The Scene

A scoop of nostalgia: The Milk House turns memories into unique ice cream flavors

Clint and Brook Carey are the owners of the Milk House in Pingree Grove.

A Vietnamese Cinnamon ice cream was among the recent homemade selections at The Milk House in Pingree Grove, an ice cream shop that in 2020 was inducted into the roster of businesses under the Illinois Made banner and is included in the state’s “Meet the Makers 2024″ guide.

The Illinois Office of Tourism in 2016 kicked off Illinois Made to celebrate artisans, products and experiences unique to the state.

The husband-and-wife team of Clint and Brook Carey opened The Milk House, 230 Reinking Road, in 2015 in the actual milk house from the Krumm Farm that had been in Brook Carey’s family since 1886.

Reflecting another branch of Brook Carey’s family tree, the Druehls, in 1972, Illinois Gov. Richard Ogilvie and the state Department of Agriculture awarded it “Centennial Farm” status for being owned by the same family for more than 100 years.

Interior seating in the barn at The Milk House in Pingree Grove.

The Careys bought the farmland from Brook’s grandparents when there were about 130 people in Pingree Grove — a far cry from its most recent census figure of about 11,000 residents.

The family kept the milk house and the farmhouse, where Brook and Clint store a 1968 ice cream truck available for rent, and sold the farmland to developers.

Clint Carey was a jeweler from Arlington Heights and Brook was an attorney before they opened The Milk House. Sons Jackson and Brandon also work at the shop.

The transition was a little scary, especially when Brook Carey left the law firm, but according to her husband, they sell tens of thousands of pints of ice cream and hundreds of thousands of scoops.

A Saturday afternoon in June saw a constant flow of customers enter the little shop to place orders, get their cones or cups and sit at outdoor picnic tables or at tables under the roof of a small, clean barn next to the milk house.

“We love it,” Clint Carey said. “We love the creative part of it, we love the science part of it, and that combination. We love being able to take things that we remember in our childhood, those moments in time, and turn those into ice cream.

“An example is one of my fondest memories is eating melons with my grandfather in Peoria. He taught me to salt the melon, so one of the first ice creams I learned to make was salted cantaloupe,” he said.

Some of these recipes have been in the family for generations. All the ice cream is homemade, as are baked goods such as the store’s waffle cones or the lemon bars that go into Bake Sale Lemon Bar ice cream — a favorite.

Orange & Cream ice cream cone from the Milk House in Pingree Grove.

Ingredients come fresh from local and regional sources, with highlights being seasonal selections such as Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble, Watermelon Sherbet, Peach, and Sweet Corn.

“When we first made it people were not familiar with it,” Clint Carey said of the Sweet Corn ice cream. “Since then, from the minute we start making it we can’t keep it in stock.”

When they say seasonal, they mean it. Peach ice cream is available on an extremely limited basis only after the fruit comes in around July or August.

“We process thousands of pounds of peaches, but you’ll only get that for three, four weeks,” Clint Carey said.

The Milk House offers milkshakes, ice cream bars, banana splits, hot fudge brownie sundaes, ice cream pies and has a selection of root beers, cream sodas and specialty drinks you don’t see every day — Brownie’s, Green River, Dang, O-So, Triple XXX, Dog n Suds, and Dad’s.

But this Illinois “Maker” is all about creating fantastic ice cream.

“I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve been a success … we have a vision and we stick to it. We don’t get distracted by other things,” Clint Carey said.

“We found the one thing we do and we do it really well.”