Food preservation and the ice cream that knows where it comes from

The science of preserving ice cream is more complicated than meets the eye

Since opening in 2000, Murphy’s Ice Cream has become quite the popular spot to pick up everyone’s favourite sugary delicacy. With new and unique flavours being introduced into the menu every couple of months, there is a lot of experimentation with different flavours and quirky tastes. While some flavours have come and gone, others have stood the test of time some over 22 years and have managed to stamp their name onto the Murphy’s brand as well as the menu. 

The flavours range from sweet to salty, to fruity and fresh, to alcoholic and aged, from bitter to light, and from strong to rich. There really is something for everyone at Murphy’s Ice Cream. 

But with great flavour power comes great flavour responsibility, and that couldn’t be more true when it comes to choosing and creating new flavours of ice cream at Murphy’s. With flavours such as chocolate whiskey, Dingle gin, Irish brown bread and many more, there is certainly no lack of taste bud creativity.  In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the importance of temperature control in food preservation, and investigate what it is that keeps Murphy’s flavours alive and well even through adversity. 

Cause you’re hot and you’re cold …

The most important factor to consider when it comes to preserving any type of food product, but ice cream in particular, is temperature. Despite attempts made by Willy Wonka in his infamous chocolate factory, ice cream maintains its reputation as the sweet treat gone in a matter of moments, melting down faces and fingers or for those unlucky enough to drop their precious scoop, all over the floor. 

“At Murphy’s, a lot of time is spent observing and recording the correlations between quality of ice cream and temperature.”

Dramatic and frequent fluctuations in temperature can have adverse effects on the taste and texture of the ice cream. Therefore it’s highly important that these fragile factors are controlled and regulated in order to preserve a product that is not only safe to eat, but also undeniably nice to eat. 

In each of the Murphy’s shops across the country, ice cream is stored in 6 litre containers placed in large fridges and freezers. In order to encourage a slower defrosting process, ice cream is rotated from cool storage freezers to fridges at a slightly higher temperature and then to scooping containers for customers. What makes Murphy’s Ice Cream so unique is the commitment to a product that oozes with quality. Natural, fresh, locally sourced ingredients are the values summarised in the catch-all phrase: “Ice cream that knows where it comes from.” The lack of artificial flavourings, colourings, stabilisers etc. is what makes the ice cream so delicious, but also mandates temperature control as an absolute must. In order to preserve the flavours and tastes, it’s important that the ice cream is kept safe and sound at frostbite freezing temperature. Ice cream that is left to sit out in the open, uncovered, fully exposednaked evenwill begin to lose its flavour slowly but surely.

One of the first things a customer might notice when they enter one of the many Murphy’s establishments around Ireland is that the ice cream is covered with silvery metallic lids, so as not expose it to bright lights or contrasting higher temperatures in the air. Only when the ice cream is being scooped are the lids opened to reveal the pops of colour and flavourful fragrances that whet the appetite and satisfy eager eyes. 

Murphy’s Ice Cream owner and co-founder, Sean Murphy, speaks about the temperature tampering that occurs with the 0.5 litre tubs of ice cream that are sold in select supermarkets around the country.

“If there is a constant opening and closing of freezers, or if freezers in supermarkets are not maintained at a high enough standard, there can be a constant fluctuation in temperatures resulting in an unwanted pattern of defrosting and refreezing.”

As the ice cream melts and then solidifies again, the sugar contained in the dessert melts into the water component of the milk, bleeding out into the ice cream base itself resulting in a discoloration of the ice cream and a squishiness that appears in the texture. This bleeding is what causes the ice cream to change its freezing point. So, whilst the ingredients of the ice cream remain the same, the chemical organisation of those same ingredients changes.  

Murphy’s will do anything and everything to ensure quality is at the highest it can be. This  rings true no matter where they are, whether they’re selling ice cream in your local Supervalu or on the picturesque coast of the Dingle Peninsula with the waves of the Atlantic lapping around the stoney sea-shelled rocks.