Home | BaltimoreBrew.com
Culture & Artsby Francine Halvorsen7:05 amApr 23, 20120

Sweet dreams of hand-packed ice cream

The century-old family-run Prigel farm in Long Green Valley makes some of the finest ice cream around.

Above: Bobby Prigel knows the name of every cow in his small herd – and they seem to know him.

Not to take anything away from some wonderful large-scale ice-cream makers, but there is nothing like the real thing. And the real thing is the ice cream that the Prigel Family Creamery in Glen Arm makes.

I asked Bobby Prigel, who runs the dairy farming side of the operation, what he likes best about what he does.

“Pretty much everything,” he said. “I love farming, I love my family and I am happy that we spend so much time together. There are 40 family members in the area. Some of them do different things, like make sure we always have fresh eggs for sale at the Creamery.”

In 1895, John Matthias Prigel moved his family to what is now Bellevalle Farm in Glen Arm, Baltimore County. A Union soldier in the War of the States, Prigel was a sharecropper and knew good land when he saw it. He was able to buy the property in 1906.

Five generations later, the Prigel family continues his love of the land, as well as his sustainable farming and processing techniques, though John Matthias would not have called them that.

Keeping the Cows Happy

Long Green Valley has the right climate and soil for grass to grow most of the year, so the cows are pastured, not contained in concrete floored structures. I can tell you from getting up close and personal that these are the “contented cows” you have heard of.
4852 Long Green Road
Glen Arm, MD
Open: 12 noon to 8 p.m. Mon. – Sat. Closed Sundays
Visitors: Best to check their Facebook page or call. Because of laws governing eateries, it’s not possible to eat inside the creamery, but there are wonderful quilts and blankets provided for a spontaneous picnic on the meadow.
Bobby Prigel, who runs the farm, knows all the cows in his small herd by name. The cows graze on one pasture in the morning, then are milked, walked across the road to another pasture, and milked again.

The milk they produce is certified organic and simply homogenized and pasteurized. It does not undergo the ultra-pasteurization at high heat that confinement dairy milk is subjected to. This means that Bellevale farm milk has a shorter shelf life than the commercial variety.

So far I have shared Prigel Ice cream with friends and family. Our top four: strawberry, cappuccino chip, chocolate and sweet cream – though so far we haven’t rejected any of the others.

Pie a la Prigel

The real thing. (Photo by Francine Halvorsen)

All the family takes part. Bobby’s father, Robert Prigel Sr., and Bobby’s father-in-law are the intrepid ice cream labelers and seem very good-natured about their work.

Robert Sr. is also a craftsman and makes hand-carved, food-safe wooden bowls that are sold in the creamery. They are used for salads, fruit or even bread baskets.

To make the ice cream, the milk is chilled to 35 degrees, pasteurized, flavors and other ingredients such as strawberries or chocolate chips are added and the mixture is homogenized to smooth it out.

The mixture is then pumped into refrigerated tanks, from which it is hand packed. Six gallons can be packed in 7 minutes. The ice cream either goes into temperature controlled freezers or packed in dry ice for immediate delivery to places such as Eddie’s in Roland Park.

Upholding Baltimore’s Ice Cream Traditions

The ice cream business has a long history in Baltimore. There is a plaque on Exeter Street proclaiming the location “The Birthplace of the American Ice Cream Industry.”

Jacob Fussell a Baltimorean and Quaker, is referred to in food lore as the Henry Ford of the ice-cream world.

In 1851, with an over-abundance of fresh cream,that Fussell was in the business of distributing, the proverbial light bulb went off.

Freeze it he thought. And freeze it he did, in large-scale production machinery that he invented. Distributing it from horse drawn ice carts – he was able to offer it more cheaply to more people – and an industry was born.

Ice Cream Plaque at Hillen and Exeter Streets, from the BGE Collection at the Baltimore Museum of Industry

Ice cream plaque at Hillen and Exeter streets. We're not so convinced about the "nutritious" bit. (BGE Collection, Baltimore Museum of Industry)

Then, as it often does, commercialization diluted the luscious and true iced-cream of the small batch or home producer.

Back to the Farm

Bobby says he enjoys working on the farm more than in the creamery. “The creamery is a very different business than farming,” he said.

“I am glad that my daughter and her husband are the ones running it. It is more of a business. I like dealing with the land and the cows.

“Also we’ve been blessed with a community of people that are very supportive. And thanks to the creamery we meet more and more people that like our ice cream. We sell to a few stores and restaurants, and word is getting out.”

Bobby, in short, sounds as contented as his cows.

For other possible daytrips and horizon-expanding experiences in an around The Brew’s home turf, check out our new Coming at You page for a listing of stuff to see and do.

Most Popular