All year long, a handful of dairies keeps North County stocked with fresh milk products.
But at this time of year, the taste buds of many begin watering for something more: eggnog, the thick holiday drink made of beaten eggs and cream (and often served mixed with whiskey or rum).
The eggnog produced by the Hollandia Dairy--where a billboard proclaims the "milk is fresh, and cows are happy!"--has over the years built a loyal following.
The San Marcos dairy is a long way from Alphen aan de Ryn, the ancestral home of Pete de Jong and his brothers, owners of the dairy.
Sitting behind a cluttered desk at the Hollandia Dairy offices, Pete de Jong speaks energetically of the business his parents bought over 40 years ago. "We went from 35 cows when my parents were around in San Marcos, to over 1,000 cows today," he said. Today, there are 50 family members involved in the business in one way or another, and the operation has diversified to include interests in Arizona and Oregon.
On the hillside site in San Marcos, dozens of Holsteins graze contentedly. The peaceful country scene, although part of the local landscape since the 1920s, is being crowded out by development. The dairy owners are looking for less crowded pastures, but relocation of the operation may still be two or three years down the line.
In addition to its seasonal production of eggnog, the dairy produces nonfat and low-fat milk, whole milk, half and half, whipping cream, various flavors of ice cream and of fruit juices for institutional use.
In what may be one of the last local vestiges of old-fashioned service, Hollandia Dairy trucks make home deliveries all over North County. The dairy products also grace the shelves of local convenience and "mom and pop" stores--with eggnog one of the most popular products during the holiday season.
Hollandia's wholesale eggnog production began in the late 1960s. "We were distributing another manufacturer's product at that time," De Jong said, "but we weren't really happy with it, so we decided to make our own."
For De Jong, as well as other family members, the taste had to be similar to a popular egg- and milk-based Dutch beverage called "advokaat."
"The drink is used as an aperitif in Holland," De Jong said. "But we couldn't really afford it when we were growing up. It was reserved for rich people, not farmers." Once in his youth, De Jong did get to taste it, and the memory is indelible.
"Our eggnog is made with fresh products. We blend cream, egg yolks and flavorings," he said, pointing out the 400-gallon stainless-steel vats where eggnog was being mixed.
Hollandia manufactures its eggnog, which is sold in one-quart containers, only during November and December. To cater to consumers concerned about their cholesterol count, Hollandia also makes a lighter, low-fat eggnog, which it markets in half-gallon cartons.
Inside a large, refrigerated warehouse, hundreds of crates filled with a variety of cartons bearing the Hollandia Christmas label stand ready to be shipped out to all parts of North County.
Hollandia Dairy, 622 E. Mission Road, San Marcos 92069. (619) 744-3222. Quarts of eggnog $1.39; half-gallons of low-fat eggnog $1.49. Available at the dairy, in grocery stores and by home delivery.