Go For Apples!

Adams County, PA is apple country — so go for the apples! During the harvest season, I feel the pull to explore farmers markets and farm stands — fruits and vegetables freshly picked is just exponentially tastier than what we find in most large grocery stores.

So why not make it your day trip destination as the weather turns cooler? As the foliage begins to change color, there aren’t many prettier places than northern Adams County! Plus, there are a number of farm markets to choose from, but last week we stopped at Hollabaugh Orchard, a third-generation family owned and run farm, to check out their market and to tour the 500-acre farm.

Since 1955, the Hollabaugh family has been a proud steward of the gentle, rolling, fertile land on Yellow Hill. The farm is GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certified — different from organic — and they use low-risk Advanced IPM (Integrated Pest Management) in their orchards, helping them to grow high quality fruits and vegetables possible with the least impact on the environment possible. In addition, they have planted wildflower habitats friendly to native pollinators, to supplement the bees the farm must rent (so yes, that’s a thing, renting bees!) when the trees are blooming.

Emily Hollabaugh Vranich, a third-generation family member and owner/worker at Hollabaugh Orchard, noted that they are always planting new trees, and that her grandfather, one of the farm’s founders, had told her, “When you stop planting, you might as well sell out.” The trees constantly need to be replenished, so there are trees of all ages. What looked like middle-aged trees to me, she noted, were on their last years, and would be replaced soon.

During the tour, Vranich expressed her appreciation of migrant workers — without whom the apples would never make it to our tables. She noted that the immigrants (all here legally) work jobs native-born Americans won’t. She carefully avoided a political statement, but with today’s political climate, I found it an interesting aspect of the debate, especially in a county with more Trump signs than Hillary. In fact, she mentioned that finding laborers to work the farm is one of her primary concerns, and what keeps her awake at night.

Tending an orchard, like most forms of farming, is labor intensive. Because they sell their apples either directly to consumers or to markets that sell directly to consumers, their produce must both look and taste delicious — in other words, must be absolutely perfect. (The processing market accepts fruit that isn’t perfect looking — if it’s being processed into applesauce or other products, it only needs to taste perfect.) There’s no one and done — the trees aren’t just picked once, and then, voila, there’s no more work for the season. Apples (and other fruit) ripen at different times, even on the same tree. Thus, workers must pick the ripened fruit, then later, return again to those trees and repick, until the fruit has all been harvested. There are no machines that are capable of picking fruit from trees, it must be done by hand.

So what to do with all those apples you purchase (or pick) from Hollabaugh Orchard? Why, make apple dumplings of course!

Apple dumplings look kinda fabulous as you serve them (and my, so very delicious when I shared the dumpling with my husband later that evening), and they’re dead easy — I was kind of astonished at the simplicity of the dish. As part of our tour of Hollabaugh Orchard, we were provided a cooking lesson. The lessons are offered periodically, so check the website below. Coming up on October 20, 2016 (6-7:30 pm), is a class geared toward ages 9 – 13. Please check the website for fees and to reserve your spot.

Here’s Hollabaugh Farms’ family recipe for apple dumplings:
3 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 c shortening
1/3 c water
8 medium tart apples, peeled and cored
8 tsp butter
9 tsp cinnamon sugar mixture, divided
1 1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 c water
1/2 c butter

  • In a large bowl, combine flour and salt; cut in shortening until crumbly. Gradually add water, mixing with hands until combined and then form a ball. Divide into eight portions. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or until easy to handle.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Roll each portion of the dough into approximately a 7-in circle or square. Place in a greased 9 x 13 baking pan. Place a cored apple in the center of each circle/square. Place 1 tsp cinnamon sugar in the center of each apple. Gently bring up the corners of the pastry to the center of the apple, allowing them to overlap. Pinch edges to seal.
  • In a large saucepan, combine brown sugar, 1 c water, and 1/2 c butter. Bring just to a boil, stirring until blended. Pour over apples. Bake 50-55 minutes or until apples are tender and pastry is a golden brown, basting occasionally with the sauce. Serve warm.
Additional family recipes can be found in one of the two family cookbooks available for purchase at the market.

Know before you go: There are walking “trails” around the orchard as well as wagon rides, so wear appropriate foot-wear.

Getting there: 545 Carlisle Rd, Biglerville, PA

Hours: Monday – Thursday, 8 am to 7 pm, Friday – Saturday, 8 am to 5 pm,  Sunday, 12 pm to 5 pm, hours change seasonally, so be sure to check the website.

Dogs: Unfortunately, not the best place for fido.

Website: hollabaughbros.com

Although our tour, because of the season, focused on apples, Hollabaugh Orchard grows a variety of fruits and vegetables.
In addition, they operate a bakery onsite, so be sure to sample the apple cider donuts. The Market also offers a variety of canned goods as well.

For other day trip destinations in and around Adams County, go to the Blog’s Find a Great Place to Day Trip or click on the Gettysburg or Destination Gettysburg label below.

Check out the blog’s FB page for updates on places we’ve visited and blogged about:  facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips!

Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I’d love to hear what you’re doing! Email [email protected] if you’re interested in being a guest-blogger!