By Jennifer Hetrick
After buying the land in 1885 where Bauman’s Apple Butter stands today, John W. Bauman joined a carriage factory to the little stretch of Sassamansville. By 1892, he purchased a cider press to expand possibilities in production and sales, as competing with larger carriage manufacturers at the time became too difficult.
Thankfully, John very clearly chose a cunning and unique route in those days, many years ago, since his grandson, Harvey, and his family, are still running the operation, bringing great respect to the Bauman legacy. Harvey pointed out that John came from the Congo-Barto area, as did most Baumans.
It wasn’t until eight years after adding the cider press to the business scenery along Hoffmansville Road that John began making apple butter, and carriage production began to slow as the fall fruit persuasion picked up more attention from locals.
“He was very mechanically inclined and had an apprenticeship in Schwenksville,” Harvey said. On July 11, 1905, John received his patent from the U.S. Government for his steam-cooker used for producing apple butter. He had filed his application on November 10, 1904. A copy of the patent is available on the Bauman’s Apple Butter website at www.baumanfamily.com.
While apple butter stood alone for a long time, other flavors began to trickle in as the decades flew forward. Eventually, Harvey’s father, Stanley, began to mingle the lure of other fruits into their sales.
Harvey and his wife, Kathy, took over the business in 1977.
Today, pear, strawberry-raspberry, apricot, honey peach, plum, strawberry-rhubarb, blueberry, pumpkin, sweet tomato, cherry, peach, and strawberry butters line the shelves inside the Douglass Township storefront. Strawberry, cranberry, and cider applesauces are another part of the lineup well-enjoyed by those who visit to fulfill their Pennsylvania Dutch cravings. Ketchup, peach preserves and chili sauce are also a part of the production, with a lot of the tomato-oriented endeavors in gratitude of fruit growers asking Harvey, Kathy, and their employees to do custom work for them in processing and jarring the overabundance of fruit they have but can’t necessarily find buyers for right when all of their produce is ripe.
A lot of direct shipments of orders placed with Bauman’s Apple Butter are sent to individuals in California, Florida, and Texas.
About 11 years ago, Harvey pondered the idea of bringing a slushy machine into the storefront. Giving the new concept a whirl, it has been a hit since and is something people love because of how they can get cider or lemonade slushies even in winter months, since they are operational year-round. New, chilled, and fresh flavors may eventually be unleashed, too.
But the apple-everything persona of the business is still a big part of what keeps people visiting, especially in autumn months. “Our apple butter is strictly apples,” Harvey added, in elaborating on why it is people seem to love it so much. The simplicity of the ingredients and lack of questionable, hard-to-pronounce ones makes it an easy win-win for the senses and the wallet.
Of course, a version of fruit butters made with white grape juice, which has a slower-acting sugar in it, is something especially valued by those with diabetes.
The business is also set up to handle certified organic cooking and prepares fruit butters and cider for The Rodale Institute, in Maxatawny Township, close to the border of Berks and Lehigh counties.
Harvey explained that about 20 gallons of apple butter are made per batch, within a four-to-five-hour period. Using seven cookers, that means seven batches are made at a time. In a day, anywhere from 12 to 22 batches might be the result, with the pleasant scent of apples cooking and wafting even outside of the building.
Harvey and Kathy’s oldest child, John, 26, works as a computer programmer for Google and lives in California. He also still helps to run the family’s website.
Their daughter Heidi, 22, is studying music education at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia and helps out at the store when she’s back in Pennsylvania.
Harvey concluded that, on top of the immense appreciation customers show for the hard work tied into the business, hearing people tell him they knew his grandparents and parents, reminiscing of old times, is a lot of what stirs the joy into making apple butter.