Frozen custard comes to Southeast Texas

Alligator Snapping Turtle

Frozen custard as a dessert first saw commercial success in Coney Island, New York, in 1919, when ice cream vendors Archie and Elton Kohr found that adding egg yolks to ice cream created a smoother texture and helped the ice cream stay cold longer.

In their first weekend on the boardwalk, they sold 18,460 cones, according to the article “Happy Days” by The Village Voice writer Robert Sietsema.

The dessert was made popular in the Midwest when introduced at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. Its popularity quickly spread to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which became known as the “unofficial frozen capital of the world” and spurred a three-way competition between custard shops Kopp’s, Gilles and Leon’s.

St. Louis is known for Ted Drewes’ frozen custard shop. Drewes began making frozen custard for a carnival and opened his first St. Louis shop on Natural Bridge Avenue in 1930. Seeing a rise in his shop’s popularity, Drewes opened a second location and then a third on one of the alignments of Route 66 that has been featured on the Food Network show “Feasting on Asphalt.” Drewes was offered several opportunities to turn his business into a nationwide franchise, but refused.

With all the success and longevity of custard shops such as these, La Belle native Wade Kimball and his wife Karen thought why not here in Southeast Texas?

“I thought, ‘Why don’t we have this down South?’” says Wade, who added there are a few high dollar franchises like Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers in bigger cities like Houston but nothing like his mom and pop shop in Nederland.

“My wife is from Carlisle,” Wade says, who added that he orders the custard mix from Lloyd’s of Pennsylvania, Karen’s home state. “Where they grew up, there was a small shop that opened up right after World War II and that’s been there ever since.”

More than a half-century later, the original neon signs continue to beckon crowds at Massey’s Frozen Custard in Carlisle. Patrons wait in lines to be served cones, shakes, sundaes and slush drinks. The establishment has changed hands twice since its inception, but its name remains unchanged. Two original Electro Freezer machines continue to crank out rich frozen custard enticing visitors from near and far.

Wade, who was born in Port Arthur, says he hopes to have the same success at his new Nederland shop — Kimball’s Creamery. And so far, so good.

“We’re doing three times the volume we anticipated,” Wade says.

News about the shop opening Monday, Oct. 3, has been blowing up on social media and out of 68 reviews thus far, Kimball’s has earned a 4.8 of 5 stars on Facebook. Not too shabby.

“I’ve been a life-long Blue Bell faithful, but my first taste of frozen custard has opened my eyes to a whole new world of frozen goodness,” reviewer Lindsey Leeann Darby raves on Kimball’s Facebook page.

We wholeheartedly agree. Wade says he has had customers drive all the way from Houston for his custard.

Although Southeast Texas is known for its franchises, Kimball’s is far from it. The shop definitely has that Midwestern mom and pop feel to it and it really is family-owned and managed. Wade and Karen work the custard machine and greet customers with a smile. Their son, daughter and son-in-law also help out at the shop as well.

What is frozen custard?

Although frozen custard is similar to ice cream, it is made with eggs in addition to cream and sugar. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration requires products marketed as frozen custard to contain at least 10 percent butterfat and 1.4 percent egg yolk solids. If it has a smaller percentage of egg yolk solids, it is considered ice cream.

The high percentage of butterfat and egg yolk makes frozen custard thicker, richer and creamier than ice cream.

Soft serve ice creams may have an overrun as large as 100 percent, meaning half of the final product is composed of air.

“We try to keep about 20 percent air in so you get that dense, rich mouth feel and the flavor that stays,” says Wade, who attended Bob Scoop’s School, run by Bob Borkoski. Bob, a longtime successful frozen custard shop owner, teaches those who want to start frozen custard franchises. Wade also receives tips from a friend who runs Scooter’s Frozen Custard in Chicago.

What we tried

We had to try the Alligator Snapping Turtle Sundae for its nifty name alone. This treat is made with vanilla custard, hot fudge, caramel, roasted pecans and whipped cream. It’s probably our favorite out of everything we tried.

Call us old school, but we’ve always loved malts. The malted milk powder just adds something that a shake doesn’t have. But using custard instead of ice cream just brings a malt to a whole ’nother level. We tried the chocolate flavor, and it was decadently good.

What’s better than a banana split? A banana split made with frozen custard, of course!

The split had everything you would normally expect — bananas, cherries, nuts, chocolate syrup, pineapple, strawberry, whipped cream, but the frozen vanilla custard sets it apart from what you’d find at an ice cream shop.

So, if you’ve never tried frozen custard, we recommend you get in your car right now and head to Kimball’s. You can thank us later.

Don’t forget to try Kimball’s daily special — when we visited, it was the scrumptious raspberry cheesecake.

For shop hours call (409) 237-3000.