It was a warm, milky-white cloudy day when I drove to Moo Thru in Remington, Virginia. The famous ice cream and milk stand is just an hour south of us, and you can’t miss the red and white barn which nestles right up to Route 15/29, aka James Madison Highway. My friend Lisa from the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association met me in the parking lot and we sat down to catch up for a few minutes while we waited for Ken Smith, the dairy farmer in charge of Cool Lawn Farm and Moo Thru. This was my second farm tour with the Association, and I was feeling pretty excited about getting an insider view of the farm and their retail ice cream operation.
Ken sat down to chat with us and give me a quick overview of the ice cream business, which they just started in 2010. The shop is built around an old antique store on the lot, and the original stairs and upstairs rooms are still there, which is where they churn and store the ice cream. All of their ice cream and milk comes from their grass fed, hormone free registered Holstein herd, which are famously good milkers.
They studied the ice cream business at Penn State, where a few other famous ice cream makers have studied—Haagen-Dazs, Ben and Jerry, Bluebell—and they create all of their ice cream flavors. We talked shop and Ken listened very kindly while I shared some of our adventures in homemade ice cream, but he didn’t share any trade secrets on how they make their flavors.
We sampled quite a few, and I can say without reservation that this is some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted, period. The texture was creamy, the flavors rich, and the Pumpkin Pie ice cream had bits of pie crust in it.
You can get the ice cream in cones, cups, sundaes, and milk shakes, and they hand pack pints, quarts, and half-gallons to go, so I got the Raspberry Chocolate Chunk and Caramel Toffee to bring home.
In addition to the great ice cream, they also sell fresh milk from their cows, both white and chocolate whole milk. This is the real deal; I mean the white whole milk has a creamline, which means it’s not homogenized, so the cream floats to the top of the bottle. I skimmed the thick cream off and saved it to slather on English muffins and toast. The chocolate whole milk is like drinking a milkshake, and my boys couldn’t believe how good it was.
After we finished at Moo Thru, Ken drove us out to see the herd. All the girls were hanging out in the field, enjoying the winter day. I learned that cows do very well in cold temperatures, and it’s actually their best milk-producing time of the year, as summer temperatures have a dehydrating effect.
The farm is on the banks of the Rappahannock River, and the rolling countryside is beautiful and so different from the urban sprawl that is now much of Northern Virginia.
After visiting the cows in the pasture, we drove over the other half of the farm where we planned to check in on a newborn calf that had come that morning. Imagine our surprise when we drove up to see another cow in labor, just about to give birth. We hopped out of the truck and over the fence, and within a minute Ken pulled the baby out.
The whole morning had been fun, but this was my first time to witness a calf being born, and it was a truly memorable moment.
Ken was very generous about sharing his time with us and letting us see the farm, and I want to thank him for allowing us to come visit and make some photos of the farm and the Moo Thru experience. If you are ever driving down that way or want something fun to do while in Northern Virginia, plan to stop at Moo Thru and enjoy some of their fantastic ice cream and milk. And make sure you bring a cooler and ice packs so you can take some for the road.
The Moo Thru whole milk is perfect for custards, and I use it to make bread pudding and other baked goods for my family. This apple butter bread pudding recipe has just six ingredients, so it’s not a strain to put it together. I use our homemade apple butter, which has tons of flavor, but you can also use your favorite brand.
Apple Butter Bread Pudding
- 9×13 baking dish, lightly greased
- small bowl
- large mixing bowl
- 12 ounces challah (day-old, torn into small pieces)
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 2 cups apple butter
- 1-1/2 cups whole milk
- 6 large eggs (whisked)
- Preheat the oven to 350° F/175° C.
- Put the torn challah pieces into the prepared baking dish. In the small bowl, soak the raisins in hot water until soft, about 5 minutes, then drain well. Sprinkle the raisins and walnuts on the torn challah, tossing lightly to get some under the top layer.
- In the large mixing bowl, whisk together the apple butter, whole milk, and eggs. Pour over the challah and spread to make sure all of the bread is covered.
- Bake in the preheated oven until cooked all the way through and a toothpick tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack, and serve warm.