toast of the town

APPLE CULTURE

Barsotti Family Juice Co. relishes 40 years of history.

WRITTEN BY MADISON LISLE
PHOTOS BY RAOUL ORTEGA

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Empty bins await fruit to be harvested at the Barsotti farm

Roads flanked by oak trees, vineyards, and miles of rolling orchards snake through apple country as sign after sign points toward family histories, old and new. Family history is everything in these hills. From the days when pears were plentiful to the now-renowned Northern California apple culture, family farms are common. But for the Barsotti Family Juice Co., family always has come first.

Gael Barsotti, 78, and his wife, Joan, relocated to Camino in 1976 with their three young children, Michael, Cathy, and Karen. Now more than 40 years later, the Barsotti family still is evolving and thriving on Apple Hill.

What keeps the patriarch motivated after all these years?

“My kids being in the business,” Gael is quick to say. “Michael’s done a great job, and Cathy’s a salesperson. They’re good at what they do.”

Michael, 49, and Cathy, 52, now are responsible for overseeing most production and marketing. Along with Walter Mathews, 54, the Barsottis’ childhood friend and marketing manager, their family has grown the orchard from a 30-acre parcel to a 90-acre business.

What began as an all-hands-on-deck apple-packing warehouse slowly has developed into a multifunctional orchard, juicery, cider distillery, and Apple Hill icon.

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From left, Michael, Gael, and Cathy Barsotti. Photo by Walter Mathews

Getting the squeeze

The family began its juice company with one simple task: Make a fresh apple juice for the produce section at Raley’s. After Raley’s approached Gael, back in the mid-’80s, for an apple juice to sell, he was thrust into an industry he, at that point, knew nothing about.

“Raley’s called us back and said, ‘We can’t sell this, it’s terrible,’” he says with a laugh. “So I started talking to people, asking ‘Does the apple make a difference?’ Well, yeah. So I did a 50/50 gold and red blend, and it went well.”

Raley’s accepted the new juice, making Barsotti apple juice the first to be sold in its grocery stores. Barsotti products now are flash-pasteurized to increase safety without affecting taste. The juices still are available in the produce sections of many grocery stores.

“We just go hot enough to kill anything that’s dangerous. Pasteurizing doesn’t kill all of the [vitamins], it just decreases them,” Michael says.

But pasteurization, produce quality, and fermentation weren’t always on Michael’s mind. The master blender and head of production worked as a chiropractor for 10 years before he rejoined the family business. Meanwhile, Cathy, the company’s sales and marketing manager, returned to the business in 2007 after stints in the travel industry working for Travelocity and Disney Cruise Line. She markets the juices to restaurants, ranches, and supermarkets all over California.

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Barsotti Granny Smith apples

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Rolls of Barsotti juice labels are ready for the assembly line

Spicing things up

The family has come a long way from that first juice mishap. Although Barsotti still produces its classic apple juice, it also can now create many other blends, thanks to Mika Aguilar, head of research and development and resident flavor scientist for the company. Offerings include special holiday blends such as caramel apple and spiced pumpkin apple.

“We can do everything here,” Aguilar says.

Not only does she work with the Barsottis to experiment with new flavors of juices, but the company also made the leap into hard ciders with North Canyon Cider Co.’s Original Dry, bearing the name of the Barsotti company’s new hard cider division. The team uses a blend of apples to make the hearty but not-too-sweet concoction. The Original Dry hard cider now is available for sale, along with two new varieties as well.

“We’re just where we should be to make the best hard cider because we make the best apple juice,” Michael says.

Although they may not have planned it, the Barsottis have created a sweet life up on Apple Hill, where family values and heart are poured into every bottle.

Madison is a freelance writer and journalist exploring every topic from whiskey production to stock prices, and fashion shows to social media. Drinking is one of her favorite pastimes, whether it is tea, juice, coffee, or vodka, and she believes that a good cup of tea can solve most of life’s problems. On a Saturday afternoon she can be found in a coffee shop people watching, reading, and eating vegan cookies. 

Resources

Barsotti Family Juice Co.

2239 Hidden Valley Lane, Camino • 530-622-4629 • Barsottijuice.com

Find Barsotti juices at the following local stores: Bel Air, Raley’s, Nugget Markets, Whole Foods Market, Safeway, and many others.

For details about locations near you, click on the Store Locator at Barsottijuice.com/stores.htm.

Recipes

Apple Citrus Holiday Cider

(courtesy of Walter Mathews, marketing manager, Barsotti Family Juice Co. in Camino. Serves 6 to 8)

1 gallon Barsotti apple juice

16 ounces Barsotti orange juice

12 ounces Barsotti Special Blend Lemonade

6 whole allspice berries

6 whole cloves

3 cinnamon sticks

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Place all ingredients in large saucepan or slow cooker. Place cloves and allspice in pan (or wrap in cheesecloth to avoid needing to strain later). Heat mixture on low and stir occasionally. One batch serves a crowd.

Barsotti’s Mexican Pumpkin & Carrot Soup

(courtesy of Walter Mathews, marketing manager, Barsotti Family Juice Co. in Camino. Serves 8 to 10)

2 medium sugar pumpkins (other varieties OK, but sugar is best)

2 tablespoons butter

2 large leeks, chopped

1 to 2 large red bell peppers, chopped

3 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen

1 cup cilantro

6 cups chicken broth

2 cups Barsotti carrot juice

2 tablespoons Cajun- or Mexican-style seasoning

1 cup masa corn flour

2 tablespoons green Tabasco

16 ounces sour cream

Salt and pepper, to taste

Gut, skin, and chop pumpkins into 1-inch cubes. Boil pumpkin in salted water in large soup pot until soft. Drain water. As an alternative option, you may bake pumpkin to remove skin and soften pumpkin meat.

Melt butter in large pan on medium heat. Add leeks and red pepper; sauté until soft. Add corn and cilantro, then cook 5 minutes.

Add sautéed corn and red peppers to soup pot with pumpkin. Add chicken broth, carrot juice, and Cajun or Mexican seasoning. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove pot from heat and let cool at least 15 minutes. Ladle soup mix into blender and liquefy (immersion blender also will work). Pour each blenderful into separate bowl until all soup is mixed. Mixture will be hot, so be careful not to splash yourself. Pour blended mixture back into soup pot. Bring to low heat.

Add masa corn flour to thicken as needed. Then add Tabasco and sour cream. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Mix thoroughly.

Serve in hollowed-out pumpkins or bread bowls (regular bowls are OK, too), garnish with cilantro sprig, and swirl extra sour cream on top for color.

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