The family at Hillbrooks are fifth generation farmers. When we meet the industrious mother and daughter team that are behind the luxury ice cream business, we are soon overwhelmed by the intricacies of the numerous sons, fathers, daughters and mothers of the farming family tree. We agree that fifth generation sums things up nicely. We have more pressing matters to discuss anyway; namely, just how they make their ice cream so tasty!
We’re ushered into the purpose built ice cream unit, established in 2007. The drive behind the business was to create a truly local product, buying milk from the surrounding area and using completely natural products. Based right on the border between Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, they have the pick of the bunch when it comes to the fantastic array of local fruit produced nearby.
Daughter, Jenny Jones explains;
‘We have a Herefordshire phone number and a Gloucestershire address, so we’re right in the middle of an area that is arguably unrivalled in terms of fresh produce.’
The duo produce everything themselves and are rightfully proud of the production unit they have created. Fresh ingredients are selected and weighed and just a few steps away they are added to a state-of-the-art ice cream machine which pasteurises the mixture and churns it into the delicious final product. The process takes just 40 minutes and no artificial ingredients are added at all with only fresh milk used, never milk powder.
The pair tell us how in the run up to the summer season they use 150 litres of full fat milk and 84 litres of double cream a week. However, winter can still be a successful period;
‘You can sell ice cream in the snow, we’ve proved that, but not in the rain!’
When it comes to developing new and unusual flavours, they do an incredible Damson ice cream, Jenny likes to keep an eye on popular dessert trends and flavours. Salted Caramel is still riding a wave of popularity that shows no sign of waning. They also regularly experiment with the flavours suggested by many of their local chef customers. They’ve collaborated with local businesses; their popular Cider and Raspberry sorbet is made using Westons Old Rosie who are based just 2 miles from the family farm. Their sorbet is also 100% dairy free, something that cannot be counted on in commercial production.
We move on to meet ‘Freida’ the walk-in freezer, which largely houses all the ice cream destined for our ice cream stall and Farmshop at Gloucester Services.
Unsurprisingly, they’re never short of keen taste-testers! When it comes to quality control, we learn that the whole family are involved as we meet some of the wider team who are eagerly tucking into a cone of their favourite ‘Pullover’, or Raspberry Pavlova as it’s more commonly known!
Hillbrooks are just another example of a small family business creating an exceptional product using the best natural ingredients, just the way it should be. Back at Gloucester Services, our ice cream stall is open every week between Friday and Monday and every day during school holidays, but if you visit outside these times don’t worry you can still find delicious Hillbrooks ice cream in our Farmshop.