One of my all-time favorite sketches on Saturday Night Live is the Schweddy Balls bit, with Ana Gasteyer, Molly Shannon and Alec Baldwin. Beyond the obvious joke which they get plenty of mileage out of, the sendup of NPR is pretty great. There have been tons of Weekend Edition Sunday stories that operate at about the same pace.
It was a bit of a surprise this fall when Ben & Jerry’s announced that they would be releasing a limited batch flavor this fall called – what else – Schweddy Balls. I could hardly believe they’d do it, only because that sort of thing tends to get quashed by the no-fun set. It’s totally within character for Ben & Jerry’s. But, as could be expected, people are outraged and it’s not easy to find because of outrage. I’m glad that the most important problem facing our society these days is a limited run ice cream with a tongue-in-cheek name.
Pete Schweddy had a lot of balls. In the interest of large-batch production Ben & Jerry’s must have had to simplify down to the best Pete had to offer. The ice cream is described as “Fair Trade vanilla ice cream with a hint of rum [...] loaded with fudge covered rum and milk chocolate malt balls.” So if you were hoping Pete’s popcorn balls might have made the cut, you’ll be disappointed.
I’m always a sucker for a strange ice cream flavor, even if it doesn’t work. This didn’t strike me as being too strange. As a regular flavor without the name, I might have passed it by. Given my surprise in finding it on a store shelf (Bristol Farms on Westwood Blvd. for my Angelenos), I had to give it a try even though I previously had no real plans to ever hunt it down.
Schweddy Balls is pretty pale, slightly off-white with a small amount of the malt balls visible. My carton is distributed with more a little lower; the first bit of ice cream is mostly just that – ice cream.
At first taste, the rum is very distant and the vanilla takes a lot of precedence. The balls are crunchy with a nice malt flavor and some good texture and a faint hint of rum, but again, not much. There’s a nice, if slightly bland and straightforward chocolate taste at the end of things. It’s about as chocolatey as, say, Magic Shell.
After a few spoonfuls, the rum in the ice cream builds up and becomes a little more pointed and direct. I don’t think I’d go so far as to call it boozy. It’s nice and pleasant and not overboard. Some of the malt balls wind up being just chocolate balls with a hint of rum to them. When you get the full taste of a ball, though, it’s just salty enough to provide a good counterpoint to the rum flavor of the ice cream.
I also noticed a few moments where there’s a distinct tang of Juicy Fruit gum. For me, this isn’t a bad thing. It kind of reminds me of the egg nog yet to come in the next few months.
Schweddy Balls, unfortunately for Pete Schweddy (and Ben & Jerrys) isn’t quite as irresistible as they would have you imagine. In my opinion it’s certainly worth a try and is coming out at the right time of year. If you see a pint and you like malt, rum, and maybe a hint of egg nog, pick it up.
If I were going to rate this on a scale similar to the whiskey scale, this would be a B- – worth trying.