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Funky flavoured artisan popsicles keep Johnny Pops busy

07/18/2015 03:52 EDT | Updated 07/18/2016 05:59 EDT
Like many, Vancouver's Johnny Wikkerink used to think popsicles were only sold in corner stores and were of the generic fruit and chocolate type.

He took more of an interest though, while traveling around Atlanta, Georgia in 2008, when he saw someone selling popsicles on the street with a wide variety of delicious-sounding flavours.

Five years later that memory came back to him, while he was working a job he hated.

"At four in the morning I was awake, and I [thought], 'What am I doing with my life? Oh yeah, I'll make popsicles!'" he told North by Northwest host Sheryl MacKay.

Since then Wikkerink has been making and selling popsicles under the name Johnny Pops, offering unique flavours such as blueberry mojito, raspberry basil and avocado lime.

He can be found at the Vancouver Food Cart Festival every Sunday, several farmers' markets around Vancouver, and while peddling his red cart around the city.

Experimenting with flavours

With no culinary experience, Wikkerink experiments with ingredients and fruit he receives from farmers.

"I start with something basic usually. I get peaches, okay throw some vanilla with that, or I'll try peach ginger, or I can layer them, strawberry on top and peach on the bottom," he said.

He comes up with one or two new flavours a week.

"My plan isn't just to make a bunch of flavours and then batch them and sell them in stores. I just want to keep things fresh and make new flavours," he said.

That means he has to take older flavours off his menu — which some of his regular customers find difficult.

"This year I've only taken blueberry mojito off the list for two days," he said.

"That one people come back for. There's the standard mint and lemon and lime and then I make a bitters syrup...I get orange rind, fennel, cardamom and coriander in there."

With this year's hot summer, Wikkerink said he can hardly keep up.

He says he can spend up to 17 hours in the kitchen a day, and the 2,000 popsicles he makes over the course of a week all sell by the end of the weekend.

"I stay up really late making popsicles," he said. "Sometimes I hope that it rains so I can have a little bit of time to catch up!"

With the popsicle-eating season being as short as it is, how does Wikkerink keep himself going through the rest of the year?

He makes crème brûlée.

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