Recently ice cream has grown up, and not a minute too soon. Thanks to a revolution in cooking philosophy led by the irrepressible Blumental brigade, flavours no longer must stay in their allotted place on the menu. His famous bacon and egg ice cream started a popular, fun, and occasionally much-regretted trend for putting the savoury into the sweet.

Now of course everybody is at it, and when deciding what to fill the fridge with this summer there is a whole heap more choice than plain old vanilla, chocolate or raspberry ripple.

We put some of the smaller dairys’ offerings to the test in an effort to pick – wait for it – the cream of the crop. All can be ordered online, and delivered almost immediately. And yes, of course you can still have raspberry ripple if you like; just be prepared for it to be organic, with the freshest fruit local stalls can provide.

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Purbeck Ice Cream

Eighteen years ago Peter and Hazel Hartle ran a Friesian herd on acres of lush green hillside directly opposite the historic remains of Corfe Castle, Dorset – but they were struggling. ‘With the introduction of milk quota’s we found it increasingly difficult to maintain the farm as a viable enterprise and consequently had to come up with something pretty fast that we could do with our lovely milk that didn’t result in penalties for over production or tread on anyone’s toes’, said Hazel. The Hartles were devoted ice cream eaters who went on regular ‘ice cream crawls’ so it seemed a natural progression to start making their own ice cream; ‘but sooooo much better than anything we had ever come across on our ‘crawls” said Hazel.

The end result is utterly natural ice cream with no artificial additives (originally sold from a tiny van). The range grew steadily over 18 years, with vanilla bean and clotted cream soon joined by honeycombe hash, serious chocolate and champagne and strawberry.

In 2001 the Hartles began making chilli ice cream from minced red chillis. ‘It remains cool on the tongue and kicks off on the throat leaving you laughing out loud at the sunning effect’ says Hazel. Chilli red can be used for lacing soups and sauces or gracing steaks and seafood. The latest Purbeck launches are Cracked Black Pepper, Lemon and Root Ginger – perfect with Thai foods and Mixed Spice served with Duck or dim sum.

We liked the strawberry seduction, and the honeycombe hash best, and the chilli was certainly an interesting taste, particularly when mixed with the mango sorbet, which alone was not a huge hit, but combined with the chilli to make a hot mango chutney was much admired.

Lower Scoles Farm. Kingston. Wareham. Dorset. BH20 5LG. 01929 480090, or log onto their website.

Snugbury’s Ice Cream

Over 120,000 people come to Snugbury’s farm each year, simply to eat ice cream. Cheryl and Chris Saddler have been making the farm made Jersey ice cream since 1986 and it now comes in 40 different flavours, including a few diabetic-friendly varieties. ‘My favourite depends on my mood,’ says Cheryl, ‘vanilla is the world’s best selling flavour but I would go for honeycombe and sometimes death by chocolate.’ Snugbury’s also make damson and sloe gin ice cream and white chocolate mountain (white chocolate ice cream packed full of white chocolate pieces). Raspberry ripple is a favourite amongst the regulars – ‘its just raspberries mushed up in a whizzer then swirled into vanilla ice cream,’ says Cheryl. Snugbury’s is available in the north west and parts of the Lake District.

We liked the death by chocolate, and the elderflower and blackcurrant was also deemed to taste ‘very natural’. Rum and raisin was also popular, as was the maple and walnut flavour.

Snugburys Ice Cream, Park Farm, Hurleston, Nantwich, Cheshire, CW5 6BU or log on to their website.

Roskilly’s Ice Cream

All the ice cream is made from the rich organic milk, cream and low fat yoghurt, from our Jersey herd, this is the key to its flavour. The ice cream is made with the very finest Italian equipment to produce what the Italians call artisan ice cream with oodles of flavour and texture.

They make many of the ingredients ourselves, so they can be used fresh with no preservatives. Fresh fruit jams, small cubes of fudge, Hokey Pokey crunch and sponge cakes for the trifle and the tiramisu are made to fold in to the ice cream. This all helps to give the individual and distinctive character to the end result. They make a point of always trying new and unusual flavours.

This year Roskillys are also branching out into making entirely organic ice creams, the difference being that all the ingredients are organic, not just the milk and cream.

Among their more popular favourites are Love at First Bite (passion fruit yoghurt), Hokey Pokey (crunchy caramel) and Green Gobling (Pistachio).

We liked the raspberry yoghurt ice, and loved the organic chocolate ice cream, while the orange and marscapone was a cult hit with some of the team. The verdict was whether you like traditional creamy flavour, or a more modern twist, with something lighter and a bit more healthy. Roskillys can provide it in spades.