Favorites from the orchard
By KRISTIN DANLEY-GREINER
FORT DODGE – Fall is a crazy busy time for Community Orchard outside Fort Dodge, but the landmark keeps its doors open almost nine months out of the year with other events and activities including selling delicious homemade food.
Bev Baedke and her husband Greg are the third set of owners and the second generation of Baedkes to own the orchard. When she was a little girl, she often visited the orchard, not knowing that one day she would actually own it.
“I loved it from the minute I saw it. My family and I always came here and bought apples ever since I can remember,” she said.
Community Orchard formed in the early 1940s when Dr. Paul Otto and his wife Edna moved to the area. They bought a dairy farm, but decided to plant some apple varieties on it that he gave away to his patients. Eventually, locals started wanting to purchase his apples and cars would line up down the drive. He quickly ran out, so the couple planted more trees. In 1952, the dairy barn was converted into an apple barn and 10 years later, a hired hand was brought on who would eventually buy the orchard.
That hired hand happens to be Greg Baedke’s dad. The Baedkes made sure that their three children were involved in the care of the orchard growing up, which helped them develop a strong work ethic. Even today, their now-grown kids beg for mom and dad to bring them delicious treats from the Apple Orchard Cafe.
“We started the cafe in 1987 and offered two kinds of soup and apple pie. In 1993, Greg and I expanded the cafe and made it officially a cafe with a menu and goodies to buy and take home. People love coming here for lunch,” she said.
Some of the orchard’s recipes are top secret family treasures, while others actually stem from an overseas visited by a renowned baker from Holland.
“He came to the orchard and taught us how to make homemade pie crusts in 1975,” Baedke said. “One of the things I enjoy doing and I’ve even done it with tours is to teach people how to roll a circle. Lots of people have difficulty taking dough and making it really circular, but it’s actually quite easy once I share the trick.”
On the menu at the cafe is everything apple mixed with other delectable yummies: apple pie, apple dumplings, granola star apple crumble, apple crisp, turnovers, caramel apple flat pies, caramel apples and apple streusel muffins that use apple butter, cider and whole apples in them. For the lunch crowd, the cafe offers one special each day on a rotating schedule, as well as 10 different sandwiches.
“We have two really popular items that really drawn in a big crowd – our chicken pot pie in a pastry and our meatloaf,” Baedke said.
Baedke loved cooking when her kids were younger, but had to work around the orchard’s busy season. She always made sure the kids had fresh cookies and something apple-ish when the kids got off the bus.
“Even when we visit the kids now, we take apple treats with them. Our grandkids in Michigan are waiting for their caramel apples and corn salsa with chips. My daughter will give a lot of our English toffee as holiday gifts to their coaches and kids’ teachers,” Baedke said.
Guests to the orchard no longer pick their own apples, but can simply grab as many of the 15 pre-picked varieties on hand as they want, along with pumpkins during the fall season. There’s also a boutique and gift shop upstairs called Apple Orchard Home where the Baedkes sell quite a bit of home decor and seasonal items, as well as fashionable clothing items.
Of course, the orchard is open to group tours with a minimum of 15 people. A lot of motorcoaches pull up, as do school buses. Holiday tours to the orchard are popular and guests love seeing the Christmas decorations and enjoy a leisurely dinner complete with linen table clothes and a more festive feel.
The apple season opens Aug. 1, then transitions into pumpkin season, both which wrap up Oct. 31. But the apple orchard remains swamped through Dec. 23 as staffers box up and ship several thousand boxes of fresh fruit gifts.
“We are taking orders now from corporations and businesses for their clients and staff. We typically give ourselves a week off between Christmas and New Years, then head right back to the orchard to clean up from the fall. In the off season, we begin planning for the upcoming season, heading to market and caring for the trees with pruning starting in February,” Baedke said.
The orchard will remain open through Dec. 23 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.
“Visitors can find gifts and enjoy a relaxing Christmas lunch around lit trees,” she said.
Roast pork loin with apple topping
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
4-5 pounds pork loin roast
Mix the flour, salt, mustard, caraway seeds, sugar, pepper and sage together. Rub mixture over the surface of the pork. Set fat side up in a roasting pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours at 325 degrees.
1 1/2 cups applesauce or minced applesauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix all the ingredients and spread across the top of the roast. Bake for one hour longer, adding water to the bottom of the pan if necessary. Garnish with spiced apple rings or crab apple pickles.
Grandma Nellie’s apple torte
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 cup flour
1/4 cup margarine, melted
1/2 cup nuts
3 medium apples, chopped
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Combine ingredients and pour into a 9×9-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.
Rich caramel topping
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup sweet cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
Cook caramel topping ingredients together until it comes to a full boil. Spoon warm topping over warm cake. Whipped cream makes this extra special.
Fresh apple salad
8 cups tart red apples, chopped (unpeeled)
1 (20 oz.) can chunk pineapple, drained (reserve juice)
1 cup seedless red grapes
1 to 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 cups toasted pecans (optional)
Reserved pineapple juice
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoon water
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain yogurt
Combine the pineapple juice, butter, sugar and lemon juice in a two-quart saucepan. Add the cornstarch that has been dissolved in the water to the juice mixture. Cool over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly. Cool. Mix the apples, pineapple, grapes, poppy seed and nuts. Fold the cooled pineapple juice mixture in with the mayonnaise and yogurt. Toss the dressing with the fruit mixture. Serve on lettuce leaves or in fruit cups.
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