Approximately 1.54 billion gallons of ice cream are produced in the Unites States annually, according to an International Dairy Foods Association spokesperson. “Every major brand you can think of has a kosher symbol on most (not all) of its products,” Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer, who oversees dairy product certification for OU Kosher, told me in an email. “A brief walk through the ice cream freezer aisle of any supermarket will testify to this.”
Now, kosher ice cream is getting a new face with Chozen, a Jewish sweets and holiday-inspired artisanal ice cream line that hit supermarket shelves this month with flavors like Matzoh Crunch, Coconut Macaroon, and Ronne’s Rugelach. (You’re probably thinking, didn’t I just see this today in that other daily Jewish magazine of life and culture? Yeah, well, Tablet Magazine tasted Chozen at its offices all the way back Monday afternoon. Just sayin’.)
Chozen is the brainchild of 62-year-old Ronne Fisher and her daughters, Isabelle, 34, and Meredith, 30. One evening in 2008, Ronne tells me, the family was doing a homemade mix-in of rugelach and vanilla, one of their typical culinary innovations. “We joked, ‘Wouldn’t it be delicious to just have ice cream with rugelach already in it?’” recalls Ronne. “‘Wouldn’t it be great to have sweet noodle pudding with ice cream, or potato pancakes with ice cream?’” (Let’s just stick with the rugelach for now!)
The company combines pastries from Green’s and other kosher bakeries in Brooklyn with ice cream produced at a kosher dairy in Ancramdale, New York, a small town near the Massachusetts border. Ronne Fisher drives a couple of hours to the dairy every other month. There she helps pour the delivered baked-goods into the churning vats of ice cream and labels the containers.
“I have never, let me say that again, never purchased processed desserts,” says Fisher. To determine which flavors Chozen would include, Ronne Fisher went to kosher markets and tasted hundreds of kinds of rugelach, babkas, macaroons, hamantaschens, and blintzes. “Invariably, I would taste something and then decide that I could make it better,” she says. The Fishers scoured kosher cookbooks for pastry ideas as well. “It’s not just about throwing a blintz or rugelach in vanilla ice cream,” says Fisher, “it’s about finding the essence of the rugelach.” Even if you don’t get a bite of rugelach in a given spoonful, for example, the ice cream itself should invoke that taste.
Fisher is at work refining Chocolate Babka and Apples and Honey ice creams, and is considering adding further new flavors down the road, including Chanukah Gilt, a milk-chocolate with edible gold sprinkles, and a halvah-flavored one.
For now, ice cream lovers in New York City who hunger for a taste of Passover can find Chozen at Garden of Eden, Pomegranate, and West Side Market. Come July 1, you can buy it online.