production. Most of Le Hechet Farm’s milk still goes to the dairy, with just a small amount being used to make ice cream. Katherine and Rachel produce around 200 litres of ice cream each week, year-round, although they tend to produce more during the busy summer months. They use the yolks of eggs from nearby Castel Farm Eggs and whipping cream from Guernsey Dairy (which will contain some cream from their own cows), and then add the flavouring such as their own or local fruit.
“Last year my Dad had a glut of plums from his trees so we used those, and because plum sorbet didn’t work quite so well on its own Rachel thought to mix it with almond ice cream to make an ice cream with a sort of Bakewell flavour which is really nice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Dad will have quite so many plums this year though!”
As well as using their own fruit, such as apricots, they will also make special small 2.5 litre batches of ice cream to order and if the flavour works then they make more and introduce it into their range which now includes around 30 flavours. They’ve recently made a marshmallow ice cream, a beetroot sorbet, flavoured ice cream with lavender, and in recent years have found that salt caramel has almost overtaken honeycomb as one of their most popular flavours. During the winter much of their ice cream goes to restaurants, however in the summer they take their ice cream cart to shows around Guernsey where they scoop directly for their customers and talk to them about their product.
“In ten years we’ve never had to advertise, as the product speaks for itself. People often try our ice cream at a show and then ask where else they can buy it, and we can see which flavours people really like and hear what flavours they’d like us to develop.”
When asked what her favourite flavour is, Katherine’s reply is chocolate and hazelnut – a combination that never used to be particularly popular when they served it from their cart until people started to associate the flavour with a particularly popular brand of chocolate spread, and now it’s really popular.
Look out for Guernsey Farmhouse Ice Cream from Le Hechet Farm at various public events around Guernsey over the remainder of the summer, and on our menu here at the Bella Luce.