From Farm to Freezer
Fannie’s Ice Pops makes “fun on a stick” — frozen summertime treats that are vegan, gluten-free, all natural, and feature local, organic ingredients whenever possible.
STORY BY ADRIANA JANOVICH
Blame it on summer. And the kids. And the ice cream truck that passed by “like, 72 times a day.” When Mandolyn Hume’s twins — a boy and a girl, then 3 — heard the jingly-jangly anthems of childhood summers — those highly recognizable notes of “The Entertainer” and “Pop Goes the Weasel,” and the other sounds that meant frozen treats were approaching their street — they couldn’t contain themselves.
It wasn’t necessarily ice cream that the twins craved. They most often asked for ice pops, made with red and blue dyes and artificial flavors and loaded with refined sugar — the same ingredients listed first in many ice-pop brands: high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, sugar, sugar syrup, and a bunch of different gums: guar, locust bean, modified cellulose.
Sure, Mandolyn wanted to treat her kids to cold sweets in summer. But she wanted to avoid those artificial colors and flavors and syrups. She wanted to give her children a more healthful option, with real fruit, less sugar, and no dyes. “I thought,” she says, “we could make something at home ourselves.”
Mandolyn started by simply freezing smoothies. Her initial frozen smoothie pops were a hit with her kids right off the bat. But she didn’t get the idea to sell them herself until after her toddlers gave selling them a try. To keep them occupied during a yard sale in spring 2013, Mandolyn let the twins sell the smoothie pops for a dollar each and keep the proceeds from whatever — if any — sales they might make. At the end of the yard sale, the twins had sold 25–30.
Perhaps even more exciting were the comments from her yard-sale customers. She remembers people telling her, “You could totally sell these” — not just as a yard-sale refreshment, but as a bona fide business.
That got Mandolyn, a former special education teacher with a master’s degree and interest in nutrition, thinking. “I had quit my teaching job at that point, and I wanted some kind of creative outlet. I wanted to be a productive member of society. I thought, ‘This could be doable.’ I could still be home with my kids.”
And the idea for Fannie’s Ice Pops was born.
Mandolyn bought 200 ice-pop molds online, along with some commercial-size pots and other kitchen equipment. She researched mobile vending options and found a company in Portland that made vintage-inspired bicycle carts. And she named her new enterprise after her great-grandmother Fannie, who had a small farmstead in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, surrounded by plum and walnut orchards. Fannie harvested and sold the fruit. She also cooked from scratch and kept recipes simple, an approach that made a lasting impression on Mandolyn.
Mandolyn officially founded Fannie’s Ice Pops in April 2014. She rented a commercial kitchen and, shortly after that, catered her first event – a birthday party for a friend’s 2-year-old.
She started with only a few flavors: straight-up strawberry, strawberry-rhubarb, and rhubarb with lemon verbena. By her second season, Mandolyn’s selection covered seven printed pages. It was way too much. But, she says, the ample offerings helped her narrow down her menu. Since then, “I’ve homed in on what people really like,” she says. “When I had all those flavors, I was figuring out what people preferred.”
Today, Fannie’s Ice Pops provides seven wholesale flavors, as well as 12 rotating seasonal flavors using whatever ingredients are fresh and readily available, for events and farmers markets. Mandolyn often buys ingredients from the same farmers markets where she sells her ice pops. She also picks her own fruit at family U-pick farms in the Green Bluff agricultural area, some 15 miles north of Spokane.
Mandolyn uses as few ingredients as possible and makes her own infused syrups using organic cane sugar. She uses those syrups sparingly. She also adds fresh lemon juice for depth of flavor. And, if a recipe requires creaminess, she opts for coconut milk. Most of Mandolyn’s ice pops include only four to six ingredients. Some have as few as three.
Her most popular flavors are straight-up strawberry, strawberry-rhubarb, and chocolate-avocado. Look also for strawberry-lemonade, creamy strawberry, raspberry-basil, cold-brew coffee, lemonade-rosemary, roasted peach and vanilla, and strawberry-watermelon-mint. But the flavor combination that seems to surprise people most — and sells really well — is Mandolyn’s signature cucumber-apple-mint-lime ice pop.
Mandolyn’s pops are vegan, gluten-free, all natural, and feature local, organic ingredients whenever possible, and they’ve proven wildly popular in the Spokane area, especially during the region’s sizzling summers.
Sales and production have tripled since Mandolyn began her business, boosted by a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2015 to upgrade her commercial equipment. She’s snce added to her catering repertoire — providing ice pops for weddings and private parties with three tiers of service options — as well as selling her ice pops at pop-up and community events, festivals, and, of course, her mainstay of local farmers markets. Her frozen fruit treats — “fun on a stick,” as she describes them on her website — are now also available at a handful of retail locations in the Inland Northwest.
But buying them from Mandolyn in-person is best. Not only do customers get to meet the maker of their ice pop, but her delivery method adds to the charm. Mandolyn sells her ice pops from a whimsical, vintage-inspired bicycle bedecked with a wooden cold cart — with her twins, now 7, sometimes in tow.
Straight-up Strawberry Ice Pops
From Mandolyn Hume, proprietor of Fannie’s Ice Pops in Spokane
2 cups puréed strawberries (from 4 cups, or 1 pound, hulled strawberries)
1 cup simple syrup (recipe below)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Mix puréed strawberries and simple syrup in a bowl or pitcher with a pour spout. Add lemon juice and stir. Pour mixture into ice-pop molds, leaving a little room at the top for expansion. Insert sticks and freeze until solid, about 5 to 8 hours. Unmold and transfer to a plastic bag for storage until served.
Note: To make the simple syrup, boil 1 cup water in a saucepan with 1 cup organic sugar cane (or sweetener of choice) and stir until sugar is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.
Adriana Janovich writes about food and travel from Spokane. Her favorite Fannie’s flavor is the signature cucumber-apple-mint-lime.