Sometimes the most insignificant sound can rekindle memories of events long past. That certain song, a voice – and suddenly it all comes flooding back. Having spent much of my life in music and audio engineering, sound is what does it for me. For instance, the milkman delivering glass milk bottles to the metal box on my parents’ porch. Clink. Clank. Clunk, as the top closed. It happened so long ago, but I can play it back like it was yesterday.
So, what triggered all this dairy-related nostalgia, you ask? (Please ask. If you don’t, the article ends here.) Well, as I walked into Rustic Acres Market on Holland Glade Road, Earl Warren was loading glass bottles of milk into a cooler. Clink, as they slid across the metal shelf. Clank, as they gently collided with one another. Clunk, as he closed the cooler door. And there I was, transported into the past as the milkman lifted out the empties, clinked them into his metal carrier, and replaced them (clank) with shiny new ones brimming with snow-white milk.
Earl Warren’s Rustic Acres Market retails the milk they produce on their Century Farm (same family ownership for at least 100 years). (Sadly, Earl's wife and business partner, Mary Ann passed away in August, 2015.) The entire process, from raising, caring for and milking the cows, to filtering and pasteurizing to bottling happens right there. In fact Rehoboth Dairy, LLC is one of only two Delaware operations certified to process their own milk for bottling and retailing.
The late Mary Ann’s relatives included the Holland family; the original Dutch settlers who farmed the land between what are now Tanger Seaside and the Holland Glade development. The original farmhouse stood on the spot now occupied by The Glade’s clubhouse.
Pulled Pork sandwich. The sauce is mine.1/6 Rustic Acres Market / Rehoboth Dairy2/6 Rustic Acres Market / Rehoboth Dairy3/6 Rustic Acres Market / Rehoboth Dairy4/6 Pulled Pork on a soft bun.5/6 VERY meaty ribs at Rustic Acres.6/6
The families sold the land to Delaware, and it was designated a State Park. The Rehoboth/Lewes bike trail runs through it, paralleling the old Junction & Breakwater rail line that connected a string of Methodist camps between Rehoboth and Lewes. The family has been producing milk for the commercial market since 1936, initially wholesaling to PET evaporated milk, because there was no way to ship it safely in liquid form.
Everyone who has contacted me about Rehoboth Dairy loves the product. Many can’t put it into words, and most just end up shaking their heads and saying, “try it.” My friend Bill Staiger (Mary Ann called him a “milk foodie”) did pretty much everything short of driving me there for my conversion into a “milk newbie” (Mary Ann’s words). Once you’ve had it, there’s no going back. And I'm hooked. In fact, there are 3 glass milk bottles I plan to return when I drop in this afternoon to pick up a couple racks of ribs for dinner.
As part of his strict FDA certification, Earl translates these milky accolades into hard science. “It tastes better in glass,” he maintains. Apparently the fluorescent light in most grocery store coolers travels (and reacts with the milk) differently through plastic. Moreover, the glue that holds paper cartons together can affect the taste of the contents. Earl also states unequivocally that relaxed cows create a tastier product with a longer shelf life. Maybe they just like the beach.
The chemical composition of milk from cows that are stressed into being high producers is different than that obtained from their less frazzled cohorts. The Warrens introduced me to their 80+ dairy cows (yes, they have names), and I have to admit they’re a pretty laid-back crew; munching their way through the day and enjoying visits from Earl and his son Nelson – but skeptically backing away from camera-toting Cape Gazette columnists.
Rustic Acres Market also sells a variety of meats, cheese, eggs, butter and baked goods. And don’t forget the ice cream! Rehoboth is a summer resort, and it only seems natural to scoop it fresh and homemade. After all, the cows that started it all are just a short stroll away, and the processing equipment is in the next room. It doesn’t get any fresher than that.
Earl is also smoking ribs, chicken pork and brisket (usually on in-season weekends) for your nibbling pleasure. The ribs are meaty, top quality and worth every penny. Call first! Y'never know. 302-226-2571
Rustic Acres Farm Market is easy to find. From Coastal Highway, turn east onto Holland Glade Road (just south of the Tanger Seaside outlets; like you are going to the Epworth Church) and drive a mile or so until you see the red farm market on your left. If Earl's a'smokin', you can follow your nose.