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The scoop out of Pittsfield: What’s wrong with raw milk ice cream?

  • Jill Fudala’s freezer full of homemade ice cream stands empty after she was warned about using raw milk. Ray Duckler—Monitor staff

  • Jill Fudala and her goat, Moonshine, have teamed up on a business venture – unpasteurized products, such as cheese, yogurt, butter and milk. It’s also used in ice cream, but that’s not allowed under state law. Ray Duckler / Monitor staff

  • Jill Fudala of Pittsfield hangs with Moonshine, whose milk once was used to make ice cream. Ray Duckler—Monitor staff

  • Jill Fudala’s private stash of ice cream made with raw goat’s milk. Ray DucklerMonitor staff

Monitor columnist
Published: 8/13/2019 6:08:31 PM

The Prohibition Pistachio was smooth and creamy.

Jill Fudala also plans on making other flavors, like Vanilla Vigilante and Crookies and Cream, once she’s cleared to reopen her homemade ice cream business in Pittsfield.

If, in fact, she ever is. Until then, she’ll have fun with these outlaw-type names. She’ll no longer use unpasteurized goat’s milk to make her ice cream and sell it. And she’ll wonder who ratted on her, writing a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services earlier this month to complain.

“They know who they are, and they should stop trying to steal our joy,” Fudala, a nurse in Manchester, told me during a recent visit to the Little Red Hen Farm and Homestead.

“Right away when I found out I went outside and pulled all of the ice cream out of the farm stand. It’s not our intention to break the law.”

Good thing, considering her husband, Matt, is an Epsom cop. The law, Jill says, makes no sense. It states that up to 20 gallons of unpasteurized milk can be sold in the form of raw aged cheese, yogurt, butter and kefir.

Fine. Fudala never exceeds that 20-gallon mark, with anything she makes in her kitchen. So what’s the problem?

Nowhere does the statute mention ice cream. Fudala can still make it with her raw milk – provided by six friendly goats penned in her backyard – but she can’t sell it. The long chest freezer in her basement has about 75 six-ounce cups of ice cream, each labeled with one of Fudala’s homemade stickers. But that stock is earmarked for friends and relatives, free of charge.

“I’m still hopeful that the law will be changed so I can sell it,” Fudala said.

Fudala noted that Rep. James Allard, who was not available for comment, said he’d introduce a bill in the Legislature to add ice cream to the mix. Fudala suspects that she is being targeted because of a technicality, that the omission of the words “ice” and “cream” from the law was a mere oversight that shouldn’t carry any weight.

After all, if she can sell aged cheese and yogurt and butter using raw milk, why not ice cream?

I asked Chuck Metcalf, the supervisor of the Dairy Sanitation Program. He received the scoop (sorry) about illegal ice cream being sold in Pittsfield. He declined to comment, saying he needed to clear things with his public information officer first.

In the letter he sent to Fudala, though, dated Aug. 1, he wrote, “It has come to the attention of the (Food Protection Section) that your farm is selling milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and butter containing raw milk. Fresh raw milk cheese and raw milk ice cream are not permitted to be sold under RSA 184.”

The controversy pitting pasteurized milk vs. raw milk has two sides to its story, Fudala explained. She said the jury is still out on which form of milk is more harmful to the body, and which type is better for you.

Heating milk during pasteurization kills bad bacteria, but it also wipes out good bacteria, which helps with digestion, Fudala said. And, besides, goat’s milk contains less lactose than cow’s milk, a huge selling point to her lactose intolerant clientele.

“There are two different opinions behind them, and both have science behind them,” Fudala said. “It’s just a matter of where you stand on the issue.

“People were raised on raw milk for a long time before pasteurization was a thing, and even now, many farmers and nonfarmers raise their children on raw milk and raw milk products.”

One thing Fudala is sure of is her customers are upset that they can no longer buy their raw-milk ice cream. Her Facebook posting revealed her recent trouble, and there are more than 500 responses supporting Fudala and her six milking goats. She’s also got about 37,000 followers interested in an issue that would make Louis Pasteur turn over in his grave.

Meanwhile, it’s putting a damper on a farming business owned by a woman, leary of processed foods, who hasn’t shopped in a grocery store for five years. She and Matt bought their home in 2011. Jill said she knew instantly that all the green grass and land that surrounded the house would make a perfect farm.

She’s got egg-laying chickens and milk-giving goats. She’s got goats and turkeys and pigs that will provide meat. She’s got two donkeys and a gaggle of geese, used for security reasons.

The geese honk like a New York City traffic jam, alerting Jill and Matt if a hungry intruder slips past the electric wire surrounding some of the 33 acres. The donkeys, affectionate and friendly to people, are faster than you think, and they’ll chase a hungry critter, like a fox, and try to stomp it to death.

In her kitchen, while roosters crowed and chickens clucked in the yard, the hum of her ice cream machine gave a smooth, constant backdrop to our conversation.

Her cellphone alarm went off, signaling it was time to add the pistachios to her mixture of raw milk, the raw cream that a centrifuge-like machine extracted from the milk, and sugar.

That mixture had been refrigerated the night before in half-gallon Mason Jars, then dumped into the churner, spinning slowly for 20 minutes. The pistachios were added, swirled in the mixture for five more minutes, scooped into six-ounce paper cups and placed in that downstairs freezer.

Normally, Fudala would bring the cups outside, to the farm stand at the bottom of her driveway. It’s got a freezer. She uses the honor system, telling customers to leave $3 in a lockbox for each cup of ice cream they buy.

During busy weekend summers, Fudala says she’d sell between 40 and 50 cups per day, 10 to 12 per day on weekdays.

“It was worth it for the farm,” Fudala told me. “It put a dent into the money we had to put in for hay for the goats. Animals are expensive to care for. Anything we can do to help pay for that makes sense.”

That income is on hold. Fudala knows the addition of “ice cream” to the state law, if it even happens, will take months.

“In the meantime, I’m making a big stock for my husband, and my family loves it,” Fudala said.

While she waits for her ice cream business to open legally, her customers have been suggesting humorous names, having fun, treating her like an anti-hero in the same light as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Vanilla Vigilante and Crookies and Cream sounded great.

And the Prohibition Pistachio was utterly delicious.

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