Gelato translates from Italian into frozen and evokes chic, tanned style—Gucci, Ferrari, Milan—not Deere, Carhartt, and Catskills. Lazy Crazy Acres Farmstead Creamery near Arkville is changing this perception. Jake and Karen Fairbairn produce fresh, all-natural “cow-to-cone” gelato in nine flavors: Vanilla Bean, Very Chocolate, Very Chocolate Super Crunchy (with handmade salted pecan praline), Maple Walnut, Hudson Valley Honey, Apple Cobbler, Mint Honey Cake, Buttered Rum Raisin, and Haulin’ Oats. In addition, seasonal flavors like Strawberry Rhubarb make brief, tasty appearances. Once the seasonal berries are over, so are the pints of gelato—until next year.
Jake is a Fairbairn, a venerable Delaware County farming family—dairying the current land since the 1930s and in the Margaretville area for over 200 years. Karen, a Florida native, fell in love with Jake (and dairying) and joined him on the farm. Dire milk prices in 2008 and 2009 prompted the couple to create a value-added product more profitable than shipping milk directly to a commercial creamery and to make farming a viable career and lifestyle. A failed run at ice cream with a large producer who pushed all sorts of unnatural ingredients they did not believe in, left them with “1,200 pints of crap,” says Karen. This unfortunate venture, combined with the economic downturn and the price of milk dropping to $12 per one hundred pounds of milk when shipping to the large commercial creamery, finally financially forced them to sell their herd. Neighbors in dairy, the DiBenedetto Family, adopted six of their cows—Bumble, Pasta, Jellybean, Lucky Charm, Mrs. Fields, and Pipsqueak—incorporating them into their herd. A year and a half later, with Frank Kipe’s invention of a microcreamery system that produces from 3 to 33 gallons (as opposed to a minimum of a 100 gallons), Jake and Karen returned to the local dairy frozen dessert (New York State doesn’t recognize gelato) scene.
Continuing a Fairbairn tradition of working closely with the DiBenedettos, Jake and Karen installed the microcreamery in their barn, bottle the DiBenedettos’ Crystal Valley Creamline milk and make Lazy Crazy Acres gelato. The cows were milked at the DiBenedettos’ while Karen and Jake raised the heifers (young cows). Both families made hay together. June 2012 marked the return of Bumble, Pasta, Jellybean, Lucky Charm, Mrs. Fields, and Pipsqueak to Lazy Crazy Acres pastures.
June 2012 also marked the one year anniversary of Lazy Crazy Acres Gelato. Average weekly production is 500 to 700 pints. They have hired a part-time employee Karen insists they “don’t want to grow bigger than what the farm can sustain—about 25 cows. In five years, we want to stay true to our roots and adhere to our principles.” This meant saying no to a request for national media coverage merely one week after their initial production run in 2011.
Lazy Crazy Acres principles are sometimes unusual. No god-awful early morning milking hours. This summer, Jake is experimenting with milking only once a day to preserve precious hours for everything else—making the gelato basemix, hand packing the pints, sourcing Oliverea Schoolhouse Maple, Ray Tousey’s honey, chocolate from Fruition Chocolate in Shokan, berries from Wright’s Farm, Heller’s Farm, and Lucky Dog Farm, Tuthilltown Distillery rum, and scooping at the Kingston, New Paltz, Pakatakan, Rhinebeck, and Woodstock Farmers Markets. Karen and Jake have also designed and have nearly completed construction of an Ag and Markets-approved mobile milking station. “I’ve dreamed about mobile milking for years,” says Jake.
A pint of Lazy Crazy Acres gelato begins with the milk—fresh daily from cows grazing on Catskill forage. The base mix combines milk with fresh egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla; never any corn syrup or artificial colors or flavors. The fat content changes slightly every batch and season—the fats reflect what the cows are eating, different grasses and herbs with each pasture. The additional ingredients—honey cake, apple cobbler (from Karen’s grandma’s recipe), buttered rum sauce, sea-salted pecan brittle, and crushed oat praline, are made by hand (usually Karen’s) in the small commercial kitchen that shares space with the microcreamery in the Fairbairns’ 120-year-old heritage barn. Division of labor: Jake is the cowherd and milker and Karen’s domain is the commercial kitchen. They both hate paperwork but take turns packing pints, scooping at farmers markets, and “We’ll both jump on the ATV to deal with the cows,” Karen says.
Why gelato? Gelato recipes call for whole milk. Ice cream is made with heavy cream and air is spun into it as it is frozen. “We wanted a holistic use for our milk and not separate cream and be stuck with a whole heck of a lot of skim milk to do something with,” says Karen. With less fat than ice cream, gelato has an intense flavor. Folks remark how it tastes like old-fashioned ice cream. “It’s very likely that old-fashioned American ice cream was more like gelato because they probably didn’t separate the cream back then,” Karen says. So, perhaps gelato—more Timberland than Armani—is more American than we all think.
(845) 802-4098; Lazycrazyacres.com