Talking old fashioned ice cream with Josh Haver
1. Tell us about A&J’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream
A&J’s is about real, old fashioned ice cream, crafted in a tradition that’s hundreds of years old. But it’s also more - it’s about making memories. As a kid I got to hand make ice cream and there’s a lot of really special memories in that for me. I want to give kids an experience that will create similar memories for them.
2. What makes A&J’s ice cream special?
It’s real! It starts with a cream, milk and sugar mixture. Then we add in real ingredients for flavor. There’s nothing artificial. Our chocolate ice cream is made with milk, cream, sugar and cocoa. Our caramel flavor comes from caramel. Our strawberry ice flavor comes from real strawberries. We’ll use seasonal fruits to capture their peak flavors.
3. Can you tell us about the machine you use to churn your ice cream?
The ice cream itself is made in a 1914 White Mountain barrel freezer. Most ice cream is made with a pressure freeze that puffs a bunch of air into a little bit of milk and cream, and a whole lot of sugar. The old fashioned approach is to slow churn the ice cream to make a thicker, creamier, tastier product. It wasn’t easy to find our ice cream maker. I spent about 7 months searching before I found a guy in Massachussets who was retiring and closing down his ice cream shop. He had offers from a few different museums that wanted his ice cream maker but he really wanted to see the machine stay in service making great ice cream, which is how we ended up with it.
4. What’s the process to make traditional ice cream?
There’s a 5 gallon stainless steel can that fits inside a bucket. We add our ingredients to the stainless steel can then pack ice and salt around it to bring the temperature down to 17 or 18 degrees. There are gears in the top that turn the paddles in one direction and the can in the opposite direction. The churning will mix the ingredients and add a little bit of air. The churning lasts about 30 minutes. As the temperature drops, it creates an even, smooth, creamy texture to the ice cream. We then move the ice cream to a deep freeze for 2 days to allow it to fully harden. After that we’ll return the ice cream to the dipping cabinet for a day to get the temperature and texture just right.
A lot of people are shocked by the difference between traditional ice cream and what they’re used to from the supermarket or chains.
5. What the main difference?
It’s a fuller flavor. You can recognize the things that are in the ice cream. It’s the difference between the fudge your grandmother made and getting gummy bears off the shelf.
6. How did you come up with the recipes?
I’ve collected a lot of Queen Anne recipes that have been passed down over generations. Our chocolate and vanilla recipes are over 200 years old. We started with those classic recipes and just tried them out. If things didn’t work out we adjusted along the way.
7. Can you tell us about your flavors?
We draw from a whole lot of different traditions as well as new ideas we’re coming up with. We have the classics like chocolate and vanilla, but long before those flavors became popular people were making fruit flavored ice creams. People used what was available locally and for a long time it was more likely that people would have strawberry and oranges than they’d have vanilla or chocolate. Whiskey makers used to be big on the bourbon ice creams, which is really foreign to us and is not something we make here. Amaretto and Irish Cream flavors were also supportive of that tradition, as was Egg Nog. French Vanilla was developed in France in the 1790’s. Our focus is making rich flavors from real ingredients. We don’t want to use anything that comes from a mix. We have a salted butter caramel flavor - we use salted butter and caramel!
8. Any favorites?
Maple Peanut is absolutely amazing. It’s made with maple ice cream and peanuts. Lemon Custard has to be my all-time favorite though. Overall, the most popular flavors are still chocolate and vanilla. We offer some interesting alternatives but we’ll make what people like - we’ll just do it in an authentic way with real ingredients.
9. Who makes the ice cream?
I do. I make our waffle cones in house too.
10. Do you sell the ice cream for take out?
Oh, yes! We sell pints and quarts to take home. We’ll make whatever people want, in terms of both size and flavors.
11. Who’s the ‘A' in A&J’s?
It’s my dad, Alvin! He more of the silent partner. He focuses on the bookwork side of things.
12. Have either of you ever run a food business before?
My dad and I are both from oddly diverse backgrounds. My dad grew up as a farm boy, drove a truck for years, and then got a PhD in biochemistry. I’m a physics nerd who’s managed restaurants for a long time.
13. What attracted you to your own old fashioned ice cream shop?
I love the beach, I love ice cream and I love kids. It’s a perfect marriage of those ideas. I have a 5 year old and when I started making hand cranked ice cream with him he absolutely loved it. That experience is special to me and part of what I want to do is to replicate that experience with other adults and other children. I love making people happy. It goes further too - I want a sustainable business that can be beneficial to the local economy. I try to buy as much locally as I can - our dairy comes from Florida as does our cane sugar. Most of the fruits can also be grown locally. It’s as local as it can be.
14. How did you pick your location in Atlantic Beach?
I live right down the street, which really helps. Atlantic Beach is really supportive of local business and that was important to me as well. It’s taken us about 6 months to get going. We did the build out ourselves, including making the counter area. It was fun, but it was a lot of work. We’re going to get some help from North Beach Art to decorate the place.
The store area is pretty big so I’d love to do kids birthday parties here where we make the ice cream before serving it to them. Catering for parties and events is also something I’d like to do.
15. Anything else?
It’s been a great experience so far, with a lot of positive feedback. For anyone else who’s thinking of starting their own business, I’d really encourage them to just jump in and follow their dreams.