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Kordick Family Farm

Home of Baba Yaga’s Apples of Eternal Youth

History

first generation apple farmers

Kordick Family Farm is a mother-daughter operation that was founded in 2009, when we planted our first 850 apple trees in Stokes County, NC.  We primarily grow heirloom, regional, and cider apple varieties, with several grafted from local sources.  Sorry, you won’t find any HoneyCrisp apples on this farm.  We are continually experimenting in our efforts to be as holistic as possible in practice.  

At a time when most commercial orchards are moving towards high-density dwarf variety plantings of trees, our MM111 semi-dwarf trees…

…are huge by current standards, the kind of tall, sprawling trees that used to be the norm in American orchards. Growing to about 20 feet high and spaced about 16 feet apart, they require ladders to pick the fruit, but aesthetically, we just like big apple trees that you can climb in, as well as the idea that they will be here long after we’re gone. And practically-speaking, our large trees are much more hardy and self-reliant than dwarf varieties, which is always a plus in a two-person operation.

In recent years, we have expanded our apple orchard to include about 1,800 trees total, representing about 175 different apple varieties.  We still graft every single apple tree we plant.  We also have a small pear orchard and handfuls of other fruits, including peaches, plums, figs, che fruit, and blackberries, planted on the farm.  In coming years, we will be expanding our pear planting, and are always interested in adding more tree fruits (some familiar, and some quite exotic) into the mix.

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Baba Yaga

Russian Heritage

The first members of our family to emigrate from Russia to the United States came in the early 1900’s by way of Ellis Island. They settled in a Northeastern mill town and eventually started a small dairy and subsistence farm. Some of the fruit trees they planted still stand on the old homestead, and while…

 

…the first Kordicks in this country became proud Americans, they also left behind an appreciation for certain Old World customs and folklore that our family continues to enjoy today.

Every culture seems to have a bogeyman of sorts that is held over the heads of misbehaving children, and in Russia and several other Eastern European countries, children were raised to beware lest Baba Yaga, a rugged forest witch, seize them and gobble them up. Baba Yaga features in many famous Russian stories, often as a fearsome antagonist, yet she is also frequently portrayed as simply a wise old woman (or women, as she also may be depicted as three sisters) of the woods who serves as a guide to the heroes and heroines of folklore.

Baba Yaga

Baba Yaga's Apples of Eternal Youth story

Like many apple growers of the last century, we have deliberately branded our apples with an eye-catching logo and artwork. 20th Century fruit crate labels are now collectibles, sought after for the evocative art that was meant to catch consumers’ eyes on city streets and entice them to gravitate towards one grower’s fruits over another’s.
There is a Baba Yaga fairy tale about a quest for golden apples that bring eternal youth to those who possess them, and it was this story that inspired us to stylize our…

…apples as “Baba Yaga’s Apples of Eternal Youth,” and to come up with our own version of the story, as well as revive the old fruit crate label tradition.

We worked with Greensboro-based artist Liz McKinnon (www.heartshinestudios.com) to design a watercolor illustration of Baba Yaga with the famed apples, not in Old World Russia, but in our neck of the North Carolina foothills. As the crow flies, Kordick Family Farm is about 15 minutes north of Pilot Mountain, and we have a postcard view of the knob from the center of our property. To our west lie the Blue Ridge Mountains, while the Sauratown range borders us to the east. The Dan River is mere minutes away to the south of the farm.

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HANDMADE

Our Apple Cider Syrup

It takes a long time for large apple trees to start bearing fruit, period.  And if you’re trying to grow apples in the Southeast, it takes an even longer time to hit upon the right mix of practices to produce fruit of consistently high quality.  This means we’ve had a lot of time to think about what we want to do with our apples, and smaller quantities of fruit to play around with.  In this manner, we created our flagship product: Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup.

Much like hard cider, apple cider syrup was …

…an American staple in past centuries, a stable, homegrown sweetener that had endless uses.  However, with the advent of granulated sugar (and probably also due to the widespread razing of American apple orchards during Prohibition), cider syrup all but disappeared from the pantry.

When we became interested in re-introducing cider syrup, we sought out the local Southern experts: sorghum syrup producers.  A very generous, close-knit community, our new friends taught us the sorghum syrup-making process and helped us adapt it to cider syrup. 

Starting with 100% farm-pressed apple juice (cider), we boil enormous pans over a wood fire for hours until it is reduced to about 1/10 of the original volume.  At this point, the sugars have concentrated to form a thickened syrup that is wonderfully fragrant and tangy in apple flavor, and is ready for . . . almost anything.

Really.  It is actually easier and infinitely quicker to list the things that cider syrup wouldn’t be good on (Fish?  Well, some fish.  It’s actually wonderful on salmon!).  The most obvious, and hard-to-beat, application is to pour cider syrup over pancakes, biscuits, and other breakfast pastries.  Perhaps the most unexpected use, however, is to make a braise or sauce for savory items like pork roast or sweet potato gratin/casserole.  It even pairs well with salads in the form of a vinaigrette.  Try drizzling it over ice cream or yogurt, spoon it on top of oatmeal, add it to popcorn . . .  Beverage-wise, you can make an instant cup of hot cider by adding about 4 Tbsp (or to taste) cider syrup to a cup of hot water.  Add a shot of brandy or rum to your cup, or add cider syrup to any number of cocktails and mixed drinks.  Finally, cider syrup can be used in baking, much like maple syrup.  

Apple cider syrup is a staple that never should have left the American kitchen.

HOLISTIC

our growing practices

Like many unconventional farmers, we have struggled to find a term that describes our growing practices, while also communicating in a single word our management philosophy to consumers.  ‘Natural’ and ‘sustainable’ mean nothing without context.  ‘Low-spray’ can be used by growers who spray conventional chemicals, but at their lowest possible application rates.  Most of the materials we apply happen to be approved by OMRI (the Organic Materials Review Institute), however, use of the term ‘organic’ implies certification, which we are not.  We are beyond organic at this point in our growing careers, and have finally settled on the term, ‘holistic,’ in the sense championed by Michael Phillips and the Holistic Orchard Network, of which we are proud members (http://www.groworganicapples.com)

Over the years we have found the most widely available commercial formulations of organic chemicals tend to have one thing in common: it’s not so much that they work well against pests and disease and truly promote good crop health; more so, it’s that they do no harm.  Low efficacy coupled with premium price tags just doesn’t cut it on our farm, and after losing apple crop after apple crop in spite of our diligent lockstep organic program, we decided we needed to find a better way to grow.  We think we’ve found it.  To large extent, we have stopped thinking like conventional and conventional organic growers, who are mostly concerned with preempting pest and disease pressure with preventative chemical sprays, as well as responding with curative formulations once pest and disease pressure is in evidence.  

Instead, we focus on cultivating trees, and indeed, an orchard environment, of such optimal overall health that it is not as sensitive to a disease or pest outbreak, not unlike a person who eats healthy, doesn’t try to sterilize everything in sight, but maintains good hygiene, and thus is much less likely to be laid up by the latest bug going around.  To that end, we nurture the root zone environment with inputs like hay and wood chips to promote a healthy fungal ecosystem that gives tree roots access to all manner of good nutrition.  We also regularly apply beneficial microbes, along with fatty oils for them to feed on, to promote canopy colonization by species that work symbiotically with the tree, again to the end of excellent nutritive uptake, while also taking up space that might otherwise be “infected” by “bad” bacterial species that cause disease.  And as we transition to this new way of growing, we do spray the occasional broad spectrum knockdown like copper or PerCarb, though not anywhere near as often as we did in the past, and for different purpose.  Using the aforementioned chemicals as an example, when we come in and sanitize the fungal and bacterial populations with a tree spray, we don’t leave it that way and then try to maintain a sterile environment with regular subsequent sprays.  What we want is to start with a clean slate for an application of beneficial microbes and to nurture this population for as long as possible.  It’s all about using your tools wisely, and as it gets harder and harder to grow fruit period, we need an effective grower’s toolbox.

This is not our great-grandparents’ farmstead orchard.  In the early and mid 20th Century, they simply did not have the disease and pest pressures that have spread with globalization.  Also, people back then did not put quite so high a premium on fresh fruit appearance.  Nowadays there are so many potential and wide-ranging issues to worry about it makes our heads spin.  Unsurprisingly, the West Coast of the United States is a much more ideal environment for growing apples in general, and organic apples in particular.  Plum curculio, one of the hardest pests for organic East Coast growers to control, doesn’t occur in the western half of North America, and until recently, fireblight, a devastating bacterial disease on the East Coast, wasn’t an issue either.  Throwing in the endemic fungal disease smorgasbord of the humid South makes it especially tricky, to say the least, for apple growers in the Southeast who are trying to maintain a remotely organic orchard.

A lot goes into orchard management.  As mentioned above, we mulch with hay whenever possible for weed suppression and cultivation of a healthy root zone.  We utilize untreated trap crops and sacrifice the fruit to certain pests in the hope that it prevents them from entering the orchard proper and causing damage.  We collect fallen apples and diseased prunings for burning so they don’t serve as vectors for future pest and disease development.  In short, we do everything we can to reduce the need to spray — indeed, it’s a rare grower who is enthusiastic about spraying anything.  Whether you’re spraying conventional or unconventional nutrients, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or even beneficial bacteria, it’s a time-consuming, fuel-eating, equipment-wearing hassle, and often a very expensive and potentially dangerous one.  If a farmer is spraying anything, it’s because he or she truly thinks their crop and livelihood depends on it.  Talk to us — most farmers would love a chance to have an honest discussion about growing practices rather than be bound by the are-you-organic-or-not litmus test.  

Organic chemicals and materials can be abused as much as conventional ones, can be just as bad for pollinators, and can also accumulate to the detriment of the environment.  In addition, decreased efficacy often means increased application.  You can go out of your way to avoid synthetic chemicals derived from fossil fuels, but if you have to spend more time on your tractor burning fuel and compacting the soil in order to apply them, is that sustainable?  Rather than lecture you on our definition of sustainability, we will keep an updated list on this website of what we spray and why, as well as this discussion of practices, as it evolves, and you can decide for yourself if this meets your definition of sustainability.

We maintain mason bee houses in the orchard, as well as honeybees and pastured rabbits. If we wear any safety clothing/masks while spraying, it’s generally to keep from getting soaked and filthy. We don’t spray anything that we consider unsafe to our bees, livestock, or ourselves.

Oxidate 5.0: an OMRI-listed hydrogen peroxide that kills bacteria and fungi.  We use this in the early spring pre-bloom as a broad knock-down to help create a blank slate for our subsequent beneficial bacteria applications.

Nordox WP: an OMRI-listed slow-release copper formulation that kills bacteria and fungi, and also helps prevent frost molecules from forming.  Sometimes applied in the spring pre-bloom to give us some protection when the trees are most vulnerable to infections and frost damage.

AgriPhage: OMRI-listed, contains bacteriophages that specifically target the bacterium responsible for fireblight.  After several years of steadily increasing fireblight pressure in the orchard, we have finally found a biological product that can make even the worst shoot blight take a seat on the bus like everybody else.

Core Holistic Spray: a rotating cocktail applied ten or more times a growing season for nutrition and disease/pest prevention, including some or all of the following — Ahimsa pure neem oil (OMRI-listed)*, Ahimsa karanja oil (OMRI-listed), EM-1 beneficial microbes (OMRI-listed, and brewed on-farm from a mother culture), SeaCrop sea minerals (OMRI-listed), AEA Micropak trace minerals (OMRI-listed), Charley’s Soap (a locally-made, environmentally-friendly soap that we use to help emulsify the brew components)

Xentari Bt: an OMRI-listed, specifically honeybee-friendly, Bt, or Bacillus thuringiensis, that attacks certain insect larvae

Isomate mating disruptors: OMRI-listed dispensers that are hung from tree canopies to release mating pheromones of Oriental fruit moth and codling moth to make it harder for adults to find each other and reproduce within the orchard.

Quantum Light: a supplement to our EM-1 beneficial microbes, which are primarily composed of lactic acid bacteria.  Quantum Light contains “the purple guys,” varieties of photosynthetic bacteria, which colonize apple leaves when applied, and help make nutrients available for the trees specifically via photosynthesis.

Lime Sulfur: OMRI-listed, but our least favorite thing in the world to spray!  It is very caustic and can cause severe corrosion on equipment and our persons (burns), but it is very useful when severe broad-spectrum disease clean-up is needed in the orchard.  Can also be used as to thin blossoms during bloomtime, but of course, it also kills beneficial fungi and bacteria.  For that reason, it is often used pre-beneficial biological applications to create a blank slate to start from.

Blossom Protect/Buffer Protect: OMRI-listed strains of Aureobasidium pullulans that provide protection against early season fireblight by colonizing blossoms in a prophylactic manner and creating an inhospitable environment for fireblight-causing bacteria by acidifying the blossom interior.

Lalstop G46: OMRI-listed Gliocladium catenulatum, a naturally occurring, saprophytic fungus that thrives in cool climates (or very early spring in the South) and provides an early season protective barrier against pathogens (we’re specifically targeting fungal rots like Colletotrichum), and parasitizes them, to boot.

Howler: an OMRI-listed Pseudomonas chlororaphis formulation that provides preventative control against fruit rot pathogens via several modes of action.

Grandevo: OMRI-listed formulation of Chromobacterium subtsugae strain and spent fermentation media that afflicts our archnemesis, plum curculio, as a stomach poison. 

*In 2022, we will switch from using Ahimsa pure neem oil in our core holistic spray to TerraMerra’s TerraNeem, an OMRI-listed 85% neem formulation with significantly higher azadirachtin, the chemical compound found in neem oil that is responsible for its insecticidal properties.  After a particularly bad aphid year in 2020, we feel the need to beef up our core holistic spray a notch, while still providing most of the fatty acids that support our EM-1 beneficial bacteria

Got questions or concerns?  Check out our contact info further down on this page and drop us a line.

Ah, April, when the early apple trees enter petal fall stage, fruitlets begin to develop . . . and plum curculio (Conotrachelus nenuphar) rears its ugly, little head.  Plum curculio may be tiny, usually only a quarter of an inch or less in length, but it causes bigtime damage in Eastern fruit orchards every year. There are many growers who are organic in every way, save the exceptions they make to combat plum curculio. A hard-bodied, extremely tenacious weevil, its modus operandi is to overwinter in the woods surrounding orchards, then move into the orchard proper at petal fall with the goal of laying as many eggs as possible in developing fruits.

The larvae develop inside the fruitlets, causing damage one of two ways: 1) the larvae fully develop, secreting certain chemicals that make the fruitlet drop to the ground, where the grown larvae can penetrate the soil to complete the life cycle, or 2) the larvae may be crushed to death as the young fruitlet grows rapidly, leaving the initial damage from the egg deposit as a gateway for other pests and diseases. Either way, they are a major, major headache that growers have been battling for a century or more. There are neat photographs of early twentieth century growers out with large teams, literally beating the trees to shake the curculio adults onto sheets spread below the trees, to be removed from the orchard for certain destruction.

The key to controlling plum curculio is stopping the population cycle — you want to reduce the number of egg-laying adults that you will have to combat the next year, so most of the time, you’re actually targeting the larvae themselves in a number of ways.

We have planted trap crops of early-fruiting plum and peach trees so we can sacrifice the fruit to the plum curculio and target the larvae before they move into the later-fruiting apples. Sound theory, but it doesn’t always work so well since, in this area, cold springs often preclude peach, and especially plum, fruitset. So most of the plum curculio probably make it past the trap crop in any given year to the orchard proper.
The next line of defense is to apply coats of refined kaolin clay to your trees. The clay particles slough off onto curculios making their way into the trees, getting into all their orifices and irritating them. The idea is to convince them that our apple trees are just not worth the pain and suffering. But in order to be effective, kaolin clay has to be applied in a heavy and consistent enough layer, easier said than done around bloomtime, when growers are busiest and the weather is rainiest (the clay will wash off in rain, so many layers are required).

So historically, many adults do succeed in their raison d’etre, to deposit their eggs under the skin of our new apples. But we still need to target the larvae in order to prevent a larger repeat of this whole cycle the next year. One thing we are experimenting with this year is to apply parasitic nematodes to the soil beneath trees, where they will happily gobble up plum curculio larvae after they penetrate the soil.

We only have a few apple varieties at the petal fall stage right now, but in the last two days, have casually stumbled upon two plum curculio adults in the central orchard. Scary stuff, indicative of a very large population that is up on its game. This year we will also be applying Venerate, an OMRI-approved formulation of heat-killed bacteria, which secrete natural, exoskeleton-targeting toxins that interrupt the plum curculios’ molting process, leading to death. We’ll have to wait out the rain for the next three days, and keep our fingers crossed that we’re not too late.

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Northern Spy Apple

CURRENT EVENTS

Apple Growers and Mowers

Summer Work:  A busy time for orchard maintenance, what with keeping up with sprays, mowing and keeping the grass down under the tree canopies, picking up dropped apples, summer pruning, constant IPM scouting (checking traps and the orchard at large to stay ahead of any pest and disease issues).  Oh, yeah, and by the end of June, we’re looking at picking our first apples of the season!

This pile of stuff was once an enormous 100 year-old cider press, and soon it will be again . . . when we find the time and space to get it up and running again.  Stay tuned.  For now, it’s a sight to see, with all its fascinating nuts and bolts (and massive pulleys) on display in the orchard packhouse.

Need any apple blossom jelly, applewood smoking chips, or heirloom apple trees?  We are open in Summer 2022 by appointment. 

Please call us at (336) 351-5186 or email us at cheers@kordickfamilyfarm.com if you’d like to visit.

PLEASE NOTE, WE CAN ONLY ACCEPT CASH OR CHECK AT KFF!

Dog-owners, please note, WE DO NOT ALLOW PETS AT KORDICK FAMILY FARM, for the safety and health of the public and your animals, as well as our own.

Orchard Notecards

Can’t make it to our orchard packhouse?  Want to purchase some of our products with a credit card?  We are pleased to announce that our Etsy store is open for business!  We are not currently selling any fresh fruit via Etsy, but you can find many of our other orchard products for sale there.  Click this link to visit KordickFamilyFarm on Etsy! 

CHECK OUT OUR WEATHER STATION!

Thanks in large part to an NC AgVentures grant, we installed a RainWise weather station at the orchard in winter 2021.  Having such site-specific weather data at our fingertips will help us make better management decisions.  And since our information is public, local gardeners and growers can also benefit. 

Check out our current weather conditions via our RainWiseNet webpage!

Check out our local pest and disease forecasts via our NEWA (Network for Environmental and Weather Applications) webpage!  (Select “Westfield” from the drop-down weather station list.)

Featured Variety: 'Roxbury Russet'
Recipe of the Month: Strawberry Apple Jam

May showers bring June apples! It’s hard to believe that we’ll be harvesting our June apples in another month, but they are growing by leaps and bounds before our eyes. They’re not good enough to eat yet, but they are starting to look it. We ended up with surprisingly great fruitset in the orchard this season. A few of the heavier-set varieties we actually needed to painstakingly thin by hand. The rest of the orchard is currently going through the natural thinning process colloquially known as June drop, though in our neck of the woods it tends to get going by mid-May.

As fruitlets begin to size up, they begin to require more and more carbohydrates from the apple trees, supplied via the trees’ leaves and photosynthesis. But there are only so many leaves to support those fruitlets, and if the farmer hasn’t thinned the crop to a more manageable load, the trees will naturally begin to shed some fruit. And if you’ve got any kind of a plum curculio population in your orchard, they do their part to contribute to June drop, as well. It’s hard not to cringe, passing by a veritable carpet of tiny apples on the orchard floor, imagining all the fruit that might have been, but as the fruit sizes up and branches begin to sag, you realize the trees usually know best.

Now it’s up to us to guard the remaining apples with our lives! One method of fruit protection that we’ve always been fascinated by is the bagging done by boutique Japanese orchardists. Once fruitset has occurred and apples have sized up to about 3/4 of an inch, the crop is manually thinned and the finest fruitlets selected as having bagging potential. One by one, the fruitlets are enclosed in a double-bag with an outer paper layer and an inner wax paper layer, pleated closed (origami style in Japan; not origami style at Kordick Family Farm), and wired shut. The bags will physically exclude most pests and diseases from blemishing the fruit until a few weeks before harvest, when the outer paper bag is removed.

However, since sunlight has also been excluded from penetrating the bag, the apples are blanched. Once the outer bag is removed, the remaining colored wax paper bag reflects sunlight in such a way as to bring the fruit to their proper hues quickly, without risk of sunburn. This season, we’re finally trialing Japanese apple bagging in our orchard, not because we think we could ever justify bagging every single fruit (hahahaha!), but we’re curious to see if there are any varieties where it makes such a significant difference in quality that we could justify bagging certain trees.

Plus it’s just cool — and we haven’t even gotten into Japanese apple “tattooing” yet, where a die-cut decal, commonly of the Japanese characters signifying good fortune, is placed on the blanched apple at the time of the outer bag’s removal, such that the decal’s outline is left blanched against the apple’s eventual colored background. In our wildest dreams, we imagine a profile of Baba Yaga imprinted on our premium apples. Yes, yes, it’s a lot of work, but for a few special trees or in a small hobby orchard, it can actually make a lot of sense. The University of Kentucky has particularly touted the benefits of fruit bagging, as has Virginia Tech, which has emphasized the possibilities of organic peach production in the Southeast. The bags physically protect the crop against deer and their ilk, as well as minimize the need for sprays. And what delight to eventually unwrap your crop just like the gift it is!

So what else are we doing besides masochistically bagging apples right now? Multitasking is always the theme at KFF, so on any given day we may find ourselves strategically mowing the undercanopies of the trees, putting out hay mulch between trees, scouting out the entire orchard Integrated Pest Management (IPM) style to keep an eye on pest and disease thresholds, keeping up with management sprays, planting our non-apple crops like pumpkins, potatoes, onions, and garlic . . . oh, yeah, and grafting up a storm. We are still grafting peach and pear trees, but are just about done installing 1,000 newly grafted apple trees into nursery beds, where they will “grow up” for several months. Our nursery is filling up fast, and there are lots of new “old” varieties in there!

All hail the great grandaddy of American apples. ‘Roxbury Russet’ has the considerable distinction of being the oldest named apple under cultivation in America, a seedling of the trees brought here from Europe by the Pilgrims. The first ‘Roxbury Russet’ tree was found in the early 1600s in Roxbury, Massachusetts, a part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and a neighborhood of southwest Boston in present-day.

All you amateur (or professional) historians out there, take note: the history of this variety could really stand some clarification. It’s often mentioned that ‘Roxbury Russet’ was first discovered on the farm of Ebenezer Davis . . . but it looks like poor Ebenezer wasn’t born until 1676. Yet another vein of history has it that the apple was originally cultivated and propagated as ‘Warren Russet’ by Joseph Warren II of Roxbury . . . but Old Joe wasn’t born until 1696. He, um, died, incidentally, after falling from his ladder while picking apples. His son, Dr. Joseph Warren III, was a celebrated Revolutionary who died at Bunker Hill. Major General Israel Putnam, who happened to distinguish himself at Bunker Hill, is also commonly mentioned as a key champion of ‘Roxbury Russet,’ having grown it on his Connecticut farm, where his grandson, also named Israel Putnam, would first encounter the apple variety he would later spread to the Midwest. We still need to find Kevin Bacon, but I feel like we’re close to six degrees of separation here.

Anyway, ‘Roxbury Russet’ is really, really old, and from its muddled beginning sometime in the early 1600s, it was recognized as a great all-purpose apple with outstanding storage potential, as evidenced by the speed of the variety’s dispersal throughout the New World. By 1649 ‘Roxbury Russet’ could be found in the state of Connecticut, and spread throughout New England in subsequent decades. In 1778, Thomas Jefferson added several trees to his orchard at Monticello. By 1796 Israel Putnam was disseminating the trees into the Ohio Valley, where the variety became known as ‘Putnam’s Russet.’ By the 1850’s, ‘Roxbury Russet’ was well-known enough to warrant passing mention in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of Seven Gables, wherein the character of Uncle Venner declares, “But I suppose I am like a Roxbury russet, — a great deal the better, the longer I can be kept.”

As the variety spread, it picked up many localized aliases, including ‘Boston Russet,’ ‘Nova Scotia Russet,’ and ‘Shippen’s Russet’ after Chief Justice Shippen cultivated it in New York. ‘Roxbury Russet’ also became one of the most widely grown russet apples in the South, where any russetted apple tended to be referred to as ‘Rusty Coat,’ and yet another alias was born. Incidentally, while the search for an original, standalone ‘Rusty Coat’ is ongoing, a number of existing russet varieties, including ‘Roxbury,’ may ultimately share the mantle. Last year, an acquaintance provided us with some scionwood from her family’s old ‘Rusty Coat’ tree, and we are looking forward to comparing it to our ‘Roxbury Russet’ fruit, as well as that from our other Southern russet varieties.

By now, some of you may be asking yourselves just what a russet apple is. The term refers to fruits that are rustic in appearance, rough-skinned, and dull gold to olive green in color. As you can see from the above picture, true russet apples (as opposed to apples that become russetted from physical damage) exhibit their distinctive patina from very early in the growing season. Once quite common throughout America, their lackluster appearance became a liability with the advent of refrigeration and emphasis on flashy looks (see ‘Red Delicious’ apples). We describe the russet apples as being pear-like, with an outer skin reminiscent of sandpaper . . . in a good way.

We currently have 36 ‘Roxbury Russet’ trees in our orchard. We rely on them for sweet and hard cider, fresh eating, as well as cooking. The flavor is excellent, ranging from sweet-tart early in the season to mellow and nutty as the fruit ages. We expect them to begin ripening in September. They do keep well, though not as epically as ‘Roxbury Russet’ fruit grown in New England.

*Although the following cannot be definitely ascribed to ‘Roxbury Russet’ history, I feel compelled to mention author Rowan Jacobsen’s compelling theory that “Considering its antiquity, Roxbury Russet may well have been the variety of apple tree that ate Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island,” who died in 1683 and was unceremoniously buried in an unmarked grave. In 1860, the community of Providence, Rhode Island sought to bestow a more fitting memorial upon their forebear, and so, set about exhuming his body. They found very little in the way of remains, only some teeth, nails, and bits of bone. What they did find was an outrageously shaped apple tree root that uncannily outlined the shape of a man’s body, from its head to its upturned feet! If you ever find yourself in Providence, it’s worth a trip to the Rhode Island Historical Society to see The Man-Root in its coffin-shaped box.

We have been enjoying fresh strawberries from our plantings between apple trees, and as the harvest begins to pick up, we are starting to think about jamming. We like to add apples to our jams whenever possible, not only because we’re an apple farm and we can, but because of the subtle, complementary flavor they impart, as well as natural pectin to thicken the jam. Slightly unripe apples are always best for maximum pectin, and we’re excited about cooking with our own apples again, but June drops, like those seen in the picture above, are pushing it.

3 lb fresh strawberries, topped and chopped
1 lb fresh apples (about 4 — ‘Granny Smith’ are best if you must buy from the store), peeled, cored, and chopped
4 cups sugar
2 cups water
1/4 cup lemon juice

Combine the fruit, water and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil rapidly, reduce to a simmer, and cook, partially covered, mashing occasionally with a potato masher, until fruit is very soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Add sugar, stirring constantly. Bring the mixture to a full, hard boil and cook for one minute.

Remove from heat and skim foam from top if necessary. Ladle jam into clean, hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headroom, and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Alternatively, if you don’t want to get into canning, ladle the jam into containers and store in your freezer long-term. Makes about 6 half-pint jars.

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Cider BBQ Sauce

Cider Syrup

Recipes

Apple cider syrup is the perfect base for a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce.  This full-flavored recipe packs just a hint of heat and makes 2 cups of sauce.

1 cup Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 Tablespoons grated onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
2 teaspoons prepared (not dry) mustard
salt to taste
dash of cayenne pepper

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth.  Then you know what to do: baste all over your favorite protein and grill, bake, or broil it up.

(adapted from an Our State Magazine recipe and shared by our friend, Randy)

4 Tablespoons (or to taste) Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup 
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1 large, decent apple, peeled, cored, and cut into cubes
(the original recipe calls for Granny Smith or Honeycrisp apples)

Preheat oven to 400°.  In a large mixing bowl, toss Brussels sprouts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, tossing once during cooking time.

Remove sprouts from oven, then toss them in the cider syrup and add apples. Spread the sprouts and apples back on baking sheet and return to oven for 10 minutes or until tender. Check seasoning; add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Reminiscent of lemon meringue pie!

1 cup Baba Yaga’s Cider Syrup
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons flour
1 standard pie crust

Mix all ingredients together with handbeater or blender  until smooth.  Pour into crust and bake at 350 degrees about 45 minutes, until set and slightly browned on top.

Makes about 75 pieces of decadent apple candy!

2 cups cream (heavy, whipping, or even coconut)
1 cup light corn syrup
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup Baba Yaga’s Cider Syrup
6 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
spices (1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/8 teaspoon allspice, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg)

Lightly grease an 8 inch by 8 inch baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on all sides.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, combine cream, corn syrup, sugar, cider syrup, and butter.  On high heat, bring to a boil, stirring only until sugar dissolves.

Reduce to medium-high heat and cook without stirring until the temperature reaches 248 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 30 minutes.  Remove the pan from heat and stir in salt and spices.

Pour into the lined pan and let sit at room temperature for about 18 hours without disturbing.

Remove from pan and cut into desired bite-sizes (about 3/4 inch square).   Cut 6 inch squares of parchment paper and wrap each caramel, twisting the ends of the paper to close.

4 medium sweet potatoes
2 medium apples
4 Tbsp. butter or non-dairy substitute
1/3 cup Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup
1/2 tsp. salt

Place sheet of aluminum foil on bottom oven rack. Position second oven rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Wash sweet potatoes and make a small slit on one side of each potato. Place potatoes directly on middle oven rack, slit side up. Bake 45-60 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

While potatoes are baking, core, peel and slice apples 1/4 inch thick. Saute apple slices in 2 Tbsp. butter or substitute until tender. Set aside.

Peel cooked sweet potatoes and place in bowl. Mash together with remaining 2 Tbsp. butter or substitute, apple cider syrup, and salt. Stir in cooked apples.

Place sweet potato-apple mixture in ovenproof baking dish and cover with lid or foil.  Bake 25-30 minutes.

8 cups of plain popped corn, unsalted

1 cup white sugar

1/3 cup Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup

2 tsp. vegetable oil

1/4 tsp. salt

Prepare a large, rimmed baking sheet by lightly oiling or lining with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Place popped corn in large glass or ceramic bowl (not plastic).  Bowl should be large enough so popcorn can be stirred easily without spilling over.  Set aside.

Combine sugar, cider syrup, oil, and salt in small saucepan.  Mix well.

Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until a candy thermometer registers 290 degrees F, about 6-8 minutes.

Remove from heat and pour over the popcorn.  Quickly stir popcorn with spatula to coat evenly.

Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and spread coated popcorn to cool.

When cold, break into small pieces and store in airtight container.

1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp. minced shallot
1/4 cup Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup
2 Tbsp. finely chopped peeled apple
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
Serve over salad greens with sliced red onion and thin wedges of apples, or your favorite salad.

Forget about molasses — apple cider syrup adds outstanding flavor to our favorite picnic food. This recipe will make about 6-8 servings as a side dish.

1 lb. dried beans (California pea, Navy, Great Northern)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup
4 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium onion, cut in half from top to bottom
1 large, firm apple, peeled, cored, and diced into small pieces

Soak the beans overnight in enough water to cover them by 2 inches. The next day, drain them and place in a pot with the baking soda plus enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, skimming any foam off as needed. Remove 1 cup of cooking water and set aside. Drain and rinse the beans, then place in a bean pot or slow cooker with onion halves.

Combine the syrup, sugar, mustard, ginger, salt and pepper. Gradually stir in the reserved cooking water. Pour over the beans and onions. Bake, covered, at 300 degrees in the bean pot, for 6-7 hours, or until done, stirring occasionally. A slow cooker will take about 6 hours, still covered and stirring occasionally. Add the diced apple during the last hour of cooking. If saucier beans are desired, add small amounts of water as needed.

Our orchard is located at 1259 Joyce Acres Road in Westfield, NC 27053.

Directions from Pilot Mountain:

Traveling on US-52 North, take the exit 134 for Pilot Mountain, NC-268.  Enter roundabout and exit to the first right onto S. Key St./NC-268.  Take a left at the CVS stoplight to continue on NC-268.  Turn right on Old Westfield Road.  After about 6.5 miles Old Westfield Road dead-ends into NC-89.  Take a right onto NC-89 at the stoplight.  Go 3 miles, then take a left onto Frans Road.  After a mile, take a left at the stop sign to continue on Frans Road.  Take the first right onto Christian Road.  Take the first right onto Joyce Acres Road and travel 1 mile to reach 1259.

Directions from Francisco:

Traveling west on NC-89, take a right onto Asbury Road.  At the stop sign, take a left to continue on Asbury Road.  After about a half a mile, take a left onto Joyce Acres Road, and travel about a half a mile to reach 1259.