The ice cream maker
David Otterburn is a happy man; word has just come through that his Mint Choc Chip has won gold at the National Ice Cream Competition, the Oscars of the ice cream world and he’s also nailed the best ice cream at the Great Yorkshire Show. North Yorkshire is blessed with an exceptional ice cream maker, a success story born out of adversity.
Ryeburn of Helmsley, the factory, shop and café just off Helmsley’s Church Street, is the HQ for the award-winning ice cream company, built on the site of the family farm. Managing Director, David points to one of the chiller rooms: ‘This is where we used to bring the cows for milking. There were just green fields here then,’ he says, waving his arm towards the road and the car park.
The Otterburn’s had been dairy farmers for some 100 years until milk quotas and a catastrophic fall in milk prices led David’s father Richard to diversify into ice cream. At 80 years of age and still working full time in the business, he remembers: ‘Dairy farming was in the doldrums. Still is. We weren’t getting anything for our milk and the farm was running into debt.’
Richard booked himself onto an ice cream course and came back to sell his first vanilla ice cream from the back door on the August Bank Holiday of 1988. It changed everything.
There are no cows at Church Farm today and the milk is bought in, but the business supports three generations of Otterburn’s who successfully produce 50 different ice creams and sorbets, 20 of them on rotation in the ice cream parlour. They distribute to shops, restaurants and ice cream vans across the region. Vanilla is the consistent best seller but there’s chocolate, cinder toffee, mint choc chip, lemon sorbet, gin and lavender, raspberry and strawberry sorbet and bespoke flavours produced for local restaurants: langoustine and lime anyone?
There are gleaming vats in the factory behind the shop where the milk is chilled and churned, a simple café and a chocolate shop where Andrew Feather, former chef/patron of the Plough Inn at Fadmoor, makes a seductive range of handmade Belgium chocolates.
David Otterburn though is the ice cream king, the taster-in-chief, sourcing his flavours from Italy. ‘They make the best,’ he insists, often travelling there to taste and bring back new flavours. He sources local fruit too. The raspberry and strawberry for sorbets come from Pearson’s Soft Fruits pick-your-own at Sinnington while the lavender for the gin and lavender sorbet comes from the nearby Yorkshire Lavender farm at Terrington.
It’s now some 30 years since Richard Otterburn sold his first cornet from the back door of Church Farm. David runs things now along with daughters Elaine and Lee; an ice cream dynasty that looks set to continue for many more years to come.
And apart from the latest gold medals, it’s been a record-breaking summer for hot, sunny days. And as David says, ‘If you can’t sell ice cream in this weather, there’s something wrong.’