Category Archives: Orchard Products

Cider Special

$1.00 OFF Bottle Return Program

Bring back the cider bottle (the big half gallon, 64 oz, growler) from your first purchase of Bluebird Orchards soft cider and get $1.00 off on your next bottle. Does not expire. This is our regular recycling program discount.

Discount does not apply to the smaller 16 oz single serve bottles or any other product.

 

About Bluebird Orchards Ciders

Types of Cider.

Currently we make 3 varieties of cider, also known as sweet cider, soft cider, or in the United States, just cider. Although, in our opinion, there is a huge difference between actual cider and the apple juice many people call cider in the states. In Europe, apple juice is apple juice and cider is cider. They are not the same thing. Since Bluebird Orchards uses an ancient European brewing technique for making our cider, it is different from our apple juice. It is cider, made the traditional, Old World way, and our apple juice is just that: juice squeezed directly from the apple without any spices or aged flavor. Cider is not apple juice. If it is made right, you can taste the difference.

With cider making a huge comeback in the United States over the last 5-8 years, consumers are getting confused as to exactly what the word “cider” means here. Sweet cider, cider, or soft cider are all names for the same basic type of cider: that is, any cider that is not “hard” cider or the type of cider that contains alcohol. Hard cider is the only type of cider that contains alcohol, and as such, can only be sold in establishments with a liquor license.

That said, Bluebird Orchards makes hard and soft cider. Our hard cider goes by a different label called “Cool Dog Cider.” And our soft ciders go under the Bluebird Orchards label. Just to avoid any more confusion than what is already out there.

spiced cider labelSweet Ciders by Bluebird Orchards aka Soft Ciders.

On top of all the confusion regarding soft vs hard ciders, there is also another distinguishing factor regarding ciders; that is carbonation. Cider can either be “still cider” (non-carbonated) or carbonated. Again, we make both.

1. French-Style Still Cider.

Our still cider is spiced and pasteurized so it will not have any fizz or carbonation. This is a good cider for drinking hot cider on a cold day, since carbonation would be destroyed when you heat up the cider anyway. We make it spiced to give it that warm, holiday-like feeling and to make it special rather than just apple juice.

2. French-Style Spiced Cider.

If our cider doesn’t say it is “still” it is lightly carbonated naturally. We do not add carbonation, it is a natural fizz created by using the European technique for cider making. This cider is lightly carbonated and spiced with cinnamon and other natural spices to give it an apple pie flavor, only better. Nonpasteurized so it must be kept in the refrigerator.

3. French-Style Soft Cider.

This is also a carbonated cider but without any spices, Just the natural sweet sugars and strong apple flavor brought out by our natural brewing technique and our unique blend of apples grown only here on our orchard. Nonpasteurized so it must be kept in the refrigerator.

Bluebird Orchards Hard CiderBluebird Orchards Hard Cider.

Our hard ciders are made under our other brand name called “Cool Dog Cider”. We offer a Traditional French-Style Hard Cider and a flavor that was created by Bluebird Orchards called “Smokin” Cider which no other cidery in the industry makes. We will have an updated list of places to purchase our Cool Dog Ciders coming soon.

Soft Ciders are available in half gallon glass growlers to preserve their flavor and 16 ounce individual sizes. Sorry, we cannot ship ciders that are carbonated for obvious reasons, but if you live locally, stop by before they are ALL GONE.

 

Farm Store

We finally got the big sign for our Farm Store put up on the road. It has only been up a week and is already bringing in customers. That’s a really good thing.

What do we offer at the Bluebird Orchard’s Farm Store?

When you come to the store, tell us what you are looking for in the way of vegetables, fruits or nuts and we will pick them fresh on the spot. We believe this is the best way to offer a produce stand or farmer’s market since everything is picked the freshest it can possibly be when it’s picked per order. We’ve also been surprised at the number of people looking for fresh herbs. We have an extensive variety of culinary and medicinal herbs also picked fresh per order. When you stop by the farm store, we have a list of all the herbs and products we offer, but you can always find the most up-to-date list of what is in season and what isn’t by checking our online store.

We also have a good selection of handmade canned goods in the store such as canned jars of vegetables, sauces and fruits, as well as bottled syrups, juices and sweet cider in two different flavors. We should have free range chicken eggs starting in October, hens willing.

There are also many different handmade body care products in our farm store, and if you happen to be camping at White Mound County Park across the road from us and forget your shampoo, bug spray or other necessities, we offer some unique body care products.

Farm Store and Produce Stand Hours:

Currently the farm store and produce stand are open Tuesday through Friday from 10-6 and Saturday from 10-3, May 15 through December 15 until further notice. We are already starting to make cider, so stop by any time to pick up a bottle.

Green Bean Wild Rice Casserole Recipe

Yes, we currently have a ton of green beans. We grow a variety of bean that has the best flavor, texture, crispness and keeping quality of any bean we have ever tried. However, after canning 8 quarts for the winter for myself, and selling pounds to local consumers through our Farm Store, our mighty prolific green bean plants are still blossoming and still producing. So….it’s time to get creative. Here’s a recipe that is a little different take on the popular Green Bean Casserole.

 

Green bean casseroleGREEN BEAN WILD RICE CASSEROLE RECIPE: Makes 4 servings.

1 pound fresh green beans

1 cup wild rice

1 can cream of mushroom soup or chicken broth

1/4 cup grated Jack or Cheddar cheese

A couple handfuls of pretzel sticks

Cook the wild rice ahead of time since it takes at least an hour and a half to cook wild rice. When the wild rice kernels have burst open and are soft, they are done. Drain. Cut green beans into bite-sized pieces and steam 10 minutes just until crunchy soft but not mushy. Mix wild rice and green beans in a casserole dish. Mix in broth or soup and stir well. Mix in cheese. Bake at 350º just until cheese is melted and slightly brown. Crush pretzels slightly and sprinkle on top of green bean casserole. Serve warm topped with more shredded cheese if desired.

Optional: Can add pre-cooked chicken to this casserole to make a complete meal.

 

Apple Cider Vinegar for Weight Loss.

According to Men’s Health Magazine:

The science behind apple cider vinegar and weight loss

“There is some evidence that acetic acid can be good for weight loss, since it targets body fat,” explains Carol Johnston, Ph.D., R.D., associate director of the nutrition program at Arizona State University, who has done extensive research on the subject. “When you consume small amounts of acetic acid through apple cider vinegar, it activates your metabolism to help your body use fat as a form of energy rather than storing it,” Johnston says.

In one study, obese rats that were fed high-fat diets lost a significant amount of body fat when acetic acid was added to their food. In another study published in the journal Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, people lost an average of four pounds in 12 weeks after consuming one to two tablespoons of diluted apple cider vinegar daily.

The acetic acid in vinegar can be beneficial in other ways, since it may help control your appetite, says Johnston. Apple cider vinegar has been shown to be most effective when paired with a diet full of starchy foods, as the acid slows down the digestion of starch. This could potentially assist dieters, because slow digestion keeps you feeling fuller, longer.

There’s also some evidence that drinking apple cider vinegar before a starchy meal could help keep your blood sugars stable, making you less likely to crave sweet snacks.

But does apple cider vinegar actually work to help you lose weight?

Johnston says it’s worth trying — provided you’re not looking for immediate results. “Vinegar is not a magic bullet for weight loss. I have seen very modest weight loss in my studies, of one to two pounds after 12 weeks,” she explained to the Washington Post.

If you eat whole foods with a high starch content, like potatoes or rice, you can try making apple cider vinegar a daily precursor to your meals. There is no official recommended dosage, since the research on apple cider vinegar use is limited, but Johnston recommends mixing one to two tablespoons with eight ounces of water to drink before meal time. (Be careful not to add any more — because it contains acetic acid, drinking a ton of straight ACV could cause esophagus burns or erode tooth enamel.)

Acetic Acid and Weight Loss:

Acetic acid is a short-chain fatty acid that dissolves into acetate and hydrogen in the body.

Some animal research suggests that the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar may lead to weight loss in several ways:

  • Lowers blood sugar levels: In one rat study, acetic acid improved the ability of the liver and muscles to take up sugar from the blood .
  • Decreases insulin levels: In the same rat study, acetic acid also reduced the ratio of insulin to glucagon, which might favor fat burning .
  • Improves metabolism: Another study in rats exposed to acetic acid showed an increase in the enzyme AMPK, which increases fat burning and decreases fat and sugar production in the liver
  • Reduces fat storage: Treating obese diabetic rats with acetic acid or acetate protected them from obesity and increased the expression of genes that reduced belly fat storage and liver fat.
  • Burns fat: A study in mice fed a high-fat diet found a significant increase in the genes responsible for fat burning, which led to less body fat buildup .
  • Suppresses appetite: Another study suggests acetate may suppress centers in the brain that control appetite, which can lead to reduced food intake .
Apple Cider Vinegar Increases Fullness and Reduces Calorie Intake

Apple cider vinegar may promote fullness, which can decrease calorie intake .

In one small study of 11 people, those who took vinegar with a high-carb meal had a 55% lower blood sugar response one hour after eating.

They also ended up consuming 200–275 fewer calories for the rest of the day .

In addition to the appetite-suppressing effects of acetic acid, vinegar has also been shown to slow down the rate at which food leaves your stomach.

In another small study, taking apple cider vinegar with a starchy meal significantly slowed stomach emptying. This led to increased feelings of fullness and lowered blood sugar and insulin levels .

On the other hand, some people may have a condition that makes this effect a bad thing.

Gastroparesis, or delayed stomach emptying, is a common complication of type 1 diabetes. Timing insulin with food becomes problematic, since it is difficult to predict how long it will take for blood sugar to rise after a meal.

Since vinegar has been shown to further extend the time food stays in the stomach, taking it with meals could worsen gastroparesis

References:

Men’s Health Magazine: Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help You Lose Weight?  An expert explains why it’s not a quick fix. BY DANIELLE ZICKL AND MELISSA MATTHEWS JUN 22, 2018

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/apple-cider-vinegar-weight-loss#section1

Sugar vs Snap vs Snow Peas

The peas are getting taller and will be blossoming soon. Nothing tastes better than fresh sweet peas right out of the garden. Kids love peas this way, so if you can’t get your kids to eat peas, try our sugar snap peas that are so tender you can eat them pod and all, which is even sweeter.

When my brother and I were kids, we would pick all the peas in our Mom’s garden and eat them before they ever reached the house. She grew them specifically for eating raw, which is the best way to eat sugar snap or snow peas.

Snow peas
Snow peas

Snow peas, snap peas and garden peas are all part of the legume family, and most people are not aware of the subtle differences between them. Garden peas are the typical peas in a pod we are familiar with. Tougher and not as sweet as snow or snap peas, the pea is usually removed and eaten and the pod discarded. These are best for canning just the peas. Snow peas are the flat pea pods you see used in cooking stir fries and Chinese dishes. The pod is eaten when the peas are so tiny they are barely noticeable. They are best for cooking pods because they are picked before the pea inside develops and when the pod is the most tender. Snap peas are also known as sugar snap peas, and are a cross between snow peas and garden peas. The whole pod is eaten and has a crunchy texture and very sweet flavor. Snap peas may be eaten raw or cooked once the tough “strings” at the seams of the pods are removed. My brother and I used to call it “unzipping the peas” because you snap the tip at the end of the pod and then pull the string along the seam like a zipper.

Peas must be picked at just the right time to achieve the desired flavor you are looking for. If you wait until the pods are full and the peas inside are completely mature, you sacrifice the quality of the pod; which will not be as tender or juicy.  We like to pick our sugar snap peas when they are a happy compromise between sweet peas on the inside and still crunchy, tender pods on the outside. This takes some experience in knowing just how they should look when ready for picking and not to let them go to long without picking.

Peas are also best when picked first thing in the morning when they are still cold from the cool night air. This is when they will have the most flavor, be the most juicy and have the most “snap”.

Steamed sugar snap peas
Steamed sugar snap peas

The best way to cook snap or sugar peas in the pod is to steam them or stir fry them on low with a little water until tender, then melt butter on them and maybe some diced onion, chives or garlic. Enjoy!

By the way, we call ours “sugar snap peas”, and they are almost ready for home delivery or CSA pickup. I would say they will start to blossom in about 2 more weeks and we should start having peas by around mid July. Watch for us to change their status to “in stock” on our website.

How to Use Rhubarb

Produce Update April 15, 2018

As we mentioned in a previous post, chives are ready, rhubarb is starting to come up and will be large enough to harvest in about a month.

fresh-rhubarbIs rhubarb a fruit or vegetable?

Good question. Technically, it’s a vegetable, but most recipes use it like a fruit. Rhubarb is extremely high in Calcium. Although not everybody is fond of its tartness, you can mix it with sweeter fruits to cut down on the tart taste if you like. Rhubarb is excellent when mixed with sweet fruits like blueberries, peaches, strawberries and sweet varieties of apples. Even those who do not care for rhubarb love our recipe for Rhubarb Cake.

Topping rhubarb pie or other desserts with whipping cream or vanilla ice cream also helps to sweeten them up a bit. Below, we also have a recipe not on our recipe site for Roasted Rhubarb Salad. Yum.

For numerous ways to use rhubarb, see our recipe site on our sister site where we have dedicated an entire page to just rhubarb recipes: http://redstonepromotion.com/WPsites/recipes/

Rhubarb is worth eating just for its nutrient value, and if you can find clever ways to hide its tartness from those who don’t like tart foods, it is well worth it.

 

Roasted rhubarb salad recipeRoasted Rhubarb Salad Recipe: 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups ½-inch pieces fresh rhubarb
2 tablespoons Sucanat or Rapadura organic sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon minced shallot
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 cups mixed baby greens
½ cup crumbled goat cheese or feta
¼ cup chopped walnuts, toasted in a frying pan for about 3-4 minutes
¼ cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Toss rhubarb with sugar in a medium bowl until well coated; let stand, stirring once or twice, for about 10 minutes. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk vinegar, oil, shallot, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add greens; toss to coat with the dressing. Toast the walnuts. Divide the greens among 4 plates. Top with the rhubarb, goat cheese (or feta), walnuts and raisins.

Tip: To toast chopped nuts, place in a small dry skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.

 

rhubarb-pie Another traditional rhubarb favorite is Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. A la mode; who can resist?

 

Handmade Body Care Products Line

We are proud to introduce our herbal and all natural handmade body care products. NO CHEMICALS, NO PARABENS. Our natural soaps are “Certified Natural”, meaning, the components have been verified to be all natural in origin and/or our suppliers have certified the all natural components to be all natural in origin. Often times essential oils in the market are adulterated and/or cannot be verified as authentic. We have been working with several companies that verify the authenticity of the essential oils and/or the components in the natural fragrances we use.
With Certified Natural Soaps, you can be confident you are purchasing a truly all natural soap. The same goes for our natural shampoo, leave-in conditioner, lip balms and all of our body care products.

soap loafPersonally, I have always loved handmade soaps. They have a scent and quality about them that makes each and every bar special. They also are usually more moisturizing by nature because they do not contain harmful, skin-drying and damaging chemicals. Handmade soap-making is truly an artisan craft. Bluebird Orchards has scented soaps that are unique to our orchard, such as Autumn Apples, Green Clover, Lavender, Calendula, Aloe and all the herbal scents we use. We grow the same herbs on our farm that are used in our herbal body care products, and you will find a few uniques scents only through Bluebird Orchards.

Our soap products use Shea, Coconut, Jojoba and Olive oils for quality skin moisturizing.

Is it a Yam or a Sweet Potato?

Yam or Sweet Potato?

Yams and sweet potatoes are often mislabeled and confused in the grocery industry. The important thing to note about either though, is which one has the highest nutrient content. There are many varieties of yams and sweet potatoes with many colors. Some are sweeter than others, but one thing is for certain, the ones with the orange or purple inside flesh will have the highest vitamin content.

Yams: Have an almost bark-like outer skin with a rougher texture compared to a sweet potato. Some yams do have orange flesh, but typically they have a white flesh and are nothing more than a sweet starch lacking any real vitamin content.

Sweet Potatoes: While there are many varieties of sweet potatoes hitting the markets these days, even Japanese sweet potatoes and purple sweet potatoes, the general rule of thumb when choosing one to go with is to always go for orange or purple fleshed potatoes. They will have the most flavor and highest nutrient value.

How to Choose a Sweet Potato or Yam.

Other than that, a great majority of the time the only difference in some varieties is more with their texture and not their flavor. A potato gets its flavor from the soil it is planted in. Even a sweet potato can taste bland and lack sweetness if not grown in adequate soil to promote good flavor, texture and color.

In other words, what makes a good sweet potato, or any potato, is the dirt it’s planted in more than the variety.

What is the Best Eating Apple?

We get asked this question a lot: “What is the best apple for eating.”

Well, the reason there are so many apple varieties today (7,500 worldwide) is because everybody’s taste is different. Also keep in mind that different apple varieties are better for different things. Such as, the Macintosh is best for pies because of its flavor and firmness. We will try and highlight the most popular, and our favorite, along with a few other varieties for different tastebuds.

Red Delicious, Rome Apples, Golden Delicious Are the Bottom of the Barrel.

Europeans have a different idea of what makes a good-tasting apple than Americans do. Americans are so accustomed to sugary foods that the majority of them also prefer the sweetest apple variety which is Red Delicious. The most commercialized apple in the U.S at one time also known as Red Chief Red Delicious, it has seen its day. There are many variations of the Red Delicious such as the Red Rome, Red Romance.

If you are any kind of apple connoisseur at all, you would probably believe, as we do, that the Red Delicious is actually the worst-tasting apple variety ever created. It is usually always mushy, mealy and lacks any real flavor. Often the skin can be downright bitter and tasteless. Red Delicious was created specifically to satisfy the commercial food industry’s desire for sweeter foods, but as an apple grower, the person who invented the Red Delicious apple should consider it a huge failure.

In the 1980s, ‘Red Delicious’ represented three-quarters of the harvest in Washington State. A decade later, their heavy reliance on ‘Red Delicious’ almost pushed Washington state’s apple industry “to the edge” of collapse. In 2000, Congress approved and President Bill Clinton signed a bill to bail out the apple industry, after apple growers had lost $760 million since 1997.  By 2000, the Red Delicious apple made up less than one half of the Washington state output, and in 2003, the crop had shrunk to 37 percent of the state’s harvest, which totaled 103 million boxes. Although Red Delicious still remained the single largest variety produced in the state in 2005, others varieties have grown in popularity in the U.S, notably the ‘Fuji’ and ‘Gala’ and now the Golden Delicious; all which have a better flavor than Red Delicious.

Fuji, Gala, Braeburn, Jonathan, Honey Crisp Apples Are at Least Crisp.

Europeans like apples with some tartness, some sweetness, some good flavor, and definitely crisp. The commercial varieties the European consumer usually chooses are Fuji or Gala, however, while we will give Fujis and Braeburns credit for being good “sweet” eating apples, there is a great deal of variance with the Gala varieties. They can also often be mushy and tasteless, but yes, sweet. However, these varieties still pale in flavor to some of the heirloom apple varieties that are considered less popular only because the commercial apple industry does not supply them to store.

apple on tree closeupOur Favorite Eating Apples.

If you don’t mind a little bit of tartness in an apple, you will find more wonderful flavors in many other varieties.

The Pink Lady has an amazing blend of sweet, sassy goodness that cannot be rivaled in our opinion. Although is is not considered one of the sweetest apples, it is our favorite hands down for it’s intricate and complex flavor that reveals itself in a gradual release as you eat it. Even thought is has this complex flavoring it is still a relatively sweet apple just the same. Always crisp with just a slightly pink blush to the flesh. Our number one favorite for many products as well as eating right off the tree. Many people consider the Pink Lady apple to be the champagne of apples and the best dessert apple.

Winesap is a more sophisticated version of a Red Delicious in our opinion. While very similar to a Delicious apple, the Winesap still has enough individuality to make it much more flavorful than a Red Delicious and crisper. Akin to a cross between a Macintosh and a Delicious.

Cox Orange Pippin is similar to the Gala apple variety but never fails to be crisper than Gala and with a bit more robust flavor. Some nursery suppliers are now calling the Orange Pippin and “antique” apple because it originated in old England in 1825.

Finding any of our favorite varieties, or Europe’s “Old English” favorites, in stores is difficult these days. Due to it’s high ranking among apple enthusiasts, there are a great many Pink Lady imposters on the market. Although this variety is starting to make a big comeback, true Pink Lady cultivars were almost extinct due to the lack of interest in them a few decades ago. So finding a true Pink Lady apple takes really knowing what to look for in appearance and taste. Unfortunately, due to crossing it with so many other varieties to try and replicate it when the supply of true root stock is limited, you will be hard-pressed to find a true Pink Lady in the stores.

Granny Smith and Sour Apples.

A recent study revealed that Granny Smiths are the best apples to help you lose weight. That is one reason to eat them. There are some people who love the tartness of a good green apple. Newer variations of the Granny have come out to tone down the tartness a bit in some sour apples. They are not as green with a slightly yellow tinge to the skin. However, you will rarely find the more mild sours in your local supermarket either. Our Grannys have a one-of-a-kind flavor since they are pollinated with the other varieties in our orchard. They are sour with an sweet spicey after taste. If you like green apples, you will love these.

There are new varieties of apples being created constantly. You may notice that the varieties in the stores change their names every couple of year. Many of them are the same apples but just given a new name  to make them seem new and different. The best apples will always come from an older orchard that does not grow apples for the commercial grocery industry. Until Americans get off the sugar kick and realize sweet is not better, develop their tastes a bit more, you will not find a really good apple in the grocery stores. A good apple should have a sophisticated flavor, and not be all about tasteless sugar and mushy textures.

And now I’m sure you want to know which are the best pie apples. Right? See our post on pie apples.