EZ Orchards is a hidden treasure inside a cute red building on the corner where Cordon and Lockhaven roads meet. Inside, spring treats available include dozens of flavors of fudge, from Rocky Road to Cookies and Cream, from Butterfinger to Maple Walnut.
“The fudge flavors vary seasonally. We use Oregon walnuts and hazelnuts. We have peppermint fudge during the holidays and strawberry fudge in the summer,” says John Zielinski, one of the four brothers in charge of EZ Orchards.
Visitors can also find seasonal doughnuts: apple cider (September through March), strawberry (mid-May to early July), raspberry and blueberry (mid- to late summer), pumpkin (October) and chocolate (winter).
“They’re cake doughnuts, as opposed to [the standard] raised doughnuts,” he says.
Although the chocolate doughnuts have mass appeal, Zielinski says the apple cider doughnuts outsell them 2 to 1. “Cider doughnuts are unique. You can’t find them at any grocery store or doughnut shop.”
A dozen EZ Orchards doughnuts cost $4.95, a half-dozen $2.75 and a single one 45 cents. They’re freshly made each morning, and by the afternoon, they’re half-price.
The store always offers free hot cider made from the apples in the orchard to go with the desserts.
Zielinski’s great-grandfather moved to Oregon from Poland and started the family farm. It barely survived the Great Depression but now features beautiful acres of apples, pears, peaches and recently hazelnuts. They have a harvest festival each fall, with a corn labyrinth and a pumpkin patch.
There are 18 types of apples in the orchard, some of which are sold in the produce section of the store; others are pressed into fresh apple cider, and yet others are turned into hard cider.
The apple cider is UV pasteurized as opposed to heat pasteurized.
“The UV light kills pathogens without increasing heat so the juice is able to keep all its natural pectins and everything else that makes apple cider tasty. It’s like sunlight, it doesn’t kill the nutrients,” says Zielinski.
Hard cider is the family’s newest venture. They planted cider-specific varieties from Northern France ten years ago.
“Brittany wasn’t able to grow a lot of grapes successfully but they could grow apples,” says Kevin Zielinski, the brother in charge of the hard cider.
“It can be called a champagne cider. The French-style hard cider uses the same method that they use to make champagne. It’s served chilled, and we recommend serving it in a champagne flute because it helps concentrate the effervescence,” he says, adding that hard cider goes well with many foods.
Hard cider is a growing trend in the Northwest. Kevin mentioned Portland’s Bushwackers cider house as an example, which offers over 70 varieties of hard cider from around the world. They’ve been carrying EZ Orchards since it was released in October. In Salem, their hard cider can only be found at the market and Crooked House Bistro in West Salem.
Most ciders in the area, Kevin explains, are made in the English tradition, which has a higher acidity and a higher alcohol level. The 2009 EZ Orchards is 6.1 percent proof and Kevin expects next year’s to have an even smaller alcohol level. The summer wasn’t as warm this year, which will result in less sugar and subsequently less alcohol.
EZ Orchards hard cider is naturally carbonated, with no added sulfates or yeast. “The only product in it is the apple juice that we produce,” he says.
The method includes very long, low temperature fermentation, half of which takes place after it’s bottled.
“The yeast that is naturally occurring on the apples is still actively fermenting the cider when we put in in the bottles. Then the gasses are trapped in the bottle and that makes it effervescent,” he explains. “As the yeast eats the remaining sugars, the lees settle at the bottom. That’s why it’s supposed to be stored upright.”
Hard cider doesn’t usually improve with age, and it’s best consumed within the first two years.
EZ Orchards is currently renting stainless steel barrels at Eola Hills winery to make their hard cider. Kevin says it works great for hard cider-makers to partner with winemakers because the crush and ferment happen in different seasons.
As for pear cider, Kevin says, “We are going to be planting some trees to start experimenting and see if we can develop a recipe for ‘perry.'”
HARVEST MORE INFORMATION
5504 Hazel Green Rd. NE