Thursday, November 4, 2010

Eating out in the Chesters: Hacklebarney Farm

For a great eating experience that you can smell as soon as you step out of your car, take a trip to Hacklebarney Farm in Chester, where a cider mill pumps out everything from apple doughnuts to hot dogs dipped in cider.

"We've been running the bakery since 2000, but the farm has been here since 1850," says Bob Jacobson, who, along with his partner/baker, Mark Happel, and many others, took over the bakery in 2000 and work at a feverish pace to get everything done. "It's been in the family since my great-great-great grandfather, who built the place. We started out slowly, baking pies and doing a few doughnuts."

But those few doughnuts and pies blossomed into a wide variety, including cheesecake, cider twists, fudge brownies and many other delicious products.

"The cider mill has really been the main thing that started what you see today," says Jacobson, whose father put the mill in around the mid-'70s, and whose family started using it in the early '80s. "Then we started the doughnuts in '83."

The doughnuts are probably the biggest seller right now. The are fried in soy bean oil because it's a healthier alternative to lard. The pies are a very close second.

"We made about 185 apple pies in about three hours the other day," Happel says.

One of their most famous pies is, of course, apple, but they also have a variety that includes Chocolate Walnut and Harvest Crumb, which contains apples, peaches, pears and blueberries. There's even Swedish Apple, which adds an interesting twist to the standard apple pie.

"My dad is Swedish, and there's no crust on the bottom of that pie," Jacobson says. "It's made with mounds of apples and then a batter on the top so it cooks down through it, and there's no bottom crust."

Pumpkin pie also is very popular here, and Happel says they're midway there on their holiday requests.

"I think we're about halfway filled up on our Thanksgiving order already," Happel says. "Because we take about 600, and we're about at 330 pies for Thanksgiving already. We usually end up making about 700 pies for that."

While their pies and doughnuts are heading out the door like hotcakes, there's another item on the list that they just can't seem to keep on the shelves long enough.

"Our apple twists have become extremely popular," Happel says. "So much so that I think we're only going to feature them on the weekends through October. We can't keep up with the demand on the weekdays."

Happel attributes this occasional lack of product to the small work environment.

"It's getting harder and harder because we're little and we can only produce so much," Happel says. "We don't want to get any bigger than we are, because we don't want to sacrifice the quality of what we do. We try not to have left-overs because we don't want to hold it to the next day. We want it to be fresh every day, so that's hard sometimes for the public to understand. But we're only a farm. We're making the best thing that we can make. That's important to us. It's quality."

WHERE: 104 State Park Road, Chester
TELEPHONE NUMBER: 908-879-6593
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday
CUISINE: Baked goods, hot dogs
PAYMENT: Visa, Mastercard and cash
PRICE RANGE: All 10-inch pies $17.95 (nut and lattice, $1 extra); Irish soda bread, $5.95; fruit breads, $6.95 and $4.95; sour cream pound cake, $15.95
DRESS: Casual
THE SCENE: A cider mill that smells of doughnuts and deliciousness, this friendly farm is where it's at if you're a big fan of apples and other baked goods
ATMOSPHERE: The shop, while small, offers room to walk around and pick up a hot cider or other items you might see about the store
PARKING: In the lot
OWNER: Wanda Jacobson

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