Farm Share: Wheelers transform dairy farm into a hot-spot for cider, beef
The Recorder, October 31, 2017, by Tinky Weisblatt
High on a hill on Reynolds Road in Shelburne, Wheel-View Farm enjoys a stunning view. The farm house and much of the land have been in Carolyn Wheeler’s family since 1896, although she and her husband John have added to their property over the years.
Originally a dairy farm, Wheel-View now sells mostly beef, fruit, maple products, and hard and sweet cider. When I visited a couple of weeks ago, the Wheelers were getting ready for Cider Days. I was fortunate enough to be able to watch John Wheeler press fresh cider and to taste his product.
The Wheelers have a small but efficient cider-pressing system they purchased from OESCO in Conway. John Wheeler explained that the press was discovered in Italy, where it is used to press grapes for wine.
The pressing has two stages. First, John feeds fresh, crisp apples into an electric grinder. When I visited he was using a blend of Golden Delicious, Macoun and Liberty varieties. Next, the ground apples are transferred to a round press with a “bladder” in the middle. The press is powered by water from a garden hose. The water fills and expands the bladder, pushing the apple pieces out to the edges of the press. Holes in the sides allow the cider to flow out in a waterfall.
When the cider has finished flowing, the dry leftover pulp becomes a treat for the Wheelers’ cattle. It is the only thing the cattle eat other than grass and hay from their own pasture. Nothing is wasted and the cider has a deep, rich flavor.
After the pressing, Carolyn Wheeler took me to her cider tasting room, which opened last year. Designed by Carolyn in an old outbuilding, the large, wood-paneled room welcomes visitors who want to buy cider or beef, as well as those who want to try a glass of hard or sweet cider on the spot along with a snack.
The tasting room is also a museum of sorts. Carolyn has filled it with antiques and collectibles from the farm’s past, including many pieces of household and farm equipment. As a music lover, I enjoyed testing her player piano and listening to “The Happy Wanderer” on her family’s Victrola. The bill of sale for the Victrola hangs on the wall behind the record player. “My family never threw anything out,” Carolyn said with a smile as she pointed to the receipt.
The Wheelers have welcomed a number of groups to the tasting room and the farm — from students to the members of senior centers and granges in the area. Their visitors are encouraged to try to identify the uses of the pieces of farm equipment on display.
The Wheelers are retired educators. They view Wheel-View not just as a source of food, but also as a source of information about farming practices in the past and present. As they look toward the future, Carolyn told me they hope the farm can be maintained as some kind of educational center.
Meanwhile, the pair are making the most of their life as farmers. They have recently revived a traditional New England apple product — cider syrup (also known as boiled cider), which John Wheeler’s grandmother used to enjoy. This is cider boiled down to concentrate the flavor. The pair sells it in three flavors: plain cider syrup, cider syrup mixed with maple, and cinnamon cider syrup.
Carolyn showed off the syrup’s versatility for me in a sweet and savory slow-cooker pot roast that also featured Wheel-View Farm’s beef. The recipe appears below.
Wheel-View Farm’s cider tasting room is open most weekends, although those interested are encouraged to call or check the farm’s website, wheelviewfarm.com, ahead of a visit. The tasting room will definitely be open for Cider Days this Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 4 and 5, from 10 to 4.
Wheel-View Farm cider syrup pot roast
3 to 4 pounds beef roast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dry mustard
½ to 1 teaspoon salt
1 dash of nutmeg
Pepper to taste (¾ teaspoon to 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
½-cup cider syrup or cider-maple syrup
Place the roast in a slow cooker. Combine the remaining ingredients and spread them on top of the beef. Cook for 6 to 8 hours on high. There is no need to add water; the roast makes its own gravy. You may also cook it on high for 30 minutes and then let the beef cook overnight on low.
If you don’t have a slow cooker, place the beef in a covered pan and spread the sauce on top. Then place it in an oven preheated to 500 degrees. After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 250 and cook for several hours or overnight.
When the beef has finished cooking, remove it from the pot, cut it up if necessary (it mostly just falls apart, according to Carolyn Wheeler), and return it to the sauce.
Serves 6 to 8.
Food writer Tinky Weisblat of Hawley is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and the forthcoming “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” For more information about Tinky visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.