Orchard Observations: Embracing autumn

N-1-ApplesBy Megan Humphrey, Shelburne Orchards

I’ll admit it: Autumn is not my favorite season. I’ve always thought that I would love it more if spring or summer came afterwards. That said, the individual glorious days with crystal blue skies and flaming hillsides sprinkled throughout the season are breathtaking.

For me, embracing autumn often involves food. The orchard is closed for the season and our energy starts to head in other directions. It’s time to begin to prepare for the wintertime, to cook and bake, to put food by. All of the plentiful garden and orchard produce needs to be eaten or processed. The house smells cozy when bread is baking, tomatoes are roasting, or applesauce is cooking. Meals become more substantial. Salads become the side dish as opposed to the main meal.

One Shelburne Orchards’ product that’s fun to use after the apples are gone from the trees is “Ginger Jack.” Many years ago, Nick created this specialty non-alcoholic ginger apple nectar.  He was out in Sedona, Arizona, and tasted something with both cider and ginger in it. When he came back, he starting making ginger cider. Some folks thought it was too gingery and others thought it wasn’t gingery enough. Hence, Ginger Jack was developed for those who wanted more of a kick. LuAnn Rotax, a former longtime employee at the Orchard, came up the name “Ginger Jack” and its reference to alcohol.

While it is a concentration of apple cider and ginger – and therefore very strong – Ginger Jack is delightful in cooking or drinks. “Here’s a healthy alternative to alcohol,” explained Nick. “We put it in estate bottles so it looks classy, too,” he continued. To me, it tastes like quintessential autumn in a bottle.

Nick’s favorite recipe with Ginger Jack involves chicken. He sears a whole chicken in a Dutch oven. Then, he adds onions, carrots, potatoes, garlic, and a bottle of Ginger Jack and bakes it all in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour and a half. I pour some over fish when I bake it. My friend, Lauren-Glenn Davitian, adds a splash to champagne. It’s also great in seltzer. Vermont photographer and author Peter Miller has concocted his favorite drink: Jamaican rum, a little dark maple syrup, and Ginger Jack.

“Maybe add a cherry, too, it makes it like an old-fashioned,” Peter claimed.

As the days get shorter, I’ll be finding new ways to eat and drink this very special nectar. That, I’m sure, will ease my hesitation about the cold weather ahead.

Shelburne Orchards’ Ginger Jack is available for purchase at City Market, Healthy Living, and Shelburne Supermarket; and we can recycle the bottles if you drop them off at the Orchard.

Happy Thanksgiving! May you all have a month filled with gratitude, family, friends, and delicious food.

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