Here’s the scoop on why Sarah Morton started making ice cream: to simplify her life.
For 18 years, Morton worked in the gallery business, first in Portland, then as owner of Bangor Frameworks, and finally as owner of Union River Gallery, on School Street in Ellsworth.
She sold the gallery, and now she’s the owner, R&D department, maintenance supervisor, server and lone employee of Morton’s Moo, whose products are gourmet ice cream and sorbet.
It’s a change that Morton relishes.
“I didn’t have a whole lot of balance in my life when I was in a bigger business,” she said. “I was ready. Now I set my own hours and it’s just me. I do have more time to play with my grandkids and do a little kayaking, some of the things I never got to do before.”
Her father had a lot to do with her new choice of occupation.
“My dad used to take all five of us kids out for ice cream every Saturday,” Morton recalled. “He’d always say, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to own an ice-cream shop?’ I’m sorry he didn’t live to see this.”
Black raspberry, her father’s favorite, is on her menu in memory of him, as is double-dark chocolate, mocha chip, vanilla, coffee, strawberry, coconut, peach, blueberry and butterscotch ice cream. All are for sale at her 13 School St. shop, either by the cone or dish or in quart containers.
Morton spends a good deal of time working on her flavors, and is now developing a ginger ice cream. “What ends up being a good product is your recipes,” she said. “It’s a small machine, so I don’t lose a huge amount when I’m experimenting. All the flavors I’ve tried, I’ve gotten them to where I like them.”
Morton began dabbling in ice cream late last summer, working out of the gallery’s kitchen. She took her wares around to a number of events, and her new direction was set.
“I had a great time, and decided to go at it full force,” she said.
Amish builders supplied her with a building shell across the yard from the gallery, then she finished off the interior herself. She uses half of the building for her business, while her son-in-law, Stephen Henry, uses the other half as the office for his company, DownEast Granite and Wood.
Also last winter, she did research about ice cream on the Internet, in books and through trial and error.
On a recent morning, Morton was busy scrubbing down and sterilizing her small Taylor ice-cream making machine, prepping for a batch of raspberry sorbet. She combined the water, sugar and fruit the night before, allowing the flavors to really blend while the mixture set.
Using the right ingredients is important to Morton. For example, that’s why she buys from a dairy that doesn’t use growth hormones on its cows.
“I’m really fussy about that,” she said. “It’s what sets you apart from what’s in the grocery store.”
After whisking the sorbet mix thoroughly, Morton poured it into the used machine, which mixes and cools it simultaneously. She set a kitchen timer, then settled in to watch the sorbet thicken.
“Timing is really important,” she explained. “I want it to come out smooth, not grainy. It’s supposed to cut out automatically, but where it’s an older machine, I still set the timer.”
Morton poured out a small dollop of sorbet into a dish, testing it, and decided it needed a little more time. When the time was right, she stopped the machine and opened a small door, poured the sorbet into a cardboard box. (She works with the bigger boxes and quart containers. “Any smaller, and it’s tough to handle alone,” she said.)
After Morton got all she could out of the machine, she covered the sorbet with parchment paper, closed the box, dated it and got it into a very cold freezer to set the flavor. After a couple of days, she’ll move it into a warmer freezer, so the sorbet will soften for dipping.
On average, Morton mixes four batches in a morning, either replenishing flavors that she’s low on, or trying out new recipes. She’ll clean up all the equipment again when she’s done.
Then comes the second part of Morton’s day. From noon to 5 p.m., on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and sometimes Saturday, she dips ice cream cones and dishes from her trailer in front of her building.
Morton has ingeniously equipped her trailer with a marine pump, to supply it with running water for her sink and scoop-washing compartment. She’ll take it on the road several times this summer.
So far, she’s planning to be at the Bangor Sidewalk Art Show Aug. 2, the Marine Harbor and Boats Show Aug. 18 in Rockland, and the National Folk Festival Aug. 22-24 in Bangor. She’ll also go to the occasional private function.
Morton also is considering selling her ice cream wholesale, but she’s not sure how much of that kind of work she wants to do during her off-season from dipping.
“I haven’t decided if I’ll go year round or not,” she said. “I may decide to go someplace warm. I haven’t been able to make these choices before.”
But for now, she’s content to serve up ice cream to a growing number of hot people.
“I enjoy the contact with the people,” she said. “I enjoy having kids and adults having a good time with the ice cream.”
For more information about Morton’s Moo, call 667-1146 or e-mail MortonsMoo@yahoo.com.