by Lettie Stratton
Three years ago, Craig Abel-Palmer was sitting outside in front of his house and caught a whiff of a Russian Sage bush. While most would have enjoyed the smell and soon forgot about it, Craig was inspired to incorporate the Russian Sage into his homemade ice cream. He began with a honey-based mix, clipped the blossoms into it, and fell in love with the flavor it created. Thus, Craig’s specialization in unique flavors like Basil Balsamic Strawberry and Cilantro Lime was born.
Craig began selling ice cream full time out of his Shelburne home in January, but has been making it for years as a hobby. Previously, he worked as a financial administrator at UVM for 12 years. “Things just change,” he said. “I love the creativity of making ice cream and it’s great to be at home all day.”
The first time Craig made ice cream was at a barn-raising event at Shelburne Museum. “My sister volunteered to help make hand-cranked ice cream there, so naturally that meant the whole family had to help,” he said. “I had never had hand-cranked ice cream before. I couldn’t believe how good it tasted!” The experience at Shelburne Museum prompted Craig to think about other ways in which ice cream could be made with fresh, local, seasonal ingredients.
Although the top-selling flavors of Craig’s Premium Ice Cream are sea salt caramel, chocolate peanut butter fudge, and fresh mint chocolate chip, Craig’s personal favorites are the infused flavors. He uses tea, ginger, and different herbs (all of which he gets from his own yard or his neighbors’ gardens) to create specialty ice creams. His favorite flavor is Basil Balsamic Strawberry. “It’s my favorite because it took me the longest to get the recipe right,” he explained.
Right now, Craig is making about 21 gallons of ice cream a week. He offers 12 different flavors and tries to keep at least a week and a half’s worth of inventory built up. “I have sold out before and had to start from scratch to meet demand,” he said. “It’s a good problem to have!”
There are three ways to get at taste of Craig’s ice cream. He sells pints and half-pints from his home on Saturdays. “Those are the best sales,” he said. He also makes deliveries on Friday mornings after dropping his three boys off at SCS. Recently, Craig began going to the Williston Farmers Market on Wednesdays. He also has subscribers, who pay up front for an all-year supply of ice cream, similar to what farmers call a CSA share. These subscribers receive ice cream in pint-a-month or quart-a-month installments. Craig delivers their product once a month, as long as they live in a 10-mile radius of his home at 458 Olde Orchard Lane in Shelburne. “It keeps it sustainable,” he said.
So what’s the next step? Craig said opening his own ice cream shop is the next step, but being entirely self-financed, he realizes that his expenses will skyrocket once his business leaves his home. “I want to be convinced that the demand will be there first,” he said. “I’ll wait. I think what I’m doing has been really successful so far.”
Visit www.craigspremiumicecream.com to learn more or to place an order.