Ice queen

Award win­ning Suf­folk Meadow ice creamer Kather­ine Man­ning

EADT Suffolk - - Inside -

WHEN I turn up at the farm in Walpole to meet Kather­ine Man­ning of Suf­folk Meadow Ice Creams she is mop­ping the of­fice floor. She ex­plains that she’s so proud of her new(ish) build­ing she likes to keep it spot­less. I step care­fully onto a mat and, with an un­gainly hop, make it to the chair with­out leav­ing a mark, which is a good start to our get to­gether I reckon. The of­fice and pro­duc­tion kitchen was built in the sum­mer of 2016 dur­ing the height of ice cream de­mand so it was some­thing of a feat of or­gan­i­sa­tion to move ev­ery­thing with­out in­ter­rupt­ing the flow.

“It was mad,” says Kather­ine, with a huge smile, “we just worked solidly for days to get ev­ery­thing in place. But it was worth it and now we have a proper base for Suf­folk Meadow Ice Cream.”Ice cream has been a sweet treat for decades, first recorded in Eng­land in the 18th cen­tury. Later Vic­to­rian street ven­dors served ice cream in small thick glass gob­lets known as ‘Penny Lick­ers’ which were re­turned empty for re-use. Food hy­giene hadn’t been in­vented then, of course.

Once upon a time, ice cream came in vanilla, choco­late, straw­berry or, the most ex­otic, neapoli­tan or tutti frutti. But just look at it now. Kather­ine checks her list. Suf­folk Meadow has nearly 30 va­ri­eties, and if that’s not enough they can make al­most any­thing peo­ple want as long as they have 12 litres.

“In the sum­mer months we aver­age two thou­sand litres a week,” she says, “and iron­i­cally with all that choice vanilla is still the best seller and my favourite is our choco­late.” For those who don’t know, Suf­folk Meadow is one of the finest makes of ice cream around, started in 1989 by Kather­ine’s par­ents, David and Co­lette,us­ing their sur­plus milk from the fam­ily farm. All nat­u­ral, all lo­cal and

to­tally de­li­cious, a mil­lion miles away from the syn­thetic pap pumped out of mo­bile vats. Kather­ine and her brother James both grew into Mary­belle, the fam­ily dairy busi­ness, work­ing hard to keep it prof­itable. They added cream, yo­gurts and creme fraiche to their reper­toire, and Co­lette worked on new flavours for the ice cream. It was a slog, ad­mits Kather­ine, but hard work paid off with a win at the Great Taste Awards in 2013 and land­ing a con­tract to sup­ply Bri­tish Air­ways. This at­tracted the at­ten­tion of the Bel­gian com­pany Pur Natur and the fam­ily de­cided to sell them part of their busi­ness in 2014 and con­cen­trate on the Suf­folk Meadow brand.

Kather­ine men­tions her walk-through freezer sev­eral times, four to be ex­act, and it clearly means as much to her as a walk-in wardrobe does to a cer­tain kind of woman. But from ex­pe­ri­ence I un­der­stand the thrill of own­ing a life-chang­ing piece of kit when it makes a vast difference to your work­ing day. While we talk, Kather­ine keeps a weather eye on what’s hap­pen­ing in the fac­tory next door, vis­i­ble like a mini movie through the in­ter­con­nect­ing pic­ture win­dow. In the ar­range­ment of stain­less-steel ma­chines, ta­bles and equip­ment, Heather, Kather­ine’s in­valu­able as­sis­tant, is me­thod­i­cally work­ing her way through the day’s sched­ule.

“Un­like me, Heather has all the recipes in her head, she’s so quick and it’s all done to be the most ef­fi­cient way of work­ing. I’ll be in there with her when you’ve gone – it’s very com­pan­ion­able and one of the most en­joy­able jobs I do.” What’s new in the won­der­ful world of ice cream? I ask.

“Fan­tas­tic new flavours of sor­bets and ice cream gateaux which we can make to or­der, and our new range of frozen yo­gurts and kulfi, an In­dian frozen dessert. There’s a lot go­ing on, but we al­ways need to in­no­vate and come up with dif­fer­ent things to keep our cus­tomers happy. The ice cream gateaux are fab­u­lous, lay­ers of meringue with flavoured ice cream, and maybe fruit in be­tween, then cov­ered with a thick coat of whipped cream.” An­other big grin and Kather­ine adds: “I don’t have to pre­tend ice cream is good for you. Every­one knows it’s cream and fruit and flavour. But with my ice cream all those in­gre­di­ents are as good as they can be. Lo­cal milk, of course, and most of the fruit and flavours are from Suf­folk too.”

Like any per­son who runs a suc­cess­ful small busi­ness, Kather­ine turns her hand to ev­ery­thing. When not bal­anc­ing chil­dren and dogs with work, out at shows, on sell­ing trips or up to her el­bows in ice cream, she is in the of­fice plan­ning and or­gan­is­ing the sched­ules.

I ad­mire Kather­ine’s easy way of work­ing, her quiet ef­fi­ciency and de­vo­tion to her fam­ily and to the fam­ily busi­ness. Brother James sees to the fi­nan­cial side, when he’s not work­ing on new projects, or out judg­ing cat­tle at coun­try shows, Mum works on new flavours with Kather­ine, and Dad does de­liv­er­ies. On cue, he puts his head round the door to say he’s off in the van, takes a cou­ple of bis­cuits and dis­ap­pears.

“I think he only came in for the bis­cuits,” says Kather­ine. “I didn’t need to know he was leav­ing.” con­tact@suf­folk­meadow.co.uk

“There’s a lot go­ing on, but we al­ways need to in­no­vate and come up with dif­fer­ent things to keep our cus­tomers happy”

Cather­ine Man­ning at the HQ of Suf­folk Meadow Ice Cream. Photo: Sarah Lucy Brown

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