first generation apple farmers
Kordick Family Farm is a mother-daughter operation that was founded in 2009, when we planted our first 850 apple trees in Stokes County, NC. We primarily grow heirloom and regional apple varieties, with several grafted from local sources (you won’t find any HoneyCrisp apples on this farm). We are continually experimenting in our efforts to be as holistic as possible in practice.
At a time when most commercial orchards are moving towards high-density dwarf variety plantings of trees, our semi-dwarf trees…
…are huge by current standards, the kind of tall, sprawling trees that used to be the norm in American orchards. Growing to about 20 feet high and spaced about 16 feet apart, they require ladders to pick the fruit, but aesthetically, we just like big apple trees that you can climb in, as well as the idea that they will be here long after we’re gone. And practically-speaking, our large trees are much more hardy and self-reliant than dwarf varieties, which is always a plus in a two-person operation.
During winter 2018, when we are not busy planting out another 10 acres of apple trees, we will be working to finalize our plan for future orchard diversification. We currently have a small pear orchard, and handfuls of other fruits planted on the farm, but in the coming years, we are looking at adding more tree fruits (some familiar, and some quite exotic) to our offerings.
The first members of our family to emigrate from Russia to the United States came in the early 1900’s by way of Ellis Island. They settled in a Northeastern mill town and eventually started a small dairy and subsistence farm. Some of the fruit trees they planted still stand on the old homestead, and while…
…the first Kordicks in this country became proud Americans, they also left behind an appreciation for certain Old World customs and folklore that our family continues to enjoy today.
Every culture seems to have a bogeyman of sorts that is held over the heads of misbehaving children, and in Russia and several other Eastern European countries, children were raised to beware lest Baba Yaga, a rugged forest witch, seize them and gobble them up. Baba Yaga features in many famous Russian stories, often as a fearsome antagonist, yet she is also frequently portrayed as simply a wise old woman (or women, as she also may be depicted as three sisters) of the woods who serves as a guide to the heroes and heroines of folklore.
Baba Yaga's Apples of Eternal Youth story
Like many apple growers of the last century, we have deliberately branded our apples with an eye-catching logo and artwork. 20th Century fruit crate labels are now collectibles, sought after for the evocative art that was meant to catch consumers’ eyes on city streets and entice them to gravitate towards one grower’s fruits over another’s.
There is a Baba Yaga fairy tale about a quest for golden apples that bring eternal youth to those that possess them, and it was this story that inspired us to stylize our…
…apples as “Baba Yaga’s Apples of Eternal Youth,” and to come up with our own version of the story, as well as revive the old fruit crate label tradition.
We worked with Greensboro-based artist Liz McKinnon (www.heartshinestudios.com) to design a watercolor illustration of Baba Yaga with the famed apples, not in Old World Russia, but in our neck of the North Carolina foothills. As the crow flies, Kordick Family Farm is about 15 minutes north of Pilot Mountain, and we have a postcard view of the knob from the center of our property. To our west lie the Blue Ridge Mountains, while the Sauratown range borders us to the east. The Dan River is mere minutes away to the south of the farm.
Our Apple Cider Syrup
It takes a long time for large apple trees to start bearing fruit, period. And if you’re trying to grow apples in the Southeast, it takes an even longer time to hit upon the right mix of practices to produce fruit of consistently high quality. This means we’ve had a lot of time to think about what we want to do with our apples, and smaller quantities of fruit to play around with. In this manner, we created our flagship product: Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup.
Much like hard cider, apple cider syrup was …
…an American staple in past centuries, a stable, homegrown sweetener that had endless uses. However, with the advent of alternative sweeteners and more diverse crop varieties, cider syrup all but disappeared from the pantry.
When we became interested in re-introducing cider syrup, we sought out the local Southern experts: sorghum syrup producers. A very generous, close-knit community, our new friends taught us the sorghum syrup-making process and helped us adapt it to cider syrup.
Starting with 100% apple juice (cider), we boil enormous pans over a wood fire for hours until it is reduced to about a 1/10 of the original volume. At this point, the sugars have concentrated to form a thickened syrup that is wonderfully fragrant and tangy in apple flavor, and is ready for . . . almost anything.
Really. It is actually easier and infinitely quicker to list the things that cider syrup wouldn’t be good on (Fish. Well, most fish. It’s actually wonderful on salmon!). The most obvious, and hard-to-beat, application is to pour cider syrup over pancakes, biscuits, and other breakfast pastries. Perhaps the most unexpected use, however, is to make a braise or sauce for savory items like pork roast or sweet potato gratin/casserole. It even pairs well with salads in the form of a vinaigrette. Try drizzling it over ice cream or yogurt, spoon it on top of oatmeal, add it to popcorn . . . Beverage-wise, you can make an instant cup of hot cider by adding about 4 Tbsp (or to taste) cider syrup to a cup of hot water. Add a shot of brandy or rum to your cup, or add cider syrup to any number of cocktails and mixed drinks. Finally, cider syrup can be used in baking, much like maple syrup.
Apple cider syrup is a staple that never should have left the American kitchen.
Our GROWING PRACTICES
Like many unconventional farmers, we have struggled to find a term that describes our growing practices, while also communicating in a single word our management philosophy to consumers. ‘Natural’ and ‘sustainable’ mean nothing without context. ‘Low-spray’ can be used by growers who spray conventional chemicals, but at their lowest possible application rates. Most of the materials we apply happen to be approved by OMRI (the Organic Materials Review Institute), however, use of the term ‘organic’ implies certification, which we are not. We are beyond organic at this point in our growing careers, and have finally settled on the term, ‘holistic,’ in the sense championed by Michael Phillips (http://www.groworganicapples.com).
Over the years we have found the most widely available commercial formulations of organic chemicals tend to have one thing in common: it’s not so much that they work well against pests and disease and truly promote good crop health; more so, it’s that they do no harm. Low efficacy coupled with premium price tags just doesn’t cut it on our farm, and after losing apple crop after apple crop in spite of our diligent lockstep organic program, we decided we needed to find a better way to grow. We think we’ve found it. To large extent, we have stopped thinking like conventional and conventional organic growers, who are mostly concerned with preempting pest and disease pressure with preventative chemical sprays, as well as responding with curative formulations once pest and disease pressure is in evidence.
Instead, we focus on cultivating trees, and indeed, an orchard environment, of such optimal overall health that it is not as sensitive to a disease or pest outbreak, not unlike a person who eats healthy, doesn’t try to sterilize everything in sight, but maintains good hygiene, and thus is much less likely to be laid up by the latest bug going around. To that end, we nurture the root zone environment with inputs like hay and wood chips to promote a healthy fungal ecosystem that gives tree roots access to all manner of good nutrition. We also regularly apply beneficial microbes, along with fatty oils for them to feed on, to promote canopy colonization by species that work symbiotically with the tree, again to the end of excellent nutritive uptake, while also taking up space that might otherwise be “infected” by “bad” bacterial species that cause disease. And as we transition to this new way of growing, we do spray the occasional broad spectrum knockdown like copper or PerCarb, though not anywhere near as often as we did in the past, and for different purpose. Using the aforementioned chemicals as an example, when we come in and sanitize the fungal and bacterial populations with a tree spray, we don’t leave it that way and then try to maintain a sterile environment with regular subsequent sprays. What we want is to start with a clean slate for an application of beneficial microbes and to nurture this population for as long as possible. It’s all about using your tools wisely, and as it gets harder and harder to grow fruit period, we need an effective grower’s toolbox.
This is not our great-grandparents’ farmstead orchard. In the early and mid 20th Century, they simply did not have the disease and pest pressures that have spread with globalization. Also, people back then did not put quite so high a premium on fresh fruit appearance. Nowadays there are so many potential and wide-ranging issues to worry about it makes our heads spin. Unsurprisingly, the West Coast of the United States is a much more ideal environment for growing apples in general, and organic apples in particular. Plum curculio, one of the hardest pests for organic East Coast growers to control, doesn’t occur in the western half of North America, and until recently, fireblight, a devastating bacterial disease on the East Coast, wasn’t an issue either. Throwing in the endemic fungal disease smorgasbord of the humid South makes it especially tricky, to say the least, for apple growers in the Southeast who are trying to maintain a remotely organic orchard.
A lot goes into orchard management. As mentioned above, we mulch with hay whenever possible for weed suppression and cultivation of a healthy root zone. We utilize untreated trap crops and sacrifice the fruit to certain pests in the hope that it prevents them from entering the orchard proper and causing damage. We collect fallen apples and diseased prunings for burning so they don’t serve as vectors for future pest and disease development. In short, we do everything we can to reduce the need to spray — indeed, it’s a rare grower who is enthusiastic about spraying anything. Whether you’re spraying conventional or unconventional nutrients, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or even beneficial bacteria, it’s a time-consuming, fuel-eating, equipment-wearing hassle, and often a very expensive and potentially dangerous one. If a farmer is spraying anything, it’s because he or she truly thinks their crop and livelihood depends on it. Talk to us — most farmers would love a chance to have an honest discussion about growing practices rather than be bound by the are-you-organic-or-not litmus test.
Organic chemicals and materials can be abused as much as conventional ones, can be just as bad for pollinators, and can also accumulate to the detriment of the environment. In addition, decreased efficacy often means increased application. You can go out of your way to avoid synthetic chemicals derived from fossil fuels, but if you have to spend more time on your tractor burning fuel and compacting the soil in order to apply them, is that sustainable? Rather than lecture you on our definition of sustainability, we will keep an updated list on this website of what we spray and why, as well as this discussion of practices, as it evolves, and you can decide for yourself if this meets your definition of sustainability
We maintain mason bee houses in the orchard, as well as honeybees and pastured rabbits. If we wear any safety clothing/masks while spraying, it’s generally to keep from getting soaked and filthy. We don’t spray anything that we consider unsafe to our bees, livestock, or ourselves.
Urea: a synthetic concentrated nitrogen source. We would prefer to rely on copious amounts of compost in order to help build the soil while adding nitrogen, but our 20 acre orchard is too large for us to be able to afford commercial compost, and we are currently unable to produce enough to meet our own compost needs. When nitrogen is applied in fall and/or early spring to the orchard floor, it serves as a bacterial feast, thus stimulating the little guys to help break down the overwintered leaf litter, a major source of disease going into spring.
PerCarb: Basically, an OMRI-listed hydrogen peroxide that kills bacteria and fungi. We use this in the early spring as a broad knock-down to help create a blank slate for our subsequent beneficial bacteria applications.
Nordox WP: an OMRI-listed slow-release copper formulation that kills bacteria and fungi, and also helps prevent frost molecules from forming. Applied once in the spring pre-bloom to give us some protection when the trees are most vulnerable to infections and frost damage.
Tri-Tek Oil: an OMRI-listed mineral oil that smothers overwintering pest eggs before they have time to hatch in the spring.
Core Holistic Spray: a rotating cocktail applied ten or more times a growing season for nutrition and disease/pest prevention, including some or all of the following — Ahimsa pure neem oil (OMRI-listed), Ahimsa karanja oil (OMRI-listed), EM-1 beneficial microbes (OMRI-listed, and brewed on-farm from a mother culture), SeaCrop sea minerals (OMRI-listed), AEA Micropak trace minerals (OMRI-listed), Charley’s Soap (a locally-made, environmentally-friendly soap that we use to help emulsify the brew components)
AEA Holocal: OMRI-listed supplemental calcium that is applied to fruit to make it less susceptible to bitter rot and leaf spot (Glomerella species), the latest scourge of Southern apple growers
Silmatrix: OMRI-listed supplemental silicon that helps boost the plant’s cuticle defenses and prevent “bad stuff” from getting in the front door
Xentari Bt: an OMRI-listed, specifically honeybee-friendly, Bt, or Bacillus thuringiensis, that attacks certain insect larvae
Surround WP: “that white stuff all over trees,” an OMRI-listed refined kaolin clay applied several times a season to discourage pests like plum curculio, and also to prevent sunscald on developing fruit
Venerate: an OMRI-listed pesticide derived from heat-killed Burkholderia species that attacks the exoskeletons of our very-hard-to-kill nemesis, plum curculio
Delegate: a synthetic spinetoram similar to the OMRI-listed, and frankly unaffordable at $455/quart, spinosad, Entrust, that we rotate with Venerate to help control plum curculio
Isomate mating disruptors: OMRI-listed dispensers that are hung from tree canopies to release mating pheromones of certain pests to make it harder to find each other and reproduce within the orchard.
NemAttack beneficial nematodes: OMRI-listed Steinernema carpocapsae nematodes are microscopic worms that inhabit the soil and parasitize weavils among other pest insects, and we’re hoping, will help to control the worst weavil in our book, plum curculio.
Quantum Light: a supplement to our EM-1 beneficial microbes, which are primarily composed of lactic acid bacteria. Quantum Light contains “the purple guys,” varieties of photosynthetic bacteria, which colonize apple leaves when applied, and help make nutrients available for the trees specifically via photosynthesis.
Got questions or concerns? Check out our contact info further down on this page and drop us a line.
Ah, April, when the early apple trees enter petal fall stage, fruitlets begin to develop . . . and plum curculio (Conotrachelus nenuphar) rears its ugly, little head. Plum curculio may be tiny, usually only a quarter of an inch or less in length, but it causes bigtime damage in Eastern fruit orchards every year. There are many growers who are organic in every way, save the exceptions they make to combat plum curculio. A hard-bodied, extremely tenacious weevil, its modus operandi is to overwinter in the woods surrounding orchards, then move into the orchard proper at petal fall with the goal of laying as many eggs as possible in developing fruits.
The larvae develop inside the fruitlets, causing damage one of two ways: 1) the larvae fully develop, secreting certain chemicals that make the fruitlet drop to the ground, where the grown larvae can penetrate the soil to complete the life cycle, or 2) the larvae may be crushed to death as the young fruitlet grows rapidly, leaving the initial damage from the egg deposit as a gateway for other pests and diseases. Either way, they are a major, major headache that growers have been battling for a century or more. There are neat photographs of early twentieth century growers out with large teams, literally beating the trees to shake the curculio adults onto sheets spread below the trees, to be removed from the orchard for certain destruction.
The key to controlling plum curculio is stopping the population cycle — you want to reduce the number of egg-laying adults that you will have to combat the next year, so most of the time, you’re actually targeting the larvae themselves in a number of ways.
We have planted trap crops of early-fruiting plum and peach trees so we can sacrifice the fruit to the plum curculio and target the larvae before they move into the later-fruiting apples. Sound theory, but it doesn’t always work so well since, in this area, cold springs often preclude peach, and especially plum, fruitset. So most of the plum curculio probably make it past the trap crop in any given year to the orchard proper.
The next line of defense is to apply coats of refined kaolin clay to your trees. The clay particles slough off onto curculios making their way into the trees, getting into all their orifices and irritating them. The idea is to convince them that our apple trees are just not worth the pain and suffering. But in order to be effective, kaolin clay has to be applied in a heavy and consistent enough layer, easier said than done around bloomtime, when growers are busiest and the weather is rainiest (the clay will wash off in rain, so many layers are required).
So historically, many adults do succeed in their raison d’etre, to deposit their eggs under the skin of our new apples. But we still need to target the larvae in order to prevent a larger repeat of this whole cycle the next year. One thing we are experimenting with this year is to apply parasitic nematodes to the soil beneath trees, where they will happily gobble up plum curculio larvae after they penetrate the soil.
We only have a few apple varieties at the petal fall stage right now, but in the last two days, have casually stumbled upon two plum curculio adults in the central orchard. Scary stuff, indicative of a very large population that is up on its game. This year we will also be applying Venerate, an OMRI-approved formulation of heat-killed bacteria, which secrete natural, exoskeleton-targeting toxins that interrupt the plum curculios’ molting process, leading to death. We’ll have to wait out the rain for the next three days, and keep our fingers crossed that we’re not too late.
Fall Work — that means picking the late summer/fall main crop smorgasbord of apples. We’re also busy keeping up with mowing, getting up our pumpkin and winter squash crops, and mulching our trees with hay to give the trees and their bacterial/fungal friends in the soil network some added nutrition at a time when they need it most (apple trees start initiating “return bloom” flower buds for the next year in late summer).
This pile of stuff was once an enormous 100 year-old cider press, and soon it will be again . . . when we find the time and space to get it up and running again. Stay tuned. For now, it’s a sight to see, with all its fascinating nuts and bolts (and massive pulleys) on display in the orchard packhouse.
We’re open, and it’s grand! The farm’s old tobacco packhouse has finally begun its new life as our orchard packhouse and store, full of fresh apples, jams, jellies, cider syrup, and more. In the orchard we have heirloom apple trees for sale, as well as a pumpkin patch. Open this fall — see current hours below.
Can’t make it to our orchard packhouse? Want to purchase some of our products with a credit card? We are pleased to announce that our Etsy store is open for business! We are not currently selling any fresh fruit via Etsy, but you can find many of our other orchard products for sale there. Click this link to visit KordickFamilyFarm on Etsy!
We will NOT be at the Stokes Future Farmers Market this Saturday, 10/31. We’ll be busy getting ready for Halloween at the Orchard this week! See event details to the right.
WE ARE JUST ABOUT SOLD OUT OF APPLES FOR THE SEASON. The packhouse is still plenty stocked with our other seasonal orchard products, including several dozen varieties of heirloom apple trees, ranging in size and age, pumpkins, gourds, broom corn shocks, jams and jellies, applesauce, and cider syrup, but aside from some special events (see column to the right), we will be open by appointment only for the remainder of 2020. Please call or email (336-351-5185 or cheers@kordickfamily farm.com) if you’d like to stop by.
*We can only accept cash or checks at this time in our store. To make purchases online/with a credit card, you can visit our Etsy store via this link.
*Dog owners: for food safety reasons and for the sanity of our own livestock guardian dogs, we ask that you leave your dogs in your vehicle while at the orchard.
HALLOWEEN AT THE ORCHARD!
Come in costume on Saturday, October 31st, for spooky fun at the orchard from 4 pm until 8 pm! The main event will be a goblin egg hunt for kids (scour the orchard for goblin eggs, aka mini autumn gourds, and turn them in for treats!), but there will be tricks and treats for all ages!
Visit Baba Yaga’s house, I mean, our decorated orchard store, to pick up some cider donuts, candied apples, the last of our very Halloween-y fresh ‘Arkansas Black’ apples, and more. You can test your intellect with Halloween games: guess the weight of our biggest pumpkin (whoever guesses closest wins a prize), and guess how many apple candies are in our Halloween jar (whoever guesses closest wins all ___ of them!
At 4:30 and 6:30 pm, gather by the fire for live readings of the quintessential, and only mildly scary, Baba Yaga tale, “Vasillisa the Beautiful.” The fun starts at 4 pm on Halloween and continues by candlelight and the full blue moon until 8 pm! Free admission.
*Please bring your own goblin egg-collecting bag, as well as a flashlight, if you plan to go hunting after dark!
Blue skies, leaves changing color, perfect temperatures, apples AND pumpkins AND sunflowers in the same season . . . it doesn’t get any better than this. We just wish we had more of the apples. This fall, we find ourselves in the enviable state of having been discovered as a go-to apple destination close to Winston and Greensboro. After a wonderful Sunflower Trail Saturday last month, along with several surprisingly well-attended open weekends at the orchard packhouse, we must inform you that we are most unexpectedly just about out of fresh apples for the 2020 season. We can’t believe it either.
We only have one large block of apples to pick, ‘Arkansas Black,’ and many of those have already been spoken for. We have decided to revert to open-by-appointment-only for the forseeable future, with open house days scheduled for Halloween (see next section below), November, and our Orchard by Candlelight luminaria nights in December. Also, you will still be able to find us at Hanging Rock State Park most Saturdays from 11 am until 2 pm for the Stokes Future Farmers Market, but with limited to no apples for sale. You can check our website under the Current Events section for very up-to-date happenings and offerings.
So what could you possibly want from us now that the apple trees hang bare? Well, the packhouse is still full of fall cheer in the form of pumpkins, winter squash, decorative gourds, broom corn shocks, apple cider syrup, jams and jellies, applesauce, and more. Jack O’Lanterns can still be found in our pumpkin patch, and we have plenty of heirloom apple trees for sale. Shoot us an email at email@example.com or give us a call at 336-351-5186 if you’d like to visit.
What will we do with all our newfound “spare” time? Um, attempt to catch up, as usual. We have a backlog of orchard maintenance and farm chores that has been put off about as long as it can stand. We have apple cider syrup to boil and delicious apple canned treats to make — note, for all you Apple Cranberry Relish fans out there, we will begin having it available at our Halloween open house. Also, we have been sitting on our brand new NEWA weather station for months now, just waiting to find time to set up the high-tech array to try and get a better read on what is actually going on out there. Looking forward to writing more about that in next month’s newsletter. Before we know it, pruning time will be right around the corner. One of us is threatening to start as early as Thanksgiving this year since we never get all the pruning done and this year will be especially challenging as we work around the extensive periodical cicada damage.
An orchardist friend in Cana, VA is fond of relating that customers often ask what he does with himself after he sells out of apples for the year, and that his reply is always the same: “Why, I take a trip around the world and just try to be back in time to start picking apples next year!” Sarcasm aside, we are often astonished to find that so many people do assume that most of our working year consists of simply waiting on the apples to come in. At the Carroll County Cannery, where we cook up our apple canned goods, the manager recently pointed out how lucky we were because “the apples don’t cost you anything.” Actually, most of our “off-season” is spent pruning the ten, no, wait, now eighteen acres of trees, a full-time job that takes the two of us four months or more. We’ll be sure and send you a postcard!
In the meantime, please join us on October 31st for Halloween at the Orchard!
There’s something about an orchard in late fall that feels downright spooky. It’s still kind of wild out there, and the bare-branched trees evoke Sleepy Hollow. In short, an orchard is a perfect place to hang out on Halloween, especially when we can count on the once in a blue moon light of a full blue moon. We invite kids of all ages, young adult, middle-aged, and senior citizen kids included, to come in costume and celebrate Halloween at Kordick Family Farm this year!
If you’re familiar with our history from our website, you won’t be surprised that Baba Yaga is our theme, and that we’ll have readings of Baba Yaga folktales. The old witch is meant to be scary, but little ones don’t have to worry; these Russian fairy tales always end happily ever after. Before guests arrive, we will have recited the traditional summons, “Little house, little house, turn your back to the woods and your front to me,” to conjure up Baba Yaga’s chicken-footed hut where our orchard packhouse used to be. In addition to pumpkins, gourds, cider syrup, and apple items, the larder will be full of good things to eat. We should have some ‘Arkansas Black’ apples, as well as cider donuts, and depending on the weather, either cider slushies or hot mulled cider. Kids can enjoy hunting for goblin eggs (grotesque and colorful autumn gourds) hidden in the orchard throughout the afternoon, then turn them in for a treat. BYOB — please bring your own basket or bag for goblin egg-hunting, and your own flashlight if you plan to be hunting after dark.
The fun starts at 4 pm on Saturday, October 31st and continues by candlelight after dark until 8 pm! We will be reading “Vasillisa the Beautiful,” the quintessential Baba Yaga folktale, at 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm. Free admission. Costumes encouraged, but certainly not required.
It’s often very informative for us to write this apple-of-the-month column since, even though we are quite familiar with the varieties we grow, it forces us down all the rabbit holes of apple history, and sometimes we discover something we didn’t know. Last year we acquired the encyclopedic set of “The Illustrated History of Apples in the United States and Canada,” the most comprehensive listing of North American apples to date. Daniel J. Busey has been working on the set for decades, but being that it was published in 2016, it includes some fairly recent updates in apple history.
We knew that the variety ‘Father Abraham’ was also known as ‘Abraham’ and ‘Abram,’ but we had not heard that it was recently determined to be the same apple as the old Polish variety ‘Dantziger.’ Whereas our story would have started in Virginia around 1817 if we were bound only by the previously known history of ‘Father Abraham,’ we now find that we may have to go back even further, to around 1760 and the beginnings of the ‘Dantziger’ apple. I say “may,” because there is still admittedly a lot of confusion around the origins of this apple and all of its varied synonymous nomenclature. Photographs and illustrations of ‘Dantziger’ apples, reddish fruit with green-yellow blotches, appear to capture a very different fruit from the pale green apples grown at Kordick Family Farm as ‘Father Abraham.’ Our apples are an unusual light green, often blushed with pink, universally crowned with a beautiful golden russet patch at the stem end.
David Vernon of Century Orchard in Rockingham County, NC has a photo of his ‘Father Abraham on his website which showcases a deeper blush than our average fruit, but it is definitely the same apple. David also notes possible South Carolina origins for the apple, rather than the previously accepted Virginia, and that it was apparently listed in a newspaper in Virginia in 1755. Hmmm, indeed.
Not knowing what exact evidence was discovered to determine that ‘Dantziger’ is the same apple as ‘Father Abraham,’ it is also worth noting that as an apple travels throughout history, and especially, terroir, its characteristics may change, so that modern ‘Dantziger’ apples in Poland may look entirely distinct from a North Carolina grown ‘Father Abraham,’ even if they are genetically the same fruit. In a twist appropriate for Halloween-time, it may be that our ‘Father Abraham’ is only masquerading as ‘Dantziger,’ but for now I’ll give the update to apple history the benefit of the doubt and include the ‘Dantziger’ apple heritage, as well. Does your brain hurt yet?
‘Dantziger’ hails from the area around the historic city of Gdansk in modern-day Poland, known as Danzig in German. It became a widely grown apple in central and northern Europe before crossing the ocean to Virginia, where it was known to have been grown before 1817. It was also mentioned as a cider apple in Ireland in 1802. ‘Father Abraham,’ as we know it, was widely grown throughout North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky in the 19th Century, primarily as a cider and winter storage apple. It is a late season apple for the Southeast, ripening in late September and October. We have pulled them out of the refrigerator nine months later and found them to mirror exactly their appearance and taste when they were first put in.
It is a small to medium apple, slightly flattened in appearance, very juicy, and highly flavorful. Its petite size, and generous, full-flavored juice are just the qualities one wants in a cider apple, but we enjoy eating and cooking with them year-round, as well. We currently have about 36 ‘Father Abraham’ trees in our orchard and wouldn’t have any less.
In honor of ‘Arkansas Black’ apples, the one apple you are likely to find in our packhouse this year at Halloween, we’re featuring a classic apple dumpling recipe. ‘Arkansas Black’ apples are firm-fleshed apples that are excellent for cooking, especially in recipes that call for an apple to keep its shape and not just fall apart when baked. Many of the apple dumplings you run into are made with sliced apples, and this will definitely save you some baking time, but the impressiveness of forking into a perfectly tender baked apple orb is worth going whole hog and staying classic. You can cheat and use store-bought pie dough if made-from-scratch isn’t your thing.
Ingredients for double-crust pie pastry:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shortening
6 Tablespoons ice-cold water
Ingredients for dumplings:
6 large apples, peeled and cored, but not cored all the way through the bottom — you want to make a cavity that will hold the the sugar and butter inside the apple while baking
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups water
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make your pie pastry: Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl, then, using a pastry blender, cut in the shortening until the mixture is crumbly, with a few pea-sized pieces of shortening.
Sprinkle in the water and mix with a fork, adding just enough until the mixture is moistened and begins to clump together. Gather up the dough and form into a flat disk. Refrigerate at least 20 minutes before rolling.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and butter a 9 by 13 inch pan. On a lightly floured surface, roll pastry into a large rectangle, about 24 by 16 inches, then cut into 6 square pieces. Place an apple on each pastry square with the cored opening facing upward. Cut butter into 8 pieces. Place 1 piece of butter in the opening of each apple; reserve the remaining 2 pieces of butter for sauce. Divide the brown sugar between apples, poking some inside each cored opening and the rest around the base of each apple. Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg over the apples.
With slightly wet fingertips, bring one corner of pastry square up to the top of the apple, then bring the opposite corner to the top and press together. Bring up the two remaining corners, and seal. Slightly pinch the dough at the sides to completely seal in the apple. Repeat with the remaining apples. Place in the prepared baking dish.
In a saucepan, combine water, white sugar, vanilla extract and reserved butter. Place over medium heat, and bring to a boil in a large saucepan. Boil for 5 minutes, or until sugar is dissolved. Carefully pour over dumplings, reserving half. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Place each apple dumpling in a dessert bowl, and spoon some more sauce over the top if desired. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a hunk of cheddar cheese if you want to be extra happy.
Apple cider syrup is the perfect base for a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. This full-flavored recipe packs just a hint of heat and makes 2 cups of sauce.
1 cup Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 Tablespoons grated onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
2 teaspoons prepared (not dry) mustard
salt to taste
dash of cayenne pepper
Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Then you know what to do: baste all over your favorite protein and grill, bake, or broil it up.
(adapted from an Our State Magazine recipe and shared by our friend, Randy)
4 Tablespoons (or to taste) Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1 large, decent apple, peeled, cored, and cut into cubes
(the original recipe calls for Granny Smith or Honeycrisp apples)
Preheat oven to 400°. In a large mixing bowl, toss Brussels sprouts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, tossing once during cooking time.
Remove sprouts from oven, then toss them in the cider syrup and add apples. Spread the sprouts and apples back on baking sheet and return to oven for 10 minutes or until tender. Check seasoning; add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Reminiscent of lemon meringue pie!
1 cup Baba Yaga’s Cider Syrup
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons flour
1 standard pie crust
Mix all ingredients together with handbeater or blender until smooth. Pour into crust and bake at 350 degrees about 45 minutes, until set and slightly browned on top.
Makes about 75 pieces of decadent apple candy!
2 cups cream (heavy, whipping, or even coconut)
1 cup light corn syrup
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup Baba Yaga’s Cider Syrup
6 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
spices (1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/8 teaspoon allspice, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg)
Lightly grease an 8 inch by 8 inch baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on all sides.
In a heavy-bottomed pot, combine cream, corn syrup, sugar, cider syrup, and butter. On high heat, bring to a boil, stirring only until sugar dissolves.
Reduce to medium-high heat and cook without stirring until the temperature reaches 248 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and stir in salt and spices.
Pour into the lined pan and let sit at room temperature for about 18 hours without disturbing.
Remove from pan and cut into desired bite-sizes (about 3/4 inch square). Cut 6 inch squares of parchment paper and wrap each caramel, twisting the ends of the paper to close.
4 medium sweet potatoes
2 medium apples
4 Tbsp. butter or non-dairy substitute
1/3 cup Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
Place sheet of aluminum foil on bottom oven rack. Position second oven rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Wash sweet potatoes and make a small slit on one side of each potato. Place potatoes directly on middle oven rack, slit side up. Bake 45-60 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
While potatoes are baking, core, peel and slice apples 1/4 inch thick. Saute apple slices in 2 Tbsp. butter or substitute until tender. Set aside.
Peel cooked sweet potatoes and place in bowl. Mash together with remaining 2 Tbsp. butter or substitute, apple cider syrup, and salt. Stir in cooked apples.
Place sweet potato-apple mixture in ovenproof baking dish and cover with lid or foil. Bake 25-30 minutes.
8 cups of plain popped corn, unsalted
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. salt
Prepare a large, rimmed baking sheet by lightly oiling or lining with parchment paper. Set aside.
Place popped corn in large glass or ceramic bowl (not plastic). Bowl should be large enough so popcorn can be stirred easily without spilling over. Set aside.
Combine sugar, cider syrup, oil, and salt in small saucepan. Mix well.
Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until a candy thermometer registers 290 degrees F, about 6-8 minutes.
Remove from heat and pour over the popcorn. Quickly stir popcorn with spatula to coat evenly.
Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and spread coated popcorn to cool.
When cold, break into small pieces and store in airtight container.
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp. minced shallot
1/4 cup Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup
2 Tbsp. finely chopped peeled apple
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
Serve over salad greens with sliced red onion and thin wedges of apples, or your favorite salad.
Forget about molasses — apple cider syrup adds outstanding flavor to our favorite picnic food. This recipe will make about 6-8 servings as a side dish.
1 lb. dried beans (California pea, Navy, Great Northern)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup
4 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium onion, cut in half from top to bottom
1 large, firm apple, peeled, cored, and diced into small pieces
Soak the beans overnight in enough water to cover them by 2 inches. The next day, drain them and place in a pot with the baking soda plus enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, skimming any foam off as needed. Remove 1 cup of cooking water and set aside. Drain and rinse the beans, then place in a bean pot or slow cooker with onion halves.
Combine the syrup, sugar, mustard, ginger, salt and pepper. Gradually stir in the reserved cooking water. Pour over the beans and onions. Bake, covered, at 300 degrees in the bean pot, for 6-7 hours, or until done, stirring occasionally. A slow cooker will take about 6 hours, still covered and stirring occasionally. Add the diced apple during the last hour of cooking. If saucier beans are desired, add small amounts of water as needed.
Our orchard is located at 1259 Joyce Acres Road in Westfield, NC 27053.
Directions from Pilot Mountain:
Traveling on US-52 North, take the exit 134 for Pilot Mountain, NC-268. Enter roundabout and exit to the first right onto S. Key St./NC-268. Take a left at the CVS stoplight to continue on NC-268. Turn right on Old Westfield Road. After about 6.5 miles Old Westfield Road dead-ends into NC-89. Take a right onto NC-89 at the stoplight. Go 3 miles, then take a left onto Frans Road. After a mile, take a left at the stop sign to continue on Frans Road. Take the first right onto Christian Road. Take the first right onto Joyce Acres Road and travel 1 mile to reach 1259.
Directions from Francisco:
Traveling west on NC-89, take a right onto Asbury Road. At the stop sign, take a left to continue on Asbury Road. After about a half a mile, take a left onto Joyce Acres Road, and travel about a half a mile to reach 1259.