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Not your grandmother's fruitcake... ice cream

Elspeth Hay

Patty Fettig has been working with ice cream for as long as she can remember.

"I've been in ice cream almost all my life. My first job was right here at Howard Johnson's in Orleans I was probably sixteen years old scooping ice cream," she explains.

"And then as I grew up, I moved to Vermont, and my husband and I at the time had a Ben and Jerry's ice cream franchise. And then I ended up moving back here and someone mentioned that Mary was opening an ice cream store, and I contacted her and said, 'Hey, I can make ice cream cakes, I can do whatever you want, I can bake,' and I’ve been here since the beginning."

Mary was Mary DeBartolo, founder of Slow Food Cape Cod and former tech worker turned ice cream shop owner. Her store opened in 2012 and has since closed, morphing into a production kitchen, where Patty and Mary churn out ice cream made with locally sourced ingredients. When I visited the other day, they were getting ready for the holidays with a flavor that surprised me. Here’s Mary:

"Not your grandmother's fruitcake. So — we had, growing up, we had a great-grandmother who loved fruitcake, and I always wanted to like fruitcake. I would always try it. And, no. Like as much as I loved my great-grandmother, not so much on fruitcake! But this go round, we're making an ice cream, which is not your grandmother's fruitcake."

Mary’s story reminds me of an article I read a few years ago about a 106 year old fruitcake found in Antarctica in 2017, left behind by members of the Scott expedition, who you may remember died of starvation. Not exactly a winning recommendation. But Patty and Mary’s version of a fruitcake ice cream sounds quite different.

"We're using Truro Vineyard spiced rum for the rum, and we're going to marinate the raisins. And then, brown butter apples: brown sugar and brown butter apples and then the cake from Underground Bakery, Vanilla Cake."

This is typical of Patty and Mary’s ice creams — beyond the base, the ingredients are almost always sourced from other local farms, cooks, and businesses. In this case, the cake is from Dennis, the rum from Truro, and the apples from Sienna Farms in Sudbury, Massachusetts. Patty starts the process by adding several tablespoons of rum extract to a vanilla ice cream base along with a few cups of the raisins and the rum they were soaked that have been pureed. We taste the base, and it seems to me like it has a little bit too much rum, but Mary assures me this actually is key to the process.

"Because once it gets frozen, you lose some of the flavor, so that was something we learned a long time ago when you’re making it to kick it up a little bit, maybe even more than you might want to have it taste right now, because once it’s frozen, that flavor diminishes."

Patty pours the base into the large square commercial ice cream maker, and after a few minutes of strange noises, a creamy frozen concoction that looks a lot like soft serve starts to come pouring out.

"The beauty of this is you can shut it, shut it down if you need to."

As soon as there’s a full layer of ice cream over the bottom the large rectangular cardboard box she’s filling, Patty stops the machine to give herself a moment to hand mix in little bits of cake and spoonfuls of brown butter apples and rum-soaked raisins.

"Because if I put them in at the beginning, if it all went into the machine, it would come out as not as much, but all blended in."

Patty’s layering technique makes for an ice cream that’s not only rich and creamy but also full of delightful chunky surprises.

I have to admit, it was so good that I just might be tempted to give holiday fruitcakes another chance. Maybe.

Here's a link to learn more about Mary Debartolo's production kitchen: https://www.thelocalscoopcapecod.com/, where she and Patty make locally inspired flavors.

And here's a link to that article about the Antarctic fruitcake:

An avid locavore, Elspeth lives in Wellfleet and writes a blog about food. Elspeth is constantly exploring the Cape, Islands, and South Coast and all our farmer's markets to find out what's good, what's growing and what to do with it. Her Local Food Report airs Thursdays at 8:30 on Morning Edition and 5:45pm on All Things Considered, as well as Saturday mornings at 9:30.