The summers in Southern Ontario can be sticky, humid, and darn-right sweltering. That’s why, my summer in the city isn’t complete without locally crafted ice cream. Foundry Ice Cream is the newest addition to my #HamOnt weekend routine! Creamy goodness, locally source ingredients, and a unique glass pint jar – you will be coming back to try out all the flavours. Hello, Salted Caramel!
I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to chat with Laurel, the founder of Foundry Ice Cream, to get the local scoop (pun intended) on Hamilton’s small batch ice cream business.
FGFS: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Foundry: I’m Laurel. I founded Foundry Ice Cream this winter, and launched the company in June. I make small batch super-premium ice cream right here in Hamilton using 100% fresh Ontario cream and milk, and a host of seasonal ingredients from local growers and artisans.
I’m originally from BC, but moved to Montreal after high school and stayed there for 12 years. At first for university and then grad school, but then mostly for love and for food. Shortly after my daughter was born, my husband accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at UBC, which meant moving back home to Vancouver for me after a long absence.
Within a year, I heard that friends of friends were looking for someone to help part-time with their ice cream business, which had launched two months before. I had tried and secretly fallen for the ice cream, and that was all I needed to convince me to apply. Vancouver is a fantastic food city, and we had been pretty voracious since moving there the year before, so I was especially excited by the prospect of working for a great local food producer and being a part of that scene. I was hired by Earnest Ice Cream in 2012 and shortly thereafter took over the kitchen responsibilities as production manager and flavour developer. During that time, I learned so much about ice cream and about what growing a small business in a thoughtful and sustainable way looks like. Earnest is a great company with a dedicated food politics and a fantastic commitment to sustainability. It was eye-opening to create something that was high quality and delicious, to be creative with flavour development while remaining mindful of the seasons, while also being a part of helping a small business business to grow in the midst of an exciting urban food culture. I was hooked.
FGFS: How did Foundry Ice Cream come about?
Foundry: After we settled in[to Hamilton], I considered going back to school to finish my degree, but ultimately decided to take a course in small business to see if I could create here what had become so beloved back home: small batch ice cream with a heart. Once I focused on that goal, the rest was (relatively) easy. My great advantage knowing exactly the kind of product I wanted to craft because of my time at Earnest: super high-quality ice cream with the best possible local and seasonal ingredients.
FGFS: What make you decide to sell locally at summer markets and the Mustard Seed?
Foundry: Selling at Farmers’ Markets was the natural choice. My family has operated a Farmers’ Market stand on Salt Spring Island, in BC, for years, and I knew from experience that the market stall would be the perfect place to introduce a fresh, seasonal new product to local consumers, and at a fraction of the cost of building out and opening a scoop shop location. And wholesaling to The Mustard Seed (and as of this week: Pinecone Coffee Co. in Corktown!!) was something I’d wanted to do since deciding to start the business. Partnering with companies like these is a great way to be a part of the local food scene.
In applying for markets, I often encountered rules such as products needing to contain 80% or more local ingredients, and that packaging should be as earth-friendly and sustainable as possible. This is one more reason I love partnering with local markets: their values are often aligned with Foundry’s.
FGFS: How do you decide on what flavours for Foundry What is your favourite flavour that you have made so far?
Foundry: The local part was easy — Ontario is chock-full of seasonal fruits and nuts, honey and herbs, and it’s home to so much food artistry: locally-made cheeses, beers, and liqueurs are widely available and all these delicious things lend themselves perfectly to ice cream flavour combinations. My favorite flavours so far have been utterly local: Mint Chip made with spearmint from Backyard Harvest in Hamilton and homemade FTO dark chocolate chips, and Saskatoon Berry Swirl, using gorgeous, perfectly ripe, organic Saskatoon berries from Baba Link Organic Farm (well, those, and Girl Guide Cookies n’ Cream, ‘cause…woah!).
FGFS: Your packaging is really unique! Why is being sustainable important to Foundry?
Foundry: The rule about local sourcing [at the Farmer’s Markets] was one that was easy to comply with. The packaging issue, on other hand, was something I wasn’t prepared for, but as it turned out, one that was easily solved. Earnest Ice Cream, the company I’d worked for in Vancouver, packages all its ice cream in glass pint jars. They are reusable, recyclable, and returnable (I give you $1 back when you return your jar, just like a milk bottle deposit!), and introduce into the atmosphere none of the toxins associated with plastics packaging. It’s affordable. It’s good-looking. It’s durable (breakage is way less an issue than you would think!) and it provides a memorable way to introduce ice cream to my customer base, while keeping the conversation about sustainability and re-use vibrant. This was a packaging method I was already familiar with and it allowed me to comply with Farmers’ Markets’ totally valid requirements of waste reduction and mindful packaging.
FGFS: Why Hamilton?
Foundry: My husband and I decided on Hamilton for two reasons: we’d be priced out of Toronto which, admittedly, beckons with its many restaurants and urban sprawl (we’d been proud strap-hangers in Montreal and Vancouver, and it seemed strange to be moving someplace that required us getting a car!). But my husband’s family is also from the Hamilton-area and many of his friends live here. Hamilton, then, seemed like the natural choice. And it hasn’t disappointed. There’s something great about the tempo of this city, and about its homegrown pride. I can really get behind that!
FGFS: Thank you so much Laurel! And lastly, your favourite place to eat in Hamilton?
Foundry: The best thing about the food community here is that it’s incredibly diverse! It seems like no matter what you crave, Hamilton can provide. My current favorites include (**but are not limited to!!!**) Granny’s Place, Mr. Gao, Pinecone Coffee, The Burnt Tongue, Lulu’s Shawarma, Fazari’s Cucina, Rolly Rocket’s BBQ, and Mezcal TNT. And I’m really excited to try Except For Kenneth.
Foundry Ice Cream
- Wednesdays at the Ancaster Farmers’ Market 3-7pm
- Saturdays all summer:
- Waterdown Farmers’ Market 8am-1pm
- Locke Street Farmers’ Market 9am-1pm