In The Kitchen With Chef Thomas: Caramel Apples

Join us as our head chef of the Lied Lodge & Conference Center shows you how to make caramel apples from scratch. Recipe below.

 

Caramel Apples

½ cup butter, cubed

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1 pinch salt

1- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Popsicle sticks

Medium tart apples

Melt butter and add brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Cook to a boil, about 10-12 minutes. Stir in milk and vanilla. Cook until a candy thermometer reads 248 degrees. Allow the mixture to cool slightly and dip in apples. Allow that to cool for 45 minutes to an hour. Enjoy!

Tag us in a photo of your homemade caramel apples!

Oktoberfest: Raise Your Stein at Arbor Day Farm

Like many other Midwesterners, I have some strong German roots. Do I own a pair of lederhosen? No. But I grew up eating sausage with sauerkraut, helping my grandma make apfel kuchen, and learning German words here and there. And I also happen to love Oktoberfest.

Really, though, who doesn’t? A traditional celebration of beer…complete with tasty food. Yes, please!

Oktoberfest1This Sunday (October 11), we’ll be hosting Oktoberfest in the historic barns at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City. It’s your opportunity to taste some authentic German foods courtesy of Chef Thomas, dance to polka music from the Jim Bochnicek Trio, and play horseshoes and other yard games.

As for the beer, there will be plenty of local, domestic, and international options on hand:

  • Lucky Bucket Oktoberfest
  • Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen
  • Woodchuck Hard Cider Amber
  • Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat
  • Blue Moon Caramel Apple Spiced Ale
  • Samuel Adams Octoberfest
  • Ploughshare Wohlleben Oktoberfest
  • Warsteiner Pilsner
  • Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen

Oktoberfest2The festival will run 2:00–7:00 p.m. on October 11. There’s a $5 cover charge (waived for Otoe County residents), and food and beer tickets will be available for purchase onsite.

So grab your alpine hat and head on over. Prost!

Cider Press at Arbor Day Farm

If you’ve ever watched the TV show “How It’s Made” on the Science Channel, you’ll appreciate this brief look at how Arbor Day Farm’s apple cider press works.

Arbor Day Farm has had a cider press for many years at the Apple House Market, but it was more of a museum showpiece than a functional cider press. Then in 2012, the press was overhauled and brought back into service — much to the delight of our fall season visitors (and their taste buds).

New parts were ordered. A new UV treatment machine arrived. The health inspector approved the changes, and Arbor Day Farm’s cider press was re-born.

Any kind of apples can be pressed for cider; we’re currently using a mix of Ozark Gold, Honey Crisp, Jonathan, and Braeburn apples from Arbor Day Farm’s apple orchards. This “recipe” will change over the season as different apple varieties ripen. Pressing takes place as needed all season long, and visitors can watch the cider press in action from large viewing windows inside the Cider Room.

If you’re visiting Arbor Day Farm this fall, we invite you to stop in and have a look — and take home a gallon or two of this fall season treat.

The Preservation Orchard: Arbor Day Farm’s Legacy

Heirloom Apple from Arbor Day Farm:

Heirloom Apple from Arbor Day Farm:
Claygate Pearmain

We’re all familiar with the apples readily available in the supermarket and at local orchards this time of year: red delicious, gala, granny smith, jonathans. But what about the lesser-known varieties that have—for one reason or another—fallen out of the spotlight?

The Preservation Orchard at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska, is full of these obscure apple varieties — 65 varieties, to be precise — some of them dating as far back as the 1500s. Some have interesting back stories that rival their appearance and flavor, while others just simply fell out of favor. Unlike today’s common apple varieties, which are bred for beauty and to withstand the rigors of modern food transportation and storage, these vintage apples are a sensitive, finicky lot — with delicate skins and flesh, a short window of ripeness, and the heirloom apple trees themselves often times have not survived the gradual changes in climate where they once thrived.

Heirloom Apples from Arbor Day Farm: Arkansas Black.

Heirloom Apple from Arbor Day Farm: Arkansas Black.

Not only is this very special orchard at Arbor Day Farm focused on preserving the unique apples of yesteryear, but it’s a living record of some of the finest known apples and a genetic repository that may one day help create varieties well-suited to a changing climate. The Preservation Orchard is one of just a handful of orchards in the United States where these rare heirloom apple varieties can still be found.

A visit to Arbor Day Farm this time of year — when a plethora of apple varieties are ripe and ready for picking — offers visitors the rare opportunity to taste the wonderful flavor of some of these old varieties. Heirloom apple tasting is a huge hit with visitors on fall weekends, as Nature Interpreters first show-and-tell about the Preservation Orchard itself, then slice and serve the rare fruits of its branches.

A few antique apple varieties worth noting:

  • Almata: red to the core, and not much more. This apple with reddish flesh has an interesting look but is not particularly flavorful.
  • Claygate Pearmain: common in Victorian-era gardens, this heirloom apple has a nutty aroma and a potato-like appearance.
  • Kandil Sinap: tall and cylindrical, this vintage apple originated in Turkey in the early 1800s. Crisp and juicy with a sweet and sour flavor.
  • Arkansas Black – a medium-sized apple from the 1840s. Glossy, dark red skin almost turns black when stored.

This apple season, be sure to visit Arbor Day Farm’s Preservation Orchard for a unique look at — and perhaps even a taste of — the apples of yesteryear.

Applejack Festival in Nebraska City: A Preview

Aerial view of Applejack Festival, Nebraska City, Nebraska. Image courtesy Nebraska City Tourism & Commerce.

Aerial view of Applejack Festival, Nebraska City, Nebraska. Image courtesy Nebraska City Tourism & Commerce.

Nebraska City, Nebraska, could be best known as the birthplace of Arbor Day — the tree planter’s holiday, first founded here in 1872 by renown resident J. Sterling Morton. Arbor Day is the community’s first and foremost celebration, and certainly the one with the most lasting of legacies.

But 140+ years later, another Nebraska City festival has picked up steam in a big way — the annual Applejack Festival, a community-wide celebration of an abundant apple harvest that attracts several thousand visitors to pick apples, sip cider, and otherwise enjoy a classic fall season getaway.

Sept. 18-20, 2015, marks the 47th annual Applejack Festival, and we invite you to join us at Arbor Day Farm for all the fun.

A few highlights of the weekend festival include:

Friday, Sept. 18:

Paul Phillips plays live music at the Apple House Market.

Paul Phillips plays live music at the Apple House Market, Arbor Day Farm.

6-9pm at Arbor Day Farm’s Apple House Market:
Live music from Paul Phillips; food & drinks available for purchase. Open late for extended shopping.

Saturday, Sept. 19:
9am-7pm at Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure:
apple orchards open for you-pick; Discovery Rides departing hourly (10am-5pm); corn maze, face painting, bubble making, hike the trails and the 50-foot high tree house; hayrack shuttle service to various points of interest at Arbor Day Farm. Food trucks will be onsite serving your favorite foods.

9am-6pm at Arbor Day Farm’s Historic Barns:
Craft Show, featuring 40+ booths of hand-crafted items. Food available for purchase.

9am-7pm at Arbor Day Farm’s Apple House Market:
shop for apples by the bag or box; caramel apples, apple pies, fresh-pressed cider; Arbor Day Farm wine tasting.

The mansion at Arbor Lodge State Historical Park

The mansion at Arbor Lodge State Historical Park

9am-7pm at Arbor Lodge State Historical Park:
tour the historic mansion and carriage house; Model A car display.

Sunday, Sept. 20:
9am-7pm at the Tree Adventure:
apple orchards open for you-pick; Discovery Rides departing hourly (10am-5pm); corn maze, face painting, bubble making, hike the trails and the 50-foot high treehouse; hayrack shuttle service to various points of interest at Arbor Day Farm. Food trucks will be onsite serving your favorite foods.

9am-5pm at Arbor Day Farm’s Historic Barns:
Craft Show, featuring 40+ booths of hand-crafted items. Food available for purchase.

Orchard-fresh apples are ready for purchase at Arbor Day Farm's Apple House Market, Nebraska City, Nebraska.

Orchard-fresh apples are ready for purchase at Arbor Day Farm’s Apple House Market, Nebraska City, Nebraska.

9am-7pm at Arbor Day Farm’s Apple House Market: shop for apples by the bag or box; caramel apples, apple pies, fresh-pressed cider; Arbor Day Farm wine tasting.

9am-7pm at Arbor Lodge State Historical Park:
tour the historic mansion and carriage house.

Download the Applejack Schedule in PDF form here, or check out how the entire Nebraska City community is celebrating Applejack here, which includes a parade, car shows, plenty of apples, multiple craft shows and more.

Hoping to stay overnight at the all-new Lied Lodge at Arbor Day Farm? Rooms sell out quickly in the fall season, but please call our Reservations line to check the latest availability: 800-546-5433.

We look forward to welcoming you to Arbor Day Farm this weekend — and all fall season.

Three Can’t-Miss Fall Events at Arbor Day Farm

All across Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska, you’ll find plenty of fun — and that’s never been more true than in the hustle and bustle of the fall season.

Of course, there’s plenty to see and do at the Tree Adventure year round, from the 50-foot-high treehouse soaring into the tree canopy, to the interactive hands-on learning kiosks in the pavilion, to the wooden beam bridges that traverse South Table Creek, the waterway famously noted in Lewis & Clark’s diaries.

But this time of year — arguably the most special season of all for a visit — all 260 acres just come alive with a crisp fall breeze in the air, apples ripening in the orchard, and golden leaves crunching underfoot along the hiking trails. Pair all of that with a calendar full of classic fall events and activities, and you have the makings of lifelong memories.

Here’s a preview of three fall season events you won’t want to miss at Arbor Day Farm.

The infamous apple cider slushies at Arbor Day Farm.

The infamous apple cider slushies at Arbor Day Farm.

1. Applejack Festival: Sept. 18-20. This city-wide celebration of an abundant apple harvest is nominated this year as one of USA Today’s Top 10 Fall Festivals, and for good reason. During this celebration weekend, around 60,000 visitors trek to Nebraska City — including to Arbor Day Farm — to pick apples, sip cider, watch the parade, take in a classic car show, and find treasures at multiple arts & craft fairs. It’s the kind of celebration that attracts generations of families for a nostalgic trip down memory lane, with picturesque orchard scenes and plenty of fun for all. It’s not to be missed. See the complete Applejack schedule for 2015.

Tree Climbing Weekend
Tree Climbing Weekend

2. Tree Climbing Weekend: Oct. 3-4. When’s the last time you climbed a tree? Maybe when you were 10? Maybe never? Tree Climbing Weekend at Arbor Day Farm is your opportunity to harness up and shimmy your way skyward in an old oak savanna. There’s even small-scale climbing options for the younger set. Tree climbing activities are included with regular Tree Adventure admission, and it’s always a popular draw.

 

The Historic Barns at Arbor Day Farm
The Historic Barns at Arbor Day Farm

 

3. Oktoberfest Celebration: Oct. 11. Arbor Day Farm’s historic barns — carefully restored to their original beauty — are the perfect setting for classic German food, German beers, and yes — a live polka band. Lied Lodge’s Chef Thomas is himself German, so we have it on good authority that his Oktoberfest menu selections are as authentic as they come. Show up hungry and thirsty; you won’t leave disappointed.

For complete details about these upcoming events and others at Arbor Day Farm, check out the online Events Calendar.

From the Lied Lodge Cookbook: Apple Pie Egg Rolls

It’s early September, and that means one thing at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska: apple season is here!

The earliest varieties of apples are ripe now — like Paula Reds — with many more of your favorite varieties ripening in the weeks ahead. Check out Arbor Day Farm’s Apple Variety Guide, updated for the 2015 apple harvest season, to see when your favorites are at the peak of freshness in our orchards. This year’s apple crop is shaping up to be a good one, according to Arbor Day Farm Orchard Manager Adam Howard. Nebraska’s cooler, wet weather earlier this spring has lead to a slightly earlier-than-normal harvest season this fall — but the quantity and quality of apples remains very good.

Chef Thomas

Chef Thomas

Also at Arbor Day Farm, the fully-renovated Lied Lodge & Conference Center appreciates having acres of orchard-fresh apples grown right on site — especially Executive Chef Thomas McKinney-Stehr. Chef Thomas finds new ways to incorporate these ripe, juicy apples into delicious menu items for his guests in the Timber Dining Room, Lied Lodge’s full-service award-winning restaurant.

Chef Thomas was kind enough to supply the following recipe for apple pie egg rolls (plus a caramel sauce for dipping) from his Lied Lodge cookbook. This sweet dessert is a nice alternative to a traditional apple pie, but still a great way to capture a classic fall season flavor.

Apple Pie Egg Rolls
6 ea Arbor Day Farm apples, peeled and diced
8 ea egg roll wrappers
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp butter
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch ground cardamom
1 pinch nutmeg

Add diced apples to a hot pan and add sugar directly after. Cook over medium heat until sugar starts to brown. Add spices and butter and cook until thick. Allow mixture to cool and spoon into eggroll wrappers. To roll, place the wrapper so it looks like a diamond (rather than a square) and fold corners into the middle, pulling the bottom over the filling and tucking it in. Finish rolling so the eggroll stays tight and seal off the top corner with a little water. Lightly fry in 325 degree oil.

Caramel Sauce
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp butter
¼ cup heavy cream

Add sugar to a pan and cook over medium-high heat until sugar starts to turn amber. Swirl the pan rather than stir it or the sugar could crystalize. Once the sugar is a nice amber color, turn off heat and carefully and slowly add heavy cream and stir until incorporated. Mound with butter and allow to cool slightly.

To plate: cut eggrolls on a bias. Spoon caramel sauce into the bottom of a bowl and add 4 pieces of eggrolls. Place a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle. Serve immediately.

Bon appétit!

Apple Pie Egg Rolls

Lied Lodge & Conference Center: A Fresh Face

Lied Lodge & Conference CenterAfter more than two decades of inspiring guests from around the world and sharing with them a passion for trees, conservation, and environmental stewardship, Lied Lodge & Conference Center was due for an update. Thanks to a shared vision with our long-time partners at Wyndham Vacation Ownership, we began a $9 million renovation project last year.

No corner was left unturned. Guest rooms, hallways, conference rooms, The Timber Dining Room, the lobby, the spa . . . it was all remodeled with granite, custom tile, and all-new, specially designed furniture and carpet. Even the Olympic-sized pool got a fresh coat of paint!

Lied Lodge Guest RoomOur friends at Wyndham Vacation Ownership asked their construction partners to join them in generously donating time, material, and professional services to help us refurbish Lied Lodge from top to bottom. They also introduced us to Elements Hospitality, a long-time Wyndham partner that coordinated this massive undertaking.

It was a labor of love for all involved, and we can’t wait for you to experience it for yourself! Check out the photo gallery to see the complete renovation.

Retiring U.S. Senator Mike Johanns an Arbor Day ally

Nebraska United States Senator Mike Johanns, who announced his retirement yesterday after more than three decades in public service, has been an ally of the Foundation and our programs in a number of areas.

nebraskaWith his colleague then-Senator Ben Nelson, Johanns introduced a resolution last year to commemorate the 140th anniversary of Arbor Day. The resolution noted the tree-planting holiday’s growing popularity around the world and encouraged Americans to find an event in their own community.

“It’s about more than simply planting a tree,” Johanns said at the time. “Arbor Day highlights the important role every one of us plays in land stewardship.”

We heartily agree. Effective policy – in land use, resource management and environmental protection – is necessary but insufficient absent our own conservation vision and involvement. As Johanns has pointed out, many rural communities in Nebraska and elsewhere rely on natural resources for their livelihoods. That makes long-term, sustainable management of those resources crucial.

Forestry resources are also of growing importance to tourism and economic development in cities and towns of all sizes.

We were fortunate to welcome Johanns and members of his staff to Arbor Day Farm last March. While on the property, the Senator had a chance to tour the Tree Adventure attraction and our greenhouse and hazelnut growing facilities, as well as work alongside crew members as they packed tree seedlings to be mailed to Arbor Day Foundation’s members.

“Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Arbor Farms in Nebraska City, where Morton’s legacy lives on in the important work that is being done there,” Johanns said in an e-news update following his visit. “Staff at Arbor Farms prepare and ship between 30,000 to 50,000 tree seedlings daily to places all around the world. Celebrating Arbor Day is a tradition in our state that appeals to Nebraskans’ natural civic duty and passion for the land. I am proud to share in this celebration today with my fellow Nebraskans.”

Best wishes to Senator Johanns and his wife Stephanie – and we look forward to getting to know his successor in 2015.

ArborDayFarm_SenatorJohanns_TreePacking2-2

Senator Johanns takes a turn at packaging tree seedlings.

Members’ hazelnuts growing at Arbor Day Farm

Last summer, staff at the Arbor Day Farm greenhouse reached out to a select group of members for their help with our hazelnut project.

Hazels270The Foundation and its Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium partners – Rutgers University, Oregon State University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln – have worked since 2008 to develop disease-resistant hybrid hazelnuts that will thrive in a variety of soils and climates.

For years, we have been collecting hybrid hazelnuts from participating members, in hopes of getting closer to that so-called “super hazelnut.”

The results have been fascinating. Hazelnuts we’ve gotten back here in Nebraska have been brown, almost black, some even reddish, and of varying sizes. All are healthy and critical to our continued research. Read more about it at the Lied Lodge & Arbor Day Farm Blog.

The benefits of hazelnuts as a perennial woody crop are profound. The leafy bushes are ideal for absorbing carbon dioxide through much of the year. The plants are drought and flood resistant, thus able to be maintained without heavy labor. And, protein-rich nuts provide a healthy source of nutrition for the planet’s expanding population. One day, they could help feed healthy nations.

It’s happening right here at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City – and in the yards of our members across the country.

Bagged-Nuts_Variable

Photos courtesy of Arbor Day Farm.