Irish gourmet ice cream gets the cream
With Ireland’s growing reputation as a foodie haven, visitors always bring their appetites, and they are not disappointed. Smoked Salmon, prawns, oysters, spring lamb, free-range chicken, Angus beef, brown bread, artisan cheeses, Irish coffee, and Guinness all delight the palate. But don’t forget the ice cream!
With the relatively warm days of summer in Ireland, nothing refreshes the locals or visitors quite like ice cream. And in the past 10 years, Irish ice cream has come a long way. The boring vanilla cone has been joined by an array of gourmet colors and flavors, thanks to Sean and Kieran Murphy, two brothers from Rockland County, New York.
Sean and Kieran came to Ireland in 2000, following in the footsteps of their parents Finbarr and Sophia who were originally from Cork, settled in Chestnut Ridge, NY and raised a family, and then retired in the early 1990’s to Dingle, Co. Kerry.
A big ice cream fan, Sean missed the “decadently delicious” ice cream from New York. He realized he was not alone and soon saw a market niche for luxury ice cream flavors in Ireland. Realizing he would have to learn about making the product, he flew back to the US and enrolled in an ice cream-making course at Pennsylvania State University taught by leading food scientists.
Returning to Dingle, Sean brought an ice cream-maker machine from the states and started to experiment in the kitchen of the family home. The basic ingredients were easily accessible and all natural – fresh milk and cream, free range eggs, and local berries.
“We would start first thing in the morning, eating ice cream all day long, sampling and tasting, trying to get it right,” Sean remembers. “In the beginning, we poured Irish cream into the machine and it broke. We soon realized that the thick Irish cream sourced only from local Kerry cows, so different to the US product, had turned into butter. With a little help from a university professor in food science, we adapted the machine to the cream, and got it right.”
Flavors came next and the Murphy men were determined to produce ice cream with only natural ingredients, not flavorings. Ordinary product sources could not provide the goods. Instead Sean had to search out exotic food purveyors for pure chocolate, coffee, vanilla pods, mint, mangos, and more.
“We had to find fruit people, nut people, chocolate people, vanilla people, caramel people, and even Oreo cookie suppliers.” They gathered real liqueurs – Baileys, Kalua, Irish whiskey, plus Jamaican rum and champagne. Quality ingredients cost more money, however, and Murphys Ice Cream prices would be pegged higher than the usual mass-produced varieties.
To introduce their ice cream, the Murphys rented a small shop on Strand Street in Dingle town, using the front half as a shop/café and the rear as the production area. In their first year of business, Sean and Kieran had to do a lot of explaining to the local Dingle customers who constantly asked: “Why does this ice cream cost twice as much as the ice cream at the supermarket?” The concept of using top-shelf ingredients in ice cream had to be experienced.