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Udderly delicious: Local ice creamery uses own cows
POULSBO — Thor Skald concocts his ice cream the Scandinavian way — fresh-picked berries, organic ingredients and soon, fresh milk.
Skald, a native of Iceland, founded Viking Ice Cream in 2009, growing from a small booth at the Poulsbo Farmers Market to a storefront on Viking Avenue, within eyeshot of the Norseman statue.
With the help of a grant and an investor, Skald will soon provide some of the freshest ice cream this side of the Atlantic. His two cows arrive from Dungeness Valley Creamery this month, and Skald has his new production schedule down.
“What I want to do is cow [milking]-to-ice cream in the same day,” he said.
Skald doesn’t use preservatives, and so did not like having to buy ice cream mix from a dairy. He said he wants to “completely control the process” of the quality of his ice cream.
He recently bought a pasteurizer, which slowly heats the milk to kill any bacteria. He is using Jersey cows, a docile breed with high butterfat (perfect for ice cream) that produce a lot of milk for their size. Jersey cows can produce about eight gallons a day, which is about the amount he needs to produce his current [production] of ice cream, he said.
Adding in cow farmer to his already busy schedule — producing, delivery and distribution, plus Farmers Markets and special events — means more work, but that's OK with Skald.
“There’s an old Viking saying: Cattle die, I die. What never dies is the reputation you leave behind,” Skald said. “Do something remarkable.”Plus, “my ancestors had it worse than this,” he said.
Viking Ice Cream is also a family affair, with help from Skald's wife, Asta, and 2-year-old daughter Katla; not yet for 5-month-old son Runar. The cows will live at Slippery Pig Farm, just up from the shop on Finn Hill Road. Skald and the farm's owner, Dave Lambert, have been friends since Skald's arrival, and Lambert offered some of his space for Skald’s cows.
Lambert said he and his wife used to raise cows at the farm, which now raises pigs and is a craft brewery. The cows will be able to roam three acres and be grass-fed.
It’s important for cows to be relaxed to produce the best milk, Skald said.
Jersey cow milk is also easier to digest; Skald said their protein is the same as goat's milk, for those that are cow lactose-intolerant.
Skald was able to expand his business with the help of a business grant given to Scandinavian-Americans, which he found out about through the Norwegian Heritage Museum in Ballard. Rather than waiting for the $50,000 to come through at the end of this year, Skald said he was also approached by an investor who “believes in the business.” The funding paid for the pasteurizer, a 6-gallon mixer, a larger freezer and the cows. Skald has been producing his ice cream with a 1-gallon mixer, making about 30,000 gallons so far.
“If I hadn’t gotten the grant, I don’t know if I could have expanded,” Skald said. “This propels us into the major leagues.”
Without Poulsbo and his supportive customers though, Skald said his business would have never taken off. The Skalds came through town during Viking Fest and never left.
— Skald said the Viking creation legend says the cow was the first animal to emerge from the ice, and fed the first humans with milk and ice cream. Skald is naming one of his cows after the first cow, Audumbla.
— Jersey cows also have their own Viking heritage. The cows are famous from the British isle Jersey, off the coast of northern France. People living on Jersey would bribe Viking sailors with their cows as extortion money not to raid their island.