Homemade, slow-churned ice cream is about as American as it gets. Single or double scoop, in a cup or on a cone, from the local ice cream parlor or household freezer, ice cream is a treat loved by just about everyone.
Yet most of us have little or no idea how ice cream is actually made. Those who have attempted homemade likely found the process too messy, too time-consuming and dramatically inferior in quality to the real deal.
Steve Thompson knows quality homemade ice cream. He has been making it for years in machines manufactured through Emery Thompson Machine & Supply Co., the original batch freezer manufacturer.
It is no coincidence that Steve shares the same last name. Emery Thompson was Steve’s grandfather, who founded the company in 1903 in New Rochelle, N.Y.
Today, Steve runs Emery Thompson out of Airport Industrial Park in Brooksville on Flight Path Drive. He moved the entire company into a brand new building, built to accommodate a factory and offices, six years ago. It continues to manufacture batch freezers for national and international distribution.
“We’ve put people like Haagen-Dazs, Ben & Jerry’s, Blue Bell and Breyers into business,” Thompson explained. “In fact, Haagen-Dazs started off with one of our machines.”
The history behind the Emery Thompson name began with its namesake making ice cream the old-fashioned way, in a wooden churn, using rock salt and ice, in the basement of a department store on 14th Street in Manhattan. Steve explained that the process required 30 minutes of constant churning as the ice cream froze.
“He was running it 15 hours a day,” Steve said. “They had gross sales of a little over $100,000,” which equivocates to well over $1.6 million today.
Later, Emery Thompson went home to New Rochelle and invented a modern freezer that circulated salt water around the tank, improving considerably how the ice cream was frozen.
He obtained the world’s first patent and Emery Thompson Machine & Supply Co. was born.
“Today’s machine is the same concept,” Steve explained.
The batch freezer uses a spinning dasher inside the tank to scrape the ice cream and Freon gas around it to keep it cold. A milky concoction is poured into the machine and comes out through a chute as traditional, creamy ice cream.
“It now takes about eight minutes,” he said.
The machine is called a batch freezer because it is designed to make batches of ice cream at a time. While Emery Thompson did manufacture the early soft-serve machines, the company since has focused solely on batch freezers for the purpose of building inventory in ice cream shops and restaurants.
The machines are built to order and shipped throughout the world. The facility on Flight Path has a factory where the freezers are manufactured and assembled.
The units come in four sizes that make six quarts, 12 quarts, 24 quarts and 44 quarts of ice cream per batch. Steve explained that the smaller units typically act as stepping stones while new businesses grow.
“Many of our customers expand to larger sizes as their companies take off,” he said.
The factory works on several machines at a time in different stages of progress. The company ships all over the world, including Australia and the island of Anguilla.
The machines use basic ingredients that include milk, cream, sugar and skim milk.
“Skim milk is the secret left out of most homemade recipes,” Steve said. Skim milk is what gives it the creamiest consistency.
Other ingredients are added, like fruits, syrups, nuts, and preserves, depending on which flavors are on the menus.
Steve Thompson demonstrated the ease of the machines by making vanilla and chocolate pecan flavors inside the company’s meeting room.
Using an ice cream mix that is distributed locally, Thompson blended a creamy consistency that he poured into the machine. After just eight minutes, the ice cream dropped from the chute, ice cold, firm, creamy and ready for consumption.
Geez Amish Ice Cream Mix, a dry concoction that is combined with sugar, milk and cream, is what he used to build the base. Adding Hershey’s chocolate syrup and Georgia pecans during the process resulted in a flavor that was comparative to any gourmet brand.
Best of all, Geez boasts it contains only 8 percent fat, significantly lower than some national brands of manufactured ice cream.
Jim Gries of Spring Hill distributes Geez Ice Cream Mix and stumbled on Emery Thompson by accident at a local farmer’s market.
“I was giving out samples of the ice cream,” Gries said, when Thompson’s sister tried one. She was so impressed that she gave Gries her brother’s cell phone number. They came together and now promote both products as a winning combination.
In fact, Thompson has recommended Geez particularly for other countries where access to milk and cream isn’t as convenient.
“We can ship the Geez with the machines,” he said. And it remains fresh because the product comes in dry form.
Emery Thompson Machine & Supply Company has a strong history of manufacturing quality ice cream batch freezers for more than 106 years. Yet quality customer care extends beyond the machines.
In fact, Emery Thompson offers onsite workshops and training sessions to help business owners succeed.
The Emery Thompson team includes 12 players who Steve said are a major force behind the company’s success.
“These 12 do the work of the 24 we had in New York,” he said.
Included in that team is Paula Thompson, Steve’s wife and the company’s office manager, and Sadie the golden retriever who is the head of security.
Everyone seems to share the same objective, which happens to be the company’s mission statement: “To Make Money and Have Fun Doing It!”
Biz at a Glance
Name: Emery Thompson Machine & Supply Co.
Address: 15350 Flight Path Drive, Spring Hill 34604
Telephone: (718) 588-7300 or (813) 862-2776