Food, People

It all comes from a shared love of apples and hard cider

Cider_04.jpg
Nicole Blum and Jonathan Carr. Photo courtesy of Storey Publishing.

By Jennifer Huberdeau

Most of us could only think of a recipe or two to incorporate hard cider, cider syrup or cider vinegar into, nevermind fill a whole cookbook. But, if you use the products in your cooking on a daily basis, it’s quite easy to do. Just ask Nicole Blum and Jonathan Carr, owners of Carr’s Ciderhouse.

“People are always asking us what to do with the cider, how to cook with it,” Blum said during a recent interview at the couple’s no-spray, low-mow orchard in Hadley, Mass. “I do love to cook and it really came from cooking all the time with our cider.”

Having worked with Storey Publishing in the past, Blum began talking about putting together a cookbook of recipes that use either hard cider, cider vinegar or cider syrup. She enlisted her sister, Andrea Blum, a chef and culinary artist at the Montalvo Arts Center in California, to help craft a few recipes.

“She works as a cooking professional, so we knew she would have the time and space,” Blum said.

From there, the “Ciderhouse Cookbook: 127 Recipes that Celebrate the Sweet, Tart and Tangy flavors of Apple Cider” was born.

Recipes from the kitchen

The majority of recipes come from the cooking Jonathan and Nicole do daily for their family.

“When we were developing these recipes, we would make them and have to think about what we were doing,” Blum said. “I would say, ‘OK this is how much salt I would throw in,’ and have to put it in a spoon and measure it. You just take notes as you’re making it and then make it again with the notes, to make sure it comes out right. Then we had it tested by friends and family.”

The recipe for a kale salad with butternut squash chips, toasted pecans and feta is a prime example of something you’d find on their dinner table.

“Kale salad is pretty much a staple in our house,” she said. “It’s easy to change, so it’s more of a question of what do you like? Usually, for me, it’s about changing textures and flavors. In this

the squash chips add a little crunch and sweetness, the pecans will too. There’s some quick pickles, cabbage and onion. So, that’s color and tang.

“This could go a few different ways, but I would compose it in the same way. I want crunchy, I want tangy, I want sour and I want sweet to go with the kale.”

While working on the cookbook, Blum realized that many of the recipes were attached to different times of her life.

“There was a time when I would always make a galette, an opened faced tart, when I went to a potluck because they are incredibly easy to make,” she said. “The cider syrup-glazed scallops was one of the first recipes I developed. It’s inspired by the Blue Heron up in Sunderland, Mass. They make these really nice pan-seared scallops over a bed of puy lentils and they drizzle it with some sort of cidery glaze. I decided to pan fry the scallops with cider syrup.”

A love of apples and hard cider

The story of Carr’s Ciderhouse really begins in Ireland in the 1990s, when the couple took over the Carr family homestead there.

“Jonathan’s father kept the family homestead. We moved there and ran an organic farm. We were young, no one was living there, so we said we would. It was like a dream,” Blum said. “Jonathan’s grandparents had a few trees in the yard that had grown and produced these apples that weren’t really the kind you could eat, so we juiced them. We thought we’d make vinegar. I don’t know why we thought that because we both love hard cider. But of course, to make vinegar, you have to make hard cider. It was like this little eye-opening moment for us.”

After a few years of farming in Ireland, the couple returned to the United States and settled in the Pioneer Valley while Carr earned his master’s in pomology, the science of growing fruit, at the University of Massachusetts.

“Apples have always been a passion for him. It just naturally morphed into a masters in hard cider,” she said. “He encouraged them to plant a cider block at Cold Spring Orchard and around the same time we found this [38-acre orchard in Hadley]. It was about to go up for sale through a land trust. This is all Agricultural Preservation Restriction land.”

In the orchard

They bought the orchard and began planting cider apple trees and buying in apples, to press, in the early years before their trees began producing.

“That was in the early days, before this huge explosion of hard cider,” Blum said. “When we decided we still wanted to do something agricultural, we knew we wanted to do something we could make, something value-added.

“One of the hardest things about farming, we found, was that we had a lot of these raw ingredients we were selling to people who were making these beautiful things with them and it was really hard to make ends meet. We decided that whatever we did we could make something with our produce.”

Today, they grow heirloom apples: Golden Russett, Yarlington Mill, Dabinett, Kingston Black and the more modern Gold Rush, which they press and ferment on site.

“It all came out of a shared love of hard cider,” Blum said. “Jonathan and I met in San Francisco. Our first date was at a restaurant that served hard cider and crepes (two of their favorite things.) We didn’t realize that until years later. We love apples. We love making things. It just feels like everything has come full circle. ”


Cider_02.jpgCider Syrup–Glazed Scallops

Serves 2

The combination of cider syrup and scallops might seem like gilding the lily to seafood purists, but this is a peerless dish. We were first introduced to cider-glazed scallops at a gorgeous restaurant up the road called the Blue Heron, in Sunderland, Massachusetts. Tucked into a bed of flavorful Puy lentils, the whole ensemble was truly sublime, and we are now evangelists for the cause.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 16 large scallops (approximately 1 pound)
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • ¼ cup dry hard cider (“Ciderhouse Cookbook,” page 12)
  • 2 tablespoons cider syrup (“Ciderhouse Cookbook,” page 22)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped scallion, for garnish
  1. Coat a large skillet with the oil and heat over medium heat. Place the scallops in the hot pan and brown on one side, about 2 minutes. Flip and brown on the other side, about 2 minutes. Remove the scallops from the pan to a plate.
  2. Add a bit more olive oil to the pan if it is dry. Add the shallots and cook over medium heat until they become translucent, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the cider to the saucepan and cook it for about 1 minute. Add the syrup and salt, whisking to combine, then put the scallops back in the pan, flipping them to coat both sides evenly. Cook until the glaze begins to darken, about 1 minute. The glaze will caramelize quickly, so don’t walk away from the pan.
  4. Plate the scallops and pour any extra glaze from the pan over the top. Garnish with the scallions.

Excerpted from “Ciderhouse Cookbook,” by Jonathan Carr, Nicole Blum and Andrea Blum, photography by Mars Vilaubi and Colin Prince, used with permission from Storey Publishing.


Cider_01.jpgKale Salad with Butternut Squash Chips, Toasted Pecans & Feta

Serves 6

Although you need to prepare a few of this salad’s components before assembly, it is not complicated and the results are everything you’d want in a kale salad: lots of kale, the sweet caramelization of the squash chips, the bright counterpoint of quick-pickled onions and cabbage, the tang and saltiness of feta cheese, and the crunch of toasted pecans. It is beautiful to look at and potluck-worthy!

Salad

  • ½ butternut squash, sliced lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick half-moons
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 bunches kale (choose your favorite kind), stemmed and chopped
  • 1 (8-ounce) jar Quick Cider Vinegar Pickles (“Ciderhouse Cookbook: 127 Recipes that Celebrate the Sweet, Tart and Tangy flavors of Apple Cider,” page 43), made with red onions and red cabbage
  • ¾ cup toasted pecans
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese

Dressing

  • ¼ cup cider syrup (page 22)
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar (page 18)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ – ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • clove garlic, crushed
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking pan with parch­ment paper.
  2. Place the butternut squash slices on the pan so they are not overlapping. Drizzle with the olive oil, then sprinkle with the salt. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the squash begins to brown. Set aside to cool.
  3. Make the Dressing: While the squash roasts, combine the syrup, vinegar, olive oil, salt and garlic in a mason jar, screw on the lid, and shake well to emulsify.
  4. Make the Salad: Put the kale in a large mixing bowl. Add ½ cup of the dressing and vigorously massage it into the kale for about 15 seconds, or until the kale is nicely coated. Strain the pickled vegetables from their brine, add them to the salad, and toss well.
  5. Transfer the kale salad to a serving platter or bowl and scatter the squash chips, pecans, and feta over the top. Drizzle more dressing over the salad, if desired.

Excerpted from “Ciderhouse Cookbook,” by Jonathan Carr, Nicole Blum and Andrea Blum, photography by Mars Vilaubi and Colin Prince, used with permission from Storey Publishing.


Cider_03Ciderhouse Cookbook: 127 Recipes that Celebrate the Sweet, Tart and Tangy flavors of Apple Cider

By Jonathan Carr and Nicole Blum of Carr’s Ciderhouse and Andrea Blum
221 pages
Storey Publishing
$19.95

Carr’s Ciderhouse

Hadley, Mass.
413-336-7363
Purchase products, find recipes and more at CarrsCiderhouse.com


Jennifer Huberdeau is New England Newspapers’ online editor and associate editor of UpCountry magazine. She also pens the column, “The Cottager,” for Berkshires Week and The Shires of Vermont.

More from Jennifer

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