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.

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