When Brian Holmquist's great-great grandfather started growing DuChilly hazelnuts in 1928, plenty of other farmers were growing the nuts too. But poor yields and a flagging market persuaded most growers to uproot their DuChilly trees.
"We're kind of the last guy doing it," Holmquist says. "We're planning on sticking with it, but someday there's a possibility we won't be able to grow it either."
Holmquist says the production problems that have afflicted growers of other types of nuts could eventually trip up Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards, which already has to contend with eaters' misconceptions about hazelnuts.
"Most hazelnuts are round in shape, which is what the entire planet knows," Holmquist says. "We specialize in an oblong hazelnut. You don't have to blanch it, and it has a sweet flavor."
When Holmquist was young, his family's farm functioned primarily as a dairy. "The nut was kind of a hobby," he remembers. "Then, when the dairy industry was having one of its tough times, we realized we were making the same income in the 1990s as we did in the 1970s, and we had twice as many cows."
Holmquist and his father disagreed over how to raise revenue.
"I wanted more dairy and he wanted more nuts, and, next thing you know, there's no cows," he says.
Like most crops, the DuChilly hazelnuts' arrival this year was delayed by bad weather. Holmquist finished harvesting his 500-acre orchard last Sunday, a full month later than usual.
Hazelnut fans can buy Holmquist Hazelnut products at "farmers markets from Bellingham to Tacoma," including the U-District and Pike Place markets. Holmquist suggests using his hazelnut flour for a white chocolate cheesecake created by orchard employee Elizabeth Olson.
"It's one my favorite things to have people make," he says.
White Chocolate Cheesecake
1 ¼ C. Graham cracker crumbs
¼ C. Hazelnut flour
2 T. sugar
¼ C. plus 2T. unsalted butter, melted
10 oz. white chocolate, broken into pieces (Lindt)
4 8oz. pkg. fromage blanc (Mt. Townsend Creamery) *
½ C. unsalted butter, softened
¾ C. sugar, divided
3 T. all purpose flour
1 T. + tsp. vanilla extract, divided
Pinch of salt
2 C. sour cream
White chocolate curls
Combine grahams crackers crumbs, hazelnut flour and sugar in a medium bowl, stirring well add the butter mixing well. Firmly press mixture on the bottom and half up the side of a 9 inch spring form pan. Preheat oven to 350 bake crust for 10 minutes. Let cool. Set aside.
Place white chocolate pieces in top of a double boiler; bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cook until chocolate melts, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir until chocolate is smooth. Set aside, let cool thoroughly by putting the top of the boiler in in ice bath making sure no water gets into the chocolate.
Combine fromage blanc and ½ C. butter; beat well at high speed of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Combine ½ C. sugar and flour, stirring well; add to creamed mixture, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add cooled chocolate, 1 ½ T vanilla and salt; heat until well blended. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake at 350 F. for 50 minutes or until cheesecake is set.
Combine sour cream, remaining ¼ c. sugar and remaining ½ tsp. vanilla in a small bowl; stir well spread sour cream mixture over cheesecake back at 350 f. for 10. Let cheesecake cool to room temperature on a wire rack; cool completely in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
To serve, carefully remove sides of spring form pan. Garnish with chocolate curls, if desired.