Misty is an 11 year old Brown Swiss owned by Laurie Cuevas and Bruce Jenks under their Hadley, MA based Signature Swiss prefix. Misty won Senior Champion, Grand Champion Brown Swiss and the Ralph W. Rice Memorial Award for best udder of all breeds at the 147th Annual Cummington Fair held the last weekend of August.
Earlier this year, under their label, Maple Valley Creamery (MVC), Cuevas and her partner Jenks joined the judges of an entirely different competition, to vote on the best flavored ice cream developed by University of Massachusetts food science students during their spring semester.
Cuevas and Jenks provided guidance and advice to the students throughout the semester for the project. The winning flavor would be produced and sold by MVC. Preparation began last summer between UMass and MVC.
Cuevas and Jenks were already on campus on judging day, having been asked to scoop ice cream for over 8,000 people at the annual UMass Founder’s Day celebration. “It is always an honor for us to be asked to work with UMass. Starting this fall, our ice cream will be featured in its own booth at the Mullins Center. It’s very exciting! We have a nice relationship with UMass, and a lot of other local colleges-Smith College, Amherst College,” she said.
While some contestants wore suits, “Our hair was flat from wearing our hats, our MVC tees streaked in ice cream and our forearms sticky from scooping. We went right from scooping for Founder’s Day, within mere minutes,” said Cuevas, “to join celebrated local chefs, including chefs from Esselon Café, Eaglebrook and The Farm Table to choose a winner out of four final flavors: Cinnamon Almond Crunch, Mango Coconut, Cherry Bomb and Peanut Butter Banana.”
The students already knew Cuevas and Jenks well, because, “The students asked us for advice, came to the farm, emailed us, texted us, wanted to choose ingredients as close to the source as possible so at the end it wouldn’t be too hard to reproduce the flavor.”
Starting with an ice cream base, the students strove to be cost effective. “They went out on campus and polled students, did taste tests to see if they liked or didn’t like it. They toyed with different types of alcohols, energy drinks and fruit flavorings, learning very quickly sometimes these things are cost prohibitive; adding high quality bourbon makes it cost prohibitive,” said Cuevas.
Peanut butter banana turned out to be hard to do because it doesn’t look as pretty; bananas get brown. “It has to have eye appeal as well taste appeal. If it looks good, people want to eat it.”
Cuevas and Jenks saw many win-wins in the competition. “So these students are food scientists. In their lifetime they might never be able to get a food product that they created on a store shelf. With this project they can add ice cream to their resume. That’s what we saw. So much more than a new flavor, new ideas. We think about ice cream all the time, we need new ideas; the students are thinking so hard and out of the box. Not to mention what we learned from it, the way ice cream tastes and how it behaves on your mouth. The more cream there is, the longer the taste lasts in your mouth. The chefs taught us that first you taste with your eyes, then your nose, then your mouth,” said Cuevas.
MVC uses milk and cream sourced from several local farms to create their ice cream. Jenks said, “We help to support 48 other farms and businesses, and food businesses, whether it’s coffee, maple syrup or blueberries. We work with other farms to source the ingredients for the ice cream and typically credit the farm on the label.” Vermont’s Maple Brook supplies their ricotta for the Lemon Ricotta, Hadley’s Esselon Artisan Coffee supplies coffee, North Hadley Sugar Shack supplies fresh maple syrup for both their Maple Walnut & Maple Bacon. “We just made peach, that’s my favorite,” said Cuevas.
“We tried making apple cider donut, but that didn’t work out too good for us. We will try anything. Have you tried our Maple Bacon? We can’t keep up with it in the stores,” said Jenks.
Now the ice cream competition’s winner, UMass Cherry Bomb, a cherry chocolate chunk, is on tap to sell at local stores and MVC’s own farm store, set to open soon. On this flavor’s label, “They allowed us to use the UMass U logo on the lids. It’s just so cool. We’re giving back 50 percent of the flavor’s proceeds to the food science program. They had so much fun with it, they want to do it again,” said Cuevas.
Meanwhile, back at their farm, “People peek in the door and want to see the cows. That’s what we do. If they look nervous, we say, ‘come in’. Don’t care if you have one cow, 100 cows, people want to see cows,” said Cuevas. They especially want to see Misty.
“It’s really unusual to see a cow that old at shows. The breed is known for their longevity, tend to last longer than other breed; that makes me happy. We’ve been together a long time. We bought three of them; Misty, her daughter Mystical, and another older cow named Silver from a friend. They’d had a fire, and we took a chance. Misty was just a regular milk cow. We worked hard on her and now she’s a superstar. We kept her happy, took good care of her, we just love her.”