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 and regional apple varieties, with several grafted from local sources (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 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 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.
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'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 that 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.
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 alternative sweeteners and more diverse crop varieties, 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% apple juice (cider), we boil enormous pans over a wood fire for hours until it is reduced to about a 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, most 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.
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 (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.
PerCarb: Basically, an OMRI-listed hydrogen peroxide that kills bacteria and fungi. We use this in the early spring 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. Applied once in the spring pre-bloom to give us some protection when the trees are most vulnerable to infections and frost damage.
AgriPhage: an OMRI-listed bacteriophage that is specific to the bacterium responsible for fireblight. After several years of steadily increasing fireblight pressure in the orchard, we are very excited to try out AgriPhage pre-bloom and during bloom in 2021.
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)
AEA Holocal: OMRI-listed supplemental calcium that is applied to fruit to make it less susceptible to bitter rot and leaf spot (Glomerella species), the latest scourge of Southern apple growers
Silmatrix: OMRI-listed supplemental silicon that helps boost the plant’s cuticle defenses and prevent “bad stuff” from getting in the front door
Xentari Bt: an OMRI-listed, specifically honeybee-friendly, Bt, or Bacillus thuringiensis, that attacks certain insect larvae
Surround WP: “that white stuff all over trees,” an OMRI-listed refined kaolin clay applied several times a season to discourage pests like plum curculio, and also to prevent sunscald on developing fruit
Venerate: an OMRI-listed pesticide derived from heat-killed Burkholderia species that attacks the exoskeletons of our very-hard-to-kill nemesis, plum curculio
Delegate: a synthetic spinetoram similar to the OMRI-listed, and frankly unaffordable at $455/quart, spinosad, Entrust, that we rotate with Venerate to help control plum curculio
Isomate mating disruptors: OMRI-listed dispensers that are hung from tree canopies to release mating pheromones of certain pests to make it harder to find each other and reproduce within the orchard.
NemAttack beneficial nematodes: OMRI-listed Steinernema carpocapsae nematodes are microscopic worms that inhabit the soil and parasitize weavils among other pest insects, and we’re hoping, will help to control the worst weavil in our book, plum curculio. Applied in 2019.
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.
*In 2021, 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.
Winter Work — that means bigtime orchard maintenance time. We’ll be pruning more extensively than usual this season, what with all of 2020’s fireblight and cicada damage, so we’re getting started early. We’ll also be busy painting all of our tree trunks white to help keep the trees properly dormant all winter. And on the off chance we get bored, there is always, always orchard fence maintenance.
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.
We’re open, and it’s grand! The farm’s old tobacco packhouse has finally begun its new life as our orchard packhouse and store, full of fresh apples, jams, jellies, cider syrup, and more. In the orchard we have potted heirloom apple trees of various sizes for sale. Open this winter by appointment — see below.
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!
WE ARE SOLD OUT OF FRESH APPLES FOR THE 2020 SEASON
Looking forward to the first apples of 2021: ‘Early Harvest’ June apples in late June.
The packhouse is still plenty stocked with our other seasonal orchard products, including several dozen varieties of heirloom apple trees, ranging in size and age, pie pumpkins and butternut squash, gourds, jellies, apple butter, apple cranberry relish, applesauce, and cider syrup. We will be open by appointment only for the remainder of 2020. Please call or email (336-351-5186 or cheers@kordickfamily farm.com) if you’d like to stop by.
*We can only accept cash or checks at this time in our store. To make purchases online/with a credit card, you can visit our Etsy store via this link.
*Dog owners: for food safety reasons and for the sanity of our own livestock guardian dogs, we ask that you leave your dogs in your vehicle while at the orchard
KORDICK FAMILY FARM, HOME TO THE NEWEST WEATHER STATION ON THE BLOCK!
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!
Ah, February, when a million tree voices suddenly cry out, “Prune me!” in one long, deafening primal scream. In an ideal world, all of our dormant pruning would be done in the orchard by now, so that all those new open wounds would be well-healed and well-protected before budbreak, and all the windrows and piles of prunings chipped up before we need to drive a tractor through the orchard again. The North Carolina Piedmont climate being what it is, we’ve started later than we’d like, and we’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
Pruning takes long enough, you don’t always think about what a big job it is to take care of all the resulting brush. Most large orchards will pile the prunings in long windrows, then literally push them somewhere with a bulldozer to either decompose or be burned. It’s always smart policy to remove any disease-affected prunings from the orchard, but for the rest, it’s a shame to lose out on all that organic, nitrogen-rich material and not put it back into the orchard in some way.
Like many smaller orchards, we’ve experimented with best practices for our prunings. Our modest goat herd is a huge asset for processing anything we can throw at them, brush-wise, but it’s not very efficient to load up, haul in, then unload 10 acres’ worth of large tree prunings by trailer. In the interest of leaving it where it lies, we’ve also done the bush-hog thing and tried to chop everything up with a drive-by or ten, but, um, that doesn’t work so well, and you end up hitting huge chunks of wood every time you mow for the rest of the season. And so, we’ve gradually come to embrace the wisdom, if not the noise, of the woodchipper.
It’s still not the most efficient task in the world to feed everything limb by limb into a 4-inch opening, cutting branches down to size as we go, but the instant gratification of reducing impassable pilings of brush to specks on the landscape goes a long way. More importantly, if the mycorrhizal and saprophytic soil fungi we do so much to nurture and promote in our orchard environment could order anything in their Happy Meal boxes, it would be small to medium diameter “ramial” wood leavings, ready to decompose just the way they like. Everybody’s happy! Everybody but the goats are happy!
While our hands are plenty busy, our thoughts turn to all the concerns of the season ahead. Late winter is when we review our spray and management plan for the year, going over what worked the previous season and what didn’t, research new products and new data, try to process as much information and procure as much of what we’ll need ahead of time as possible. And it always takes longer than you’d think.
In short, late winter is for trying to figure it all out and come up with some semblance of a plan before the first innocent flower petal unfurls and all hell breaks loose. Now is when you look at any bigtime dormant pest and disease cleanup applications you want to do, since everything is simpler without leaves and blossoms to worry about. Now is when you do your routine maintenance on tractors and equipment because, boy, you will wish you had later. Doesn’t sound very carefree, does it? Well, there’s fun, too, because grafting time is also right around the corner, and it’s time to forget about all the reasons you can’t or shouldn’t plant any more apple trees, reach for those varietal wishlists and pore over the scionwood on offer from other growers.
Actually, where apple propagation is concerned, there are many kinds of grafting, each with their own season. We favor whip-and-tongue grafting, which traditionally requires dormant rootstock and dormant scion wood (though you can get around that rule as needed, also, to some extent). Smart growers remember to order rootstock the August previous to grafting because nurseries are pretty much sold out by the time late winter rolls around. It’s sort of a tradition for us to be too busy to remember to put our order in on time, but it usually works out one way or another (generally, there is excess rootstock available after orders have been filled, or you can use smaller, less desirable diameter rootstock, or B-grade rootstock that has a bend to it, most or all of which gets cut off anyway).
To hedge our grafting bets, we also maintain a traditional stooling bed of MM111 rootstock (see photo above). Basically, you plant a row of rootstock, which has a tendency to send out lots of root suckers anyway, and cut the row back in the summer to induce even more shoot growth. Next, you cover the row with a material which will hold moisture and trigger root growth on all those shoots (sawdust is ideal). When you’re ready to graft, it’s as easy as pulling or cutting off a rootstock shoot that has sent out self-supporting roots, et voila. It’s great to have in a pinch, and someday we hope to take such good care of our stooling row that we can provide all the rootstock we could ever want. After all, we know going in that we’ll never be able to restrain ourselves from grafting hundreds of new trees annually. We might want them, or you might want them . . . or something.
Once again, we find that we don’t have a decent photograph of an apple we’d like to feature, and I had to laugh when searching for ‘Maiden’s Blush’ images in the USDA’s Pomological Watercolor Collection. Since many of the watercolors were completed before the advent of much in the way of pesticides, fungicides, and the like, it’s not uncommon to see paintings that sport blemishes, contusions, and all sorts of unappealing damage. That’s just what apples looked like back then. But even so, the first image to appear for ‘Maiden’s Blush’ was notable for its general repulsiveness. To my eye it looks under-ripe and shot full of some sort of summer rot . . . and that looks mighty familiar!
The image I chose to feature is what ‘Maiden’s Blush’ is supposed to look like. In terms of how often we see fruit of that caliber, think of it as kind of like a rosy-cheeked white whale. The fruit is gorgeous and delicious, but we tend to lose our crops long before they ripen, as this variety is very susceptible to fungal rots, and also has the distinction of being a fireblight magnet. Unfortunately, we did not realize this when we planted our 11 trees front and center alongside the road frontage of our orchard for all eyes to see. After all, with an enticing name like ‘Maiden’s Blush’ and a reputation for delicate beauty, we thought it would be a delightful eyecatcher. It catches the eye, all right, and it’s not uncommon for neighbors to stop and ask us in concerned tones what in the world is the matter with those apples!
A couple of years ago, we considered doing away with the entire block, but couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. Maybe the trees sensed that their fate was hanging in the balance because that summer, for the first time in memory, we managed to nab a handful of perfectly ripe apples off amidst the general muck hanging on the trees. I remember snatching one off a branch and thinking that this would be helpful, that I would taste one, be suitably unimpressed, and we could now get on with the inevitable chore of cutting down the block of trees. The moral of that story is, don’t cut the tree down before you try the apple, because that was one of the single best pieces of fruit that I have ever tasted. I tried to impress the experience in my memory to the extent that I would never again question whether or not all the labor and waste of growing ‘Maiden’s Blush’ was worth it; it’s so worth it. At least I think so. We didn’t get any good fruit this past year, so my memory is getting kind of fuzzy.
The variety originated well before 1810, the first time ‘Maiden’s Blush’ showed up in a nursery catalog. Samuel Allison of Burlington, New Jersey was responsible for naming and promoting the variety prior to that. ‘Maiden’s Blush’ eventually migrated and was widely grown in the South by the early 1900’s, where it was known as an early, heavy-producing apple. Descriptions from way back when tend towards the apple’s cooking and processing virtues, rather than promoting it as a good apple to eat out of hand. The pronounced flavor translates very well for cooking and drying, and the cream-colored flesh remains light when processed. We originally planted ‘Maiden’s Blush’ solely with its drying qualities in mind. However, as I found, when the fruit is able to ripen fully on the tree, or alternately, after ripening in storage post-harvest for a while, the flavor mellows very pleasantly for fresh-eating.
Interestingly, last year I had the opportunity to compare notes with someone growing ‘Maiden’s Blush’ in New Hampshire, and he reported similar disease issues with this variety. I have yet to come across an official description that matches our experiences, but find it notable that local terroir does not appear to be the issue. By July, we’ll know whether or not 2021 is going to be one of those glorious ‘Maiden’s Blush’ years or not.
So this recipe is remarkably similar, ingredient-wise, to the ‘Apple Snow’ we featured last month. Both basically consist of apples, sugar, and egg whites, but to very different effect. Sweet, airy, and charming, particularly if you’re capable of wielding a pastry bag as if it’s not a blowtorch, zephyr is a popular and healthy Russian confection, and very similar to meringue or marshmallows. They don’t require refrigeration and the shelf life is more or less unlimited as the individual zephyrs dry over time. The apples provide the pectin which makes them hold their shape, and other fruits are traditionally mixed in to provide further flavor and color. Cherries are traditional, adding both pleasant tartness and pink color. We like using pomegranates this time of year for the same reason. This recipe produces dozens and dozens of zephyrs; really, don’t double the batch size until you believe how far a few apples and an egg white can be compelled to go. One dozen for you, one dozen for your Valentine, one dozen for you . . .
6 medium tart apples, about 1.5 pounds (we used ‘Granny Smith’)
pomegranate seeds, cherries, strawberries, etc., or some combination of colored fruit
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg white
1/2 Tablespoon gelatin
1/3 cup water
1 cup sugar
powdered sugar (optional)
Peel and core the apples, then chop them. Place the apple pieces, along with a splash (a Tablespoon or so) of water, and any other fruit you may using, in a saucepan. Simmer on low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes, until the apples are thoroughly saucy and broken down. Use a stick blender to puree, or cool enough to puree in a canister blender. The puree should be thick and not runny. If the puree is too thin, return briefly to the stove to thicken it up. Add sugar, and cook until the sugar dissolves completely.
Allow to cool, then place in the refrigerator for several hours until cold. In a mixing bowl, add a cold egg white to the cold puree, and mix at high speed until it turns very light and stiff. Put back in the fridge while you make the syrup.
Mix the gelatin, sugar, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and prevent the gelatin from scorching, and continue to cook until the mixture is thickened, about 5-7 minutes.
Without cooling, add the gelatin mixture to the puree mixture, mixing at medium speed while adding, then moving to high speed until it is thick, sticky, and pasty, about 5 minutes.
Lay out parchment paper, then, working in batches, fill a pastry bag and extrude rosettes of zephyr onto the parchment paper. Let sit, undisturbed and uncovered, for 6-12 hours, until the zephyrs are dry and not too tacky to the touch. If you have leftover zephyr mixture, you can paste two of the rosettes together like a macaron, then leave to dry again. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired. We leave our zephyrs uncovered at room temperature for weeks on end, and the quality gets better and better as they dry out more and more!
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
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.