Written By Michael Vyskocil
To say that ice cream is big business in America is an understatement. According to the FDA, the U.S. produced about 1.55 billion gallons of ice cream and related frozen desserts in 2006. And the International Ice Cream Association reports that U.S. sales of the cool, creamy treat amounted to nearly $23 billion in the same period.
But there are many people who believe that some of the best ice cream is made by a small business, right here in Carroll County, by families who have made the frozen delicacy for years.
Linda Crabbs and Lori Shamer, co-owners of Hoffman’s Home Made Ice Cream in Westminster, are following in the tradition of their father and grandfather who made ice cream before them.
“My grandfather, Jesse Hoffman, started making ice cream in 1947. He had a relative in Hanover (Pa.) who had an ice cream store and he thought he’d give it a try,” Linda Crabbs said.
Her father, Robert Hoffman, and his brother Richard took over the business from her grandfather “sometime in the ’50s,” she said. In 1998, Crabbs along with her sister Lori and brother Jeff Hoffman became the third generation of ice-cream makers, leading Hoffman’s Home Made Ice Cream into the 21st century.
“You just wouldn’t think of doing anything else,” Crabbs said. “Hoffman’s is a landmark in Carroll County.”
Rest assured Hoffman’s will continue to be a family business. Crabbs’ daughter, Jen Middleton, currently serves as the manager, representing the fourth generation. And Middleton’s son, Logan (when he’s old enough to get involved), will become the fifth generation.
Hoffman’s makes its ice cream seven days a week. Two machines, one small and one large, can together produce about 100 gallons of ice cream a day during peak season. Most of their business is primarily local. “We also provide ice cream to fire company carnivals” during the summer, Crabbs said.
All in all, Hoffman’s makes more than 50 different flavors of ice cream, but although not all of them are available at any one time, you will find certain flavors available by the season.
Around Christmas, peppermint ice cream is popular; in February and March, raspberry, mint chocolate chip and coconut ice cream are favorites. In the summer months, customers can enjoy peach ice cream in addition to banana and lemon custard in sizes ranging from pints to gallon containers.
But what flavors are particularly popular among locals? “Chocolate chip, raspberry and peanut butter ripple seem real popular,” said Crabbs. Her favorite is chocolate chip.
Hoffman’s Home Made Ice Cream, made from high-quality ingredients, contains 12 percent butterfat. Butterfat is perhaps the single most important ingredient involved in producing ice cream. The amount of butterfat determines how an ice cream will taste, how smooth it will be and how firm or soft in texture it is, notes the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) on its web site, www.idfa.org.
According to the IDFA, federal regulations mandate that ice cream must contain at least 10 percent butterfat. “The more butterfat you have, the creamier it is,” said Crabbs, who added that Hoffman’s Home Made Ice Cream can best be described as “rich and creamy.”
It is the combination of the high-quality ingredients in the ice cream base coupled with the real-fruit flavorings that creates the unique taste of the product.
“The fact that it’s homemade,” said Crabbs, is what sets their ice cream apart from commercial types. “If you go into a store, you can’t always tell how long the ice cream has been there. None of our ice cream stays around for very long.”
The family is also kept busy churning out enough of the frozen treat to use in their own homemade and hand-decorated ice cream cakes. The cakes make a great dessert for family reunions, company and church picnics, wedding receptions and other events. Customers can select from three different sizes of round or sheet cakes, in addition to special shapes such as hearts, shamrocks, logs and characters, ranging from frogs, bears and butterflies to Scooby-Doo, Bob the Builder and Tweety Bird.
In addition to the containers of ice cream and ice cream cakes you can purchase, you can also treat yourself to a scoop or two in a cone or sundae hand-dipped from the selection at the ice cream counter, including such flavors as vanilla, mint chocolate chip, raspberry, cookies Ôn’ cream, fudge ripple and others.
During the summer, 25 two and a half-gallon cans of vanilla ice cream (used for scooping at the counter) can be produced per day, just to keep up with the demand. And Hoffman’s can also satisfy those who prefer sherbet or sorbet as well.
In addition to serving ice cream, milkshakes and malteds, Hoffman’s also operates a deli and convenience store in the shop. The convenience store offers a variety of milk, bread, snack food and other items, and the deli features made-to-order sandwiches and subs.
Hoffman’s Home Made Ice Cream seems to be a regular on “Carroll County’s Best” lists, although, Crabbs said, “Word-of-mouth has been the best advertisement.” Take a typical summer evening, for example. “Between 7 and 10 p.m., the line can go from the ice cream counter over to the deli side,” Crabbs said.
Just as Hoffman’s is a family-run business, the customers who have been visiting over the years also represent a family legacy, as some continue the tradition of bringing their children and grandchildren in for ice cream. But as the population has grown in Carroll County, Crabbs is seeing a new trend.
“Now, you might know only 20 percent of the customers,” she said. “With others, this may be their first time coming here.”
Regardless of whether you visit Hoffman’s Home Made Ice Cream for the first time, or the 50th time, you don’t have to wait until summer to sample Hoffman’s product. That’s because the store is open year-around, seven days a week. Even if it’s the middle of February and the temperature outside is 25 degrees, you can be sure that Linda Crabbs and the rest of the staff will be producing ice cream to satisfy Carroll Countians’ sweet tooth.
Hot Chocolate Sauce
Makes About 1 1/2 Cups
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup evaporated milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a small saucepan, stir together sugar and cocoa. Add the corn syrup, evaporated milk and butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until sauce is thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 3 minutes more. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Serve the sauce warm or cool to room temperature.
Note: The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for one week. To reheat, place the container of sauce in a pan of hot, not boiling, water until the sauce warms and thins to a pouring consistency.
Makes About 3/4 Cup
1 pint (1 1/2 cups) red raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Combine the raspberries, sugar and lemon juice in a small nonreactive saucepan over low heat. Cook until the berries release their juice and just start to break down, about 5 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to press the berries through a fine sieve; discard the solids. Let cool and refrigerate until ready to use. This sauce may be made one day ahead.
Crme Vanilla Sauce
Makes 2 Cups
1 1/2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
Boil the milk with the vanilla bean (if using vanilla extract, do not add it at this point).
In an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the sugar into the egg yolks until thick and fluffy. Beat in the cornstarch. Remove vanilla bean from the milk and discard. Add boiled milk in dribbles while beating at low speed.
Transfer the mixture to a heavy-bottomed nonreactive saucepan. Set over low heat and, stirring constantly, cook until the sauce thickens into a light, creamy mixture. Do not simmer or the egg yolks will curdle.
Remove the sauce from the heat (add the vanilla extract at this point, if you’re not using the vanilla bean), whisk lightly and strain through a fine sieve. After cooking, cover the surface of the sauce with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
– Michael Vyskocil