B&R Farms has been growing high-quality Blenheim apricots for over 90 years, ever since Frank and Mary Rossi purchased land in Hollister in July 1929. Working one of the few remaining Blenheim orchards in the world, this fifth-generation family business run by Jim and Mari Rossi, and their son, Brian, ships dried apricots and apricot products around the world.
“We grow deep-rooted Blenheims exclusively here,” Mari said. “We have 50 acres of trees now, with 80% of the apricots going to our Japan and export market. Blenheim apricots are an heirloom crop and there is a great demand for them.”
Though the farm maintains a tradition of fine fruit growing, the Rossis are modernizing the operation to speed the harvesting of fruit.
“We had 150 acres of apricots but we took out 100 acres of old trees,” she said. “Apricot trees only fruit for about 25 years and our younger trees are now producing so we are concentrating on them. We can now mechanically harvest because of the way the trees are pruned and planted. We can plant more trees per acre and there is more fruit than we can handle.”
With an active online operation that helped sustain the farm during the COVID-19 shutdowns, B&R has had the chance to expand its processed foods.
“It is not just dried apricots,” Mari said. “We have created sweet and savory lines, so you could use our apricot toppings over ice cream or in yogurt, but also on chicken, pork, or fish as main courses. You can use apricots in every single course of a meal. It is all about having fun in the kitchen.” The Blenheim is a San Benito specialty fruit that is incomparable to other commercial apricots on the market.
B&R apricots are also used in craft beers, such as those from Brewery Twenty Five, Mad Pursuit and Chillin n Grillin, as well as the apricot wine produced by Casa de Fruta.
Their apricots are dried upon picking because of the thin skin and fragility of the fruit, but B&R hosts a yearly “you-pick” event during harvest when customers can go into the orchard and select their own fruit straight off the tree.
Another annual offering is the Holidays on the Farm and Vintage Market event, held this year starting on Nov. 27 and continuing Dec. 4, 5, 11 and 12. Over 20 vendors will be attending including Big Paw Oil, 831 Bake Shop, Hambly Farm and the Giggling Peanut.
All of B&R’s products are available at the store at the orchard, located at 5280 Fairview Rd in Hollister, which also sells other local food products, such as Foustman’s Sausage. B&R products can be found at Windmill Market, San Benito Bene, and other grocery stores in the area.
Selected apricot products from B&R Farms
Apricot Scone Mix (10.6 oz, $10.75) With the addition of heavy whipping cream, this mix makes eight fluffy scones. The results are moister and flakier than a regular scone, almost more like a cornbread muffin. There is a generous helping of apricot pieces in every scone, making them perfect to eat on their own, hot out of the oven. They would be amazing with Irish butter melted over them and perhaps a bit of the Apricot Pinot Grigio spread.
Apricot Chili Spread (10 oz, $6.00) This product is made with reconstituted dried apricots, hence it’s a “spread” rather than “preserves,” but the taste is as bright and fresh as the fruit off the tree. The heat here comes from red pepper flakes and it works perfectly as an hors d’oeuvre served over cream cheese and eaten with crackers. “We also sell Apricot Pepper Topping, which has the same ingredients,” said Mari. “The consistency of the topping is a little looser and mixes in easier when you are cooking.” The topping can be straight from the bottle as a glaze on baked or grilled meats and is versatile enough to complement chicken, ham, ribs or turkey. I have used both versions and enjoy mixing them half-and-half with Dijon or whole grain mustard as a dip for boneless wings. To me, the flexibility of the pepper sauce and spread makes them kitchen essentials to add an unusual twist to almost any dish.
Apricot Pinot Grigio Spread (7.4 oz, $8.00) One of their newer products, the pinot grigio spread is more of a dessert product. Mari suggests pairing this with goat cheese, but I would have it at breakfast, spread over biscuits or toast, or in the evening, spooned over ice cream. The deep apricot flavor comes through as not overly sweet with an undercurrent of sourness from the pinot grigio. Cooking with it would be easy because all the work is done in the jar—it does not need anything more than to be added to a dish. I could see it taking the place of mint jelly with a leg of lamb or as a finishing sauce for steamed cod.
Apricot Ginger Teriyaki (14.8 oz, $8.50) Mari served this to me as a dipping sauce with some cubed ham and chicken. The apricot flavor comes in the middle, balancing out the more bold and deep notes of ginger and teriyaki. Unsulfured apricots are used for this sauce, bringing in more of a prune or raisin taste than the full bright fruit of sulfured apricots and making this more of a finishing sauce than a marinade. With a strong and dominating flavor, a little bit of this goes a long way. This would also work well as a stir-fry sauce, added at the end of the dish.
Dark Chocolate Bites (3.5 oz, $4.50) Produced in partnership with Marich Chocolates, these are bite-sized chopped apricots coated in dark Guittard chocolate. The bitterness of the dark chocolate enhances the sweetness of the apricots and, when served with red wine or port, are irresistible.
Milk Chocolate Half-Dipped Apricots (8 oz, $14.00) I prefer the milk chocolate apricots to the dark chocolate. The milk chocolate harmonizes with the apricots better, I think, making this less of a competition between flavors and more of a luxurious taste experience. You could serve these with wine as well, but would go nicely with hot cocoa or just to nibble on their own. Chopped up, they would make a great addition to trail mix.
Apricot Freeze (12 oz, $4.50) Available only at the farm, this is a refreshing mix of non-dairy ice cream and apricot puree. The ice cream provides a solid base that lets the abundant tart flavor of the apricot come across in a way that the other products only hint at. If you want to make your own smoothies, B&R also sells frozen apricot puree in two-pound packages for $5.00.
We need your help. Support local, independent news. BenitoLink is a nonprofit news website that reports on San Benito County. Our team is committed to this community and providing essential, accurate information to our fellow residents. It is expensive to produce local news and community support is what keeps the news flowing. Please consider supporting BenitoLink, San Benito County’s news.